Dear Church family,
Last night we had our first Capstone class with Perkins Seminary worship professor Dr. Heidi Miller. As an introduction she had us go around the room and share our name along with any story we know about why we have our name. As folks shared, each of us in the room got to know one another more deeply through these shared stories. At the end of the exercise Heidi linked that sharing with the moment of our baptism. For one of the questions we always ask in baptism is, “What is the name by which you wish this child baptized?” Names are important. Names and being named are elemental to who we are.
It made me think of the names of God we find in scripture. Famously, God names himself in Exodus at the burning bush telling Moses, “I am who I am” and that his name therefore should be “I AM” (which is Yahweh).
As far as I can recall there is only one instance in the scriptures of someone giving God a formal name. God is described all over the place with terms we have come to use as names: Lord, Shepherd, Father, and so on. But, in a small story in the middle of chapter 16 of Genesis, an unlikely person gets to give God a formal name.
It is Hagar, who is Sarah’s runaway slave. When Sarah could not give birth, her husband Abraham took Sarah’s slave Hagar as his mistress so that he could have a son. Hagar did get pregnant. Instead of solving the problem, predictably enough these efforts only made things worse. Sarah was jealous and bitter about Hagar and her pregnancy, so much so that she beat Hagar.
In fear, Hagar runs away and hides in the wilderness. And an angel of the Lord seeks her out in that terrible place. The angel comforts her and gives her a promise that she too will have many descendants because the Lord has “given heed” to her troubles. After this encounter is when Hagar has her big moment. She gives God a new name. She says she will call God “Elroi” which means “the God who sees”.
How astounding that this woman, a slave who was of no account to anyone else, gets the high position of giving God a name. And she got the great blessing of meeting the God who seeks her out, who sees even her. How much more deeply do we get to know our God by learning that one of his names is Elroi?
Take a moment today to remember that God knows your name, has known everything about you from before you were ever born. God sees you. He is Elroi. And that changes everything.
Prayer: God who sees, I pray you see me this day. And not only me but I pray you see the lost and the least. May they know your presence and your grace. May they hear the promises you have for their lives just as I ask that I would be reminded of the promises you have for my life. In your holy name I pray. Amen.
Christ’s Peace be with you all,