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May my words and message be pleasing to you God and beneficial to all who hear them. Amen.

I have to preface my message with a few things. 

1. This is the biggest privilege and honour that I’ve ever been granted in church and something that I never thought that I would do.

2. It is one thing for me to come up here once and say something that I hope is  meaningful to you. It is quite another to do it week after week! And…

3. I am not a writer by any stretch of the imagination, but I will do my best to convey what I’ve learned and hope that God will fill in the gaps. 

Ever since I first read the passages that were designated for this Sunday, it has been clear to me that I was supposed to speak about something to do with the meaning of names and changing names. 

This is at least in part, like some of you, because I have a personal connection with this. I will share this later on. 

There are many examples of and reasons for people’s names being changed in the Bible and in our world today. 

Some people were given or chose new names to fit into the new cultures they found themselves in: Joseph’s name was changed by pharaoh to an Egyptian name when he impressed him (Genesis 41:45); Daniel and his 3 friends’ names were changed when they were training to be in the Babylonian king’s court (Daniel 1:7); and Saul changed his name to Paul when God called him to evangelize to the Gentiles. More recently, native children’s names were changed when they went into residential schools and people moving from one culture to another today often change their names so that they are more easily spoken by the established culture. 

Names are also changed due to changing relationships. Many people these days change their last names when they get married. Or when a person is baptized, their name changes to child of God. When parents receive a child, they take on the new name of parents.

The most interesting reason people’s names were changed is prophesy-related. God or God-speaking-through people or people themselves prophetically saw something in them that brought them closer to the person that God wanted them to become. Examples of this include: 

Moses changed Hoshea (meaning salvation) to Joshua (meaning Jehovah is salvation) after Joshua believed God who said that the land was the Israelites despite the giants that lived there. 

God changed Jacob (meaning holding the heal of his brothers foot) to Israel (he strives with God) after leaving Esau and Laban (his father in law) and moving in to a new land

and God changed Abram (meaning exalted father) to Abraham (meaning father of a multitude) and Sarai to Sarah (the meaning remains the same) to recognize both of their transformations from hopeless to hopeful, from childless to childfull.

Jesus changed Simon (meaning hearing) to Peter (meaning rock) because he saw the strength and perseverance in him to become one of the founding members of the church.  

People, including those in our church, change their names to feel more wholly who they are… to put behind them the person they no longer feel represents them.

 As for me, as some of you who’ve known me for a long tIme, I changed my name from my first name Jennifer (meaning fair one) to my middle name Beth (meaning house) when I went from elementary school to highschool. I had a really rough time in elementary school with cohorts bullying me. There were many tears and it was only my Mum, sports and church that got me through this. At the time, I think that that I thought that if I changed my name, I would be shedding the horrors of this period in my life and I would be presenting myself to the world as a new person that was not sad but likeable and worthy of fun and friendships. God granted me my desire, and on my 13th birthday I had around 40 good friends over at my house for a pool party in my backyard. Looking back, I believe that this is one of the times that God changed my future through God’s redefinition of me.

If you are not one of the people who has literally changed your name or have not felt this draw at all, you might be wondering about how this name changing business is relevant to you. 

God cares about names. God named things at creation.  When we are bapized, our names are written in the book of life. God preordained John and Jesus’ names before they were born into the world. 

Starting in Eden, God called us into God’s holy ministry of naming and renaming. God gave Adam and Eve the privilege of naming the animals. Since then, we have been naming our children after people we’ve loved in our culture or after the child’s own characteristics in other cultures (like Jewish or aboriginal) and attaching our names to claim them as our own. 

In regards to changing names, in every example above where God changed people’ names, God was bringing them out of something hard or painful and into something new and life affirming or fulfilling a long awaited promise.

God wants this movement for all of us too, even if God isn’t calling us to literally change our names. God is always calling us out of names like bitter, sadness, shameful, hated, guilty etc. And calling us into names like joyful, guiltless, beloved etc. Jesus died on the cross so that all of our names could change from guilty and hopeless to redeemed, guilt-free and children of God. 

And God calls us to do this for others too. When we remind people that they are beloved, kind, intrinsically valuable- when we respect their cultural names, their gender pronouns, we are naming them in love as God does. This act is especially important for children. How many of you had a teacher in your life that you remember gratefully because you felt they named their belief in you? In the book of Ruth, Naomi which means pleasant changed her name to Mara which means bitter because she returned to her homeland with no husband or sons. If only someone who knew her well helped her to believe that her situation did not dictate her future. In fact, she was redeemed through her daughter in law marrying her cousin.

Even though some of our names like sickness and pain won’t be removed until we reach heaven, we can receive the righteousness that comes through faith, like Abraham, when we believe, “in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.” God will one day completely remove all of the bad names that we carry and reinforce all of the good ones.

I will leave you with a verse from revelation to think about:

In chapter 2 verse 17, it says: He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’ Maybe this is your new and final name that solidifies your new redeemed self? I wonder what it will be? Amen.



  1. The 10: Bible Characters who received new names. 
  2. When and why was Saul’s name changed to Paul. 
  3. 5 Bible verses about a new name.