Do you ever have trouble remembering someone's name? I do – all too often. Try as I might, there are some people who I have to see many times and in a variety of settings before I can readily recall their name. And it isn't because I haven't made a serious effort.
I've tried things like immediately repeating their name at first meeting. I've tried image and word association like picturing flowers in the place of eyes for a woman named “Rose.” But nothing seems to help my memory to the extent I would like. I'm certainly thankful God doesn't have this problem.
In a world that is becoming increasingly impersonal, it's good to know that there are still those who know us by name. I believe it is a similar conviction that prompted Jesus' comment on the subject.
In identifying himself as the “Good Shepherd,” he said that he knows his sheep by name. That is, he takes a personal interest in each of us, understanding our circumstances, offering to help, to protect, to provide.
I recently heard of a woman who underwent surgery. When she awoke in the recovery room she heard the patient in the bed next to her groaning. She likewise could her a well-meaning nurse attempting to comfort the patient. “Settle down, Tom,” she said “Settle down. But still he groaned. It's alright, Tom,” she continued. But to no avail. “Tom, you will be fine,” she said with all the reassuring conviction she could convey. Then finally the patient spoke. With a low and painful voice he said, “My name is not Tom.”
God's doesn't make this mistake. He knows each of us. And with both clarity and love, he calls us by name, identifying us as his sheep, reminding us that he will never leave us – even if this means giving his life for us, as he did in Christ Jesus.
So the next time we meet and I call you by a name other than your own, please overlook my forgetfulness and give thanks that we worship a God who doesn't have to use word association techniques in order to remember who we are. After all, it was God who created the rose, the iris, the daisy, and you and me, whatever our name may be.
Saratoga United Methodist Church