“What is in a Name?”

“What’s In a Name?”
A Sermon Series on the Ten Commandments
Exodus 20:2-7; Philippians 2:5-11
Rev. Dr. Bobby Hulme-Lippert
January 24, 2021 

I am standing here today because this is an area of our Lobby where there are a lot of names. This is the counter on which those who are receiving their new name tag for the first time would pick them up. This is the area where visitors can use a sharpie to write their name on a name tag, and stick that on for the service. This is an area which displays some of the rich 166-year history of First Presbyterian Church – and when you open these doors you quickly see that the history is full of names. 

  • 1903 Message from the Pastor 
  • FPC 150th Anniversary Cookbook

What remarkable names. The truth is, every place has names – and even among them some names that sometimes especially stand out. Your workplace has some current or past names. Your family has some names. Your field of study or interest has some names. Every university has some names. This city certainly has some names. 

What makes a name…a name? 

  • What is it about certain names that upon hearing the name we give respect or awe or deference? 
  • What is it about certain names that has a weightiness to it?
  • The kind of name where if someone didn’t know the name you would want to be like, “Oh, let me tell you about that family. That name.”

Sometimes we show deference to a name because that name has money or power or fame. 

But the names in our church and our company and our families and our city – the names we ultimately end up truly respecting are the names of those whose character has shown through as good and strong, just and loving. Their name carries weight because of their character made known in specific actions time and again. 

The whole of the Bible places a huge stress upon the name of God. It is understood that the name of God is a uniquely weighty name. 

And so time and again we read the name of the Lord is to be praised. 

Or Blessed be the name of the Lord. 

Our Scripture from Philippians declares that Jesus has the name above all names. The name before whom all will one day bow. 

The reason God’s name carries such weightiness and is worthy of full acknowledgment (is the kind of name where if someone does not know the name you want to lean over and “Let me tell you about that name”) …is because of God’s character made known in weighty acts of deliverance, beauty, mercy time and again. 

This is the God whose name is most fully revealed as Jesus – and Jesus actively heals us, frees us, fills us, saves us, forgives us, reconciles us with one another. 

The name of Jesus is worthy because the acts of Jesus are worthy. The name and the actions are inseparable. 

This is where the third commandment comes in. 

It exhorts that we are not to make wrongful use of the Lord’s weighty name. Or, the traditional rendering, “do not take the Lord’s name in vain.” 

I imagine many of you who grew up in the church as I did have heard the third commandment is a prohibition against cursing, particularly when one uses a curse word next to the name of God. 

And yes, that kind of language absolutely slanders and trivializes God’s name. Were we to treat some of the names in the cookbook as cheaply as that, someone in this church would probably pull us aside and says, “I don’t think you nearly appreciate just who you are talking about and how much this person has done for so many.” 

But the commandment goes even further than guarding against the flippant use of God’s name. 

The Hebrew for “vain” has connotations of “empty”, “groundless” and “without substance.” 

The point being that we are not to empty God’s name of that weighty substance. Or, put positively, it is a command to fill the name of God with weightiness and substance. 

What does that look like? Why would we ever be in a position to empty or fill God’s name? 

The summer before I went to college I worked in the office area of our family business back in Cincinnati, OH – a manufacturing company called Hamilton Caster. I was put to work assisting with various projects – most of them involving cleaning up and organizing spreadsheets of data on the computer. 

And somewhere in the middle of that summer, I found myself working on a project, but I didn’t really like the work. 

So, I just decided I would not show up to work for one day. No illness or anything. I just, wanted to roll over, sleep, do my own thing. 

Now I knew my dad would notice my absence and maybe say something. 

I entirely underestimated how upset my dad would be. When he arrived home that evening it was obvious that he was deeply disappointed with me, and he was not going to tolerate a choice like that again. 

He made that clear in a couple of sentences, and then he said this: “You need to remember, you are a Lippert.” 

I had forgotten my name. 

With one, short sentence my dad was reminding me that I bear the name of a lot of people at that company. 

  • First, my great-great grandfather John Weigel who founded the company. 
  • And then my great grandmother Esther Lippert who ran it next. And then my great grandfather, Ralph Lippert, Esther’s husband who followed her.
  • And then my grandfather, Bob Lippert, who then ran it for years, and then my uncles, Dave and Jim Lippert, and my dad who now jointly run it.

And they have worked hard to build a company that prioritizes quality and excellence across the board. They have put their name behind it and into it. 

My dad was not upset because 8 hours of computer work did not get done. This issue was that a child of the Lippert family did not show up to work for no good reason…it was a betrayal of the family name, an emptying the family name of good substance. 

When we are baptized as Christians, we are baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In baptism, our name is now subsumed into the name of God. 

As baptized people, we are bearers, then, of God’s name. We live in that name! 

