Revealing the Name


My Christianity has changed dramatically over the years. And far from being frightening, disorienting or confusing, it has been comforting, grounding, and expanding.

In the evangelical world, we were (are?) taught to hold to unshakable truths. This is not a bad idea, but it is usually badly applied. What is unshakable is understood as “the Word of God,” that is, the physical book, the Bible (with a capital B). Heaven and earth will eventually pass away, but the Word of God stands forever, we are told. It is the only permanent truth, the firm foundation upon which to understand life and build a life.

The problem is, that physical book, based as it is on ancient documents inspired by divine breath and written my human hands, is still a limited resource. Its 1000 or so pages introduce us to the idea of God, point us in a direction, and offer food for spiritual thought, for guidance, and for contemplation. But unless we actually chew on it, and digest it spiritually, it is just a form of religious junk-food, with zero nutritional value. Just ask any number of so-called “believers” who can quote their holy book verbatim, but who seem to have zero comprehension of the divine.

The book can only get us so far. We need to be bathing in spirit, soaking in mystery, sitting in silence, listening with the depths of our souls, and living a life of compassion and caring for the real unshakable truths to take hold of us.

This week’s lectionary reading includes a passage from John’s gospel recording Jesus’s final prayer on earth. He is about to be arrested, tortured, and killed. He knows this. And his anguished prayer contains some powerful words. “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me …”

There was this idea in the ancient world that know the name of someone, particularly a god, was to understand a deep part of them. So, to have God’s name revealed was another way of saying being shown the true nature of God. It wasn’t simply a factual knowledge. It was an experiential knowledge, a knowledge come by encounter and interaction.

This becomes (for me, anyway) one of the greatest invitations and adventures in this earthly life. To encounter the Great Mystery. To explore it. To expand in “knowledge” of it. To know its name. And in doing so, to be “given” to it.

I wish I had a simple formula for doing this. There isn’t one. This kind of knowledge does not come from any read-the-bible-in-a-year program, or by attending church every Sunday (altho neither of those is a bad idea). And I’m making no claim to having *the* definitive understanding of God. God is infinite. How could any finite human claim to have such understanding?

But we live. We soak in light. We can open our eyes to see that subtle light (or not), open our ears to hear the subtle whispers (or not). We can intentionally open our hearts to have our compassion and inclusion expand (or not). And we can open our minds to what the limited text of that single book points at, to see and understand that God who lives and moves outside the boundaries of the boxes we try to put that Mystery in. Or not. We are offered unlimited opportunities to fresh encounter and to expand our understanding. The Spirit is constantly offering “to make the Name known” to those who hunger for it.

Maybe THAT is the formula. If you seek, you eventually find. Or maybe, you *gradually* and continually find.

May this be your life’s journey — and your quest this Sunday. To NOT settle on your current “unshakeable truth.” To get another taste. To expand just a bit. To have your “unshakable truth” be grounded in your ever-expanding experience of the Great Reality. To know “the Name” just a bit more. And be given to it.

Grace and peace.

ref: John 17:6
Photo by Zeeshan Nawaz, cc0