Calling Jesus names

In the sphere of party politics name-calling has become a recognised form of banter between opponents and observers. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has not escaped this week following his Budget Statement. All experienced political campaigners will, at one time or another, have been described amusingly and always less favourably by a comic name.  For example, ‘Theresa Maynot’ (Theresa May);’ Mugwump’ (Jeremy Corbin); ‘Dr Doom’ (Vince Cable); ‘Nippy Sweetie’ (Nichola Sturgeon).

Of course, some people are attributed names which they may well berate their parents for. Take these real life examples: Jo King, Barry Cade, Carrie Oakey, Priti Manek and Tim Burr. Maybe you favour these – Justin Case, Barb Dwyer and Stan Still? My favourites are Terry Bull, Paige Turner, Mary Christmas and Anna Sasin! The last word on this comes from Susan Mee from Donacaster:

“My name was Susan Frame. I am a lawyer. I met and married Robert who is a banker. His surname is Mee. Now we are Sue Mee, a lawyer, and Rob Mee, a banker – ironic? I have taken no end of stick for this, believe me.”

One of the hardest tasks of being a parent is to name your children. It is a weighty responsibility.  It is a good idea not to make a rude word from their initials! But I wonder if the name given has been researched, with the real meaning uncovered? It is important to give the child a name that will ‘fit’ with their character, (not as yet fully known). For example, Isaac in the bible is named “he laughs” as a result of his mother’s scorn when told that she should expect to be pregnant in her later years. The best biblical example of naming, though, is the angel’s choice for Mary’s son, Jesus or Joshua, which means “he will save” or “saviour.”

Jesus has many names attributed to him: – Immanuel, Son of Man, Son of God, Christ, Rabbi, Lamb of God etc. We are helped to understand who this person is and his many facets and divine gifts through these names. I wonder what your name means and what facets and divine gifts it helps to communicate to the world? I love to explore the wonderful associations that names provide. My own name, Gavin, came from the author Gavin Maxwell because my mother was reading The Ring of Bright Water during her pregnancy. However, Gavin is also a derivation of Gawain, a Knight of Arthurian legend. I wonder if my parents noticed that they were naming their son after a hero of Welsh legend? Is that why they applied ‘Rees’ as a middle name? This name-calling is mysterious and wonderful. Our names are the truest form of identity that we have; we are recognised through their use.

We call Jesus various names in order to enter into the mystery and reality of his life, death and resurrection. One of these names – Christ the King – is the feast which we celebrate on Sunday. This special festival is located at the very end of the liturgical year. Sunday week, Advent Sunday, marks the arrival of the new Christian year. But before then we name Jesus as the King within this kingdom season (running from All Saints’ to the eve of Advent Sunday). Jesus is known by many other nomenclatures but the use of the word ‘king’ provides a particular focus. It was literally nailed on to the cross and entered the biblical canon at Christ’s crucifixion (INRI – the King of the Jews). This word was not used as a title of privilege but as a pseudonym for suffering, even failure. To be king-like in the Gospels is to be a servant of others, one who is prepared to die out of love. We may not be able to do Jesus justice with our limited word power but we can emphasise during the different church seasons something of the majesty of God’s work through his Son, Christ the King.

Gavin Rees Knight a.k.a. Sir Gawain!

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Author: Gavin Knight

The Revd Gavin Knight has been the Vicar of St Michael & All Angels, Summertown in the Oxford Diocese since September 2011. After serving his title at St Alphege, Solihull, Gavin became parish priest of St Andrew's Fulham Fields in London. He moved to Wales in 2005 becoming Chaplain to Monmouth School. He is married to Jo, a clinical psychologist, and they have three sons.