I am a lectionary preacher. This means as I prepare for Sunday, I review the readings out of the lectionary which contain an Old Testament reading, a Psalm or responsive reading, an Epistle and a Gospel text.

This Sunday, the Old Testament reading comes from Isaiah 62:1-5. In this text, the prophet speaks of a people who call themselves Desolate and and their land Forsaken. He tells them God will change their name to “My Delight is in Her.” As I read this passage I thought of last Sunday as we celebrated the Baptism of the Lord when the dove descended and Jesus was named Beloved by God. Who or what are we allowing to name us? God will change your name.

One of the consequences of two years of pandemic presence is the increased anxiety in our homes, work places, and even in our lives of faith. Our newest operating systems appear to be fear-based rather than faith-based. One might say we have changed our name to Fear.

Prior to the arrival of SARS CoV-2 into our world, contemporary Christian musicians were writing songs about fear. Zach Williams with “Fear is a Liar,” Francesca Battistelli penned “The Breakup Song,” Bethel Music with “No Longer Slaves,” and I am sure you can name more. In 1999. Eden’s Bridge wrote “I Will Change Your Name.” reminding us that God can change not only our names but heal the brokenness within that creates names like wounded, outcast, lonely or afraid.

Desolate, Forsaken, Wounded, Outcast, Lonely, or Afraid, these names are a virus in our souls that damage our lives. These real emotions can overwhelm us. Today we are inundated with stories that amplify these emotions. How do we rest in the names God would have us identify with: Confident, Overcoming One, Joyfulness, Faithfulness, Beloved, when all we hear are the ones we call ourselves?

One way is to turn our eyes away from that which promotes our fears to the One who will calm the storms in our hearts. What do we gain by continually seeking out news feeds that may be telling half truths or steering our attention in the direction they choose?

Silence and solitude can bring us closer to God when we are intentional about using that time for prayer. Breaks from screens that include walks or rides through the country switch our focus towards the beauty of God’s created world. Reconnect with people. Make phone calls, send letters and visit when it is comfortable for both you and your family and friends to visit. Reach out to your neighbors. Do things that are creative.

There are real challenges in our world today. We can face them with fear or we can face them with faith that God is with us through these challenges. Family, friends, neighbors and strangers are exhausted. We are exhausted. My prayer is that we seek the One who promises to give us rest, find those still waters and allow our souls to be restored. Let God change your name.

Carolyn Roy is pastor of Plank Chapel United Methodist Church.

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