Last Saturday, All Souls Day, about 60 people gathered at Beal Memorial Cemetery to give witness to the lives of 57 persons as their cremains were interred. These persons were from the homeless and indigent who live among us.
Before reading the names of those to be interred, the Rev. Sam Parkes of Mary Esther United Methodist Church spoke briefly about the importance of their names.
Among other things, he said, the names of those persons were given to them by their parents, perhaps even before they were born. Their names were on drawings that had hung on a family refrigerator, on papers at school, names that were signed on important documents. The list of the importance of names was lengthy – and moving.
Names are important. They identify who we are. And if someone falls victim to a crime and their identity is unknown, they are given a name – John or Jane Doe. Everyone has to have a name.
Whether we know a person’s name or not, it is certain that God does. God knows every person, their reputation, even what a person holds in the secret places in their heart. God knew each one of us even before we were born.
He said to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” (Jeremiah 1:5, New Revised Standard Version)
God says the same to us.
He said through the prophet Isaiah, “I have called you by name, you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1 NRSV)
In Old Testament times, whenever someone named someone or something, there was the obligation to provide whatever care was necessary. Because God named all things, knew and knows the names of all individuals, God has willingly obligated himself to care for everyone.
God has called you by your name. He knows who you are. He cares for you. He loves you. The major part you have to play is to accept that God knows who you are, accept the care he offers, and accept the love God gives.
It is a choice you have to make – to accept or reject that God knows you, loves you and cares for you.
To reject this truth means to keep plodding along in life searching for what drives you. And that drive is your soul wanting to connect with God.
God knows your name. It is a lovely name. It is a good name. God has called you his.
The Rev. Mark Broadhead is pastor at Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church of Crestview.