Tuesday, June 10, 2014

my new name

The Word for today:
Acts 11.19-30
mark this: Acts 11:26
It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.
One of the truly sweet customs in our culture is when the bride takes the name of the groom. The custom is so ingrained that we seldom even think about it until we go to a wedding and the pastor, turning to family and friends, presents "Mr. and Mrs. John Clark."
On one side of the aisle, all of the assembled Clarks are used to calling John by that name. But on the other side of the aisle, all of the assembled Smiths are hearing Sally called "Clark" for the first time. The new nomenclature can sound odd, even jarring to the ear.
It should. What is being pronounced is a radical departure from the past. Sally, in a custom which I find sweeter and deeper than the exchanging of rings, has symbolically merged--her identity, her self--with her husband. Two names met at the altar. Only one name walked out into their new life.
Twenty-two years ago, my beloved Shelley dropped her name for mine. We were married at the home--in the parlor--of a local Justice of the Peace. After we'd exchanged brief vows and modest rings, he took the only photograph of the event with his Polaroid Instant Camera. Then he did the most remarkable thing. Turning to his wife and my friend (the only other people in attendance) he pronounced--in a deep, clear voice, with as much flourish and fanfare as if there had been a thousand guests--"It is my privilege to introduce Mr. and Mrs. Franklyn Pfeil." It was the best moment of my life. I'd become more than I'd been.
I'm not big on altar calls--when an evangelist issues an appeal for a commitment and people come forward to pronounce their faith in Christ. Oftentimes it's an emotional appeal which evokes an emotional response. I prefer that decisions to "marry" be made in the cold, gray, sober light of dawn -- not in the heat of the night with a "matchmaker" urging us onward.
While I'm leery of the "call" and the emotional response it often elicits, I love the "altar" part of "altar call." What spiritual beauty and truth! And what pageantry, as the newly-committed believer approaches the altar with an old name and an old life, then leaves with a new name and a new life.
A couple of years after Shelley and I were married, I "married" again. This time there were no rings and no photograph. I was still 'I' as I approached. Then I took on his name--"Christ-ian," a Christ-one. No one has seen me since.
Myriad witnesses, I'm told, held a rowdy reception. They cheered lustily at the pronouncement of my new name.  Count on it--that's the kind of party God's angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God.  (Luke 15:10 / MSG)

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