And so… 

We do not show up to our schools 

or workplace 

or family 

or social media 

or our political debates 

Or advocacy 

or as officers of the church… 

…Most fundamentally we do not show up to any of those with the titles and education and recognitions we may hold. 

Most fundamentally, we show up bearing the name of Jesus. 

And with our words and actions, we can either empty that name of substance or show forth the full weight of that great name. 

It was the author and speaker Brennan Manning who once put it this way: 

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” 

The great single reason people find no reason to believe in God or care to follow Jesus: Christians… who take the name of the Lord in vain. They acknowledge Jesus’ name with their lips but empty the substance of that name with their actions. 

They’ve got the Jesus flag or bumper sticker or active church affiliation or cross necklace or beautiful Bible or Jesus music ….but then the mean-spiritedness or the disdain or the callousness or the gossiping or the violence or the greed or the tone or… 

Have we known that wound? (“They carry the name but no…no…no that’s not Jesus!”) 

Have we inflicted that wound? Have we ever rolled over and fallen asleep on our name? 

And yet… 

My dad did not kick me out of the Lippert family that day. And, in one sense, it would have been impossible because my DNA forever says I’m “in” like it or not. 

And nor does God. Goodness, didn’t the prodigal son do his level best to ruin the family name and surely deserve to be cast beyond the pale…did not he discover this profound truth that truly nothing can separate us from the ever-present love of God in Christ Jesus? 

Jesus does not kick us out when we empty the family when we fall asleep on our name. Nor does Jesus often berate us with punishments and long speeches … what Jesus most normally does is remind us of our name. 

When I went back to work at Hamilton Caster the next day I purposely slowed to look more closely at one particular wall in the office that my dad had mentioned I might want to notice – a wall that my eyes usually just raced past. 

And I scanned across it to see a photo of Great-great grandpa John Weigel. Great-Grandmother Esther and Great-Grandfather Ralph. Then a photo of Grandpa Bob Lippert. Then a photo of Uncle Dave. 

Because sometimes you need to slow for a while and let it sink it just whose name you bear. 

One of the most fundamental reasons we gather (whether in-person or virtually) every Sunday without exception is because we need slow and remember our name. 

We don’t necessarily have one wall to slowly scan…but absolutely we have a Worship Space with some key visuals that perhaps our eyes usually just race past. 

And so this morning we slow so as to remember the name we bear. 

We have, for instance, a baptismal font. Says so much about the name we bear. 

It reminds us we are made new in the Spirit and we are called to live according to the fruit of the Spirit: peace and patience, kindness and generosity. 

It reminds us that we are a people who boldly seek to forgive just as the waters have washed and forgiven us. 

It reminds us we have a basic call from Jesus to be people who share cups of water with the thirsty and share words of encouragement and hope and life with those whose souls thirst, whose souls fear. 

As our eyes continue to scan we note the communion table. 

Says so much about the name we bear. 

It reminds us that we are a people who gather visibly at the table with one another often – there is no in and out briefly only on Sunday kinda thing when bearing the name of Jesus. 

It reminds us of our basic call to extend hospitality often – most definitely to one another, but mindful that we bear the name of Jesus, we extend to strangers and foreigners and refugees. 

And of course, we are reminded by the table that we are called family with folks of every tribe, tongue, and ethnicity. We are a people of the long and open table. 

The blue and red and rich and poor and black and white lines our culture would have us draw as our primary identity over and against or better than a different group…but yes, we are people of the long, generous table with all of them as family. 

And of course, as our eyes scan the sanctuary and catch the font, the table…most assuredly they catch the raised pulpit. 

We are reminded that if our bearing of the name of Jesus has any substance, then we are a people who will take God’s word seriously. We will listen for God’s word of life through it, we will wrestle with it alongside one another, we will open ourselves before and be changed in light of it. 

If you don’t know where to start today or tomorrow morning, sit with Philippians 2 for a few minutes. The passage that was read today in worship. I’m not sure there is a more relevant Scripture to our times than what is found in that chapter. 

And then finally if our eyes scan through this space of worship long enough, we are brought to peer into this lobby area and we see this hutch. And as we saw, it is filled with names. 

Names of folks who poured out their heart, their life, their pocketbook, their person to make the name of Jesus weighty in and through this church because they themselves had experienced the goodness and love of that name. 

And insofar as many of us here today are members of First Presbyterian Church, we bear their names. They have handed the work on to us. 

But of course behind these names stands the one name who is above all names. And all who are baptized regardless of membership…all are called to make that name weighty. 

And today Jesus has called us – in all our failings and faults – return again and live out the family name. He has reminded us we are a people of the water, the table, and the word. 

Has one of those reminders caught you this morning? 

Is God calling you to live with substance, perhaps in a way prompted by one of those? Then step with courage. Know that go in the name of Jesus – a name of resurrection power and hope and healing. A name that will never fall asleep on you and never fail you. Amen. 

About Dr. Bobby Hulme-Lippert