The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

The first I heard of it was just as Bible Study was ending. It was a rather cryptic email congratulating me on my namesake! I put two and two together and checked the news. Ah, the ease of a smart phone. Yes, the royal baby is Prince George. Shortly afterwards, I received a similar text from Claire. Named after me?! Of course I was modest! I think most Georges in the UK talked about this for the next day or so. Names, after all, are about associations and links and relationships.

So the Prince is George Alexander Louis Mountbatten-Windsor. The columnists have made links with six previous King Georges as well as St George (Patron Saint of England and other countries). Alexander is supposed to make us think, so I read, of ‘the Great’ and also of three Scottish kings (a fact I didn’t know). Some have suggested that the name is a nod to Her Majesty because her middle name is Alexandra. Louis has people talking about two people – Louis Mountbatten (last Viceroy of India, murdered by the IRA and also uncle to Prince Philip) and Prince Louis of Battenberg (Prince George’s great-great-great grandfather). We see a little baby – hasn’t done much yet! – but his names take us to royal associations, historical links, and family relationships.

So how close are we with our links and associations? I don’t know. Perhaps they are his parents’ favourite names and nothing more. What would we say if in a hundred years time there was a book about his life in which it was revealed that in fact his name was an acronym for ‘Great, Another Leader Must Wait!’ and cited as one example of his parents ‘wicked sense of humour’? It would-n’t affect us but future generations might relook at the British Monarchy at the beginning of the 21st cen-tury. Will he be George VII? Maybe. But since the monarch is allowed to choose another name he could even be George IX (if Princes Charles and William adopt the name George when they reign).

My point is that we are always dealing with two aspects about most things – the intention and the per-ception. Why do we warm to some names while rejecting others? I dare say that it is because of our experiences – I’ve heard on numerous occasions something like ‘I don’t like [name] because I knew a [name] once and he/she wasn’t nice at all’. Or the opposite is true.

I was an adult when I discovered (courtesy of the credits of a Star Trek Deep Space 9 episode I think) that Jesus is a popular boy’s name in many countries today. I’d assumed that names such as Jesus, Attila, and Adolph had ‘gone out of circulation’. My assumption was based on my perception. I couldn’t see how I would name my child with either of those names.

The name Jesus definitely produces different reactions today – all going back to the perceptions of those who hear it or use it. For Christians the association is with salvation – Jesus will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). This ultimately led to his death on the cross. And now I have some sym-pathy for the world as it looks at Jesus on the cross and sees suffering and gore and blood and thorns and wonders what the intention is here. What is going on? The perception is obviously gruesome. The description ‘sacrifice’ could be taken various ways.

The answer is found in the identity of this Jesus. We know his name but who is he? It is only when we see him as truly God and truly human will we then understand what is going on at that cross and see past the perception – we live by faith after all – that hanging there is my Lord. God’s intention is radical – he wants me to be saved! This King is here to serve. Any other identity misses the point. Knowing the name is just the beginning.  — GS

PS. Welcome little Prince George