Faithful Naming

Think of this exhortation as a bridge to the sermon, connecting something we saw a few weeks ago—that God call man to faithfully name his world—to today’s sermon. I want us to reflect together on what it means to faithfully name God’s world by thinking about the first act of human naming.

This at last is bone of my bone
flesh of my flesh
She shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.

When Adam names his wife, what is involved? What’s in a name? First, Adam sees what’s there. He sees her. “Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.” That’s who she is. And she’s just there, in all of her glory and beauty. She is objective and real and outside of Adam. Second, Adam sees the past. He sees what God has done. “She is bone of my bone (now) because she was taken out of Man.” Just as God divided the waters from the waters, just as God separated the Seas from the Land, now God splits Adam in two and builds the Woman. And Adam sees what God has done. These two dimensions of naming—seeing what’s there, outside of us, and seeing what God has done in the past—establish the starting point for all of our naming. Our names are built on God’s acts. Our words are based on God’s works. There is a given-ness to reality, and this given-ness establishes the baseline and trajectory for our naming.

    Naming doesn’t just include the objective external world and God’s acts in the past. It also includes our response. Naming flows from the heart. “This at last is bone of my bone.” At last. Finally. Those words bubble up from Adam’s inner world, from his longing for a helper, an ally, a companion, from his own internal agreement with God that “it’s not good for man to be alone.” So naming includes the external world, the internal world, the past, and now the future. Because she was taken out of Man (past), she now, at last (inner world) stands here bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh (external world), and these three—God’s work in the past, her reality in the present, and Adam’s inner response—erupt into the future in a fitting name: She shall be called Woman.

    But this is an exhortation, not merely an explanation of a marvelous Bible passage. And the exhortation is in the form of a question. Are you faithfully naming the world? Are you seeing what God has done? Are you rightly seeing the world around you and rightly responding to it from the heart, so that your words faithfully echo and amplify what God has said and done? Naming changes the world. The Woman now has a new name. Adam himself has a new name. The world is different because of what Adam has said. So also with us. Husbands, you will name your wife. Wife, you will name your husband. Parents, you will name your children. Friends, you will name each other. The only question is whether you will echo, amplify, and multiply what God has done and said, or whether you will mute it and drown it out with your own unfaithful words.

This reminds us of our need to confess our sins, so let’s seek God’s grace together now.

Confession of Sin

Almighty God, we live among a people that falsely names the world. We call good ‘evil’ and ‘evil’ good. We call light ‘darkness’ and darkness ‘light.’ Because we do not attend to your word, because we do not seek to imitate what you have done, we cannot name rightly. We do not start with your givens, your objective order, but instead substitute our own. Therefore, the trajectory of our attempts to name is all wrong, and the world becomes monstrous through our names. Rather than shedding light on what you’ve done, we hide it and cover it over and seek to live in a world of our own making. Not only is this great folly, but it is a great evil.

    What’s more, as your covenant people, we have not named faithfully. When we speak to our family and friends, we have not amplified what you’ve said. When it comes to naming others, we let sin have the final word, defining them only by the evil that they’ve done. Or, like the Gentiles, we ignore sin in others and refuse to bring it to light so it can be removed. We’ve not been attentive to your work in those around us. Our eyes are too glued to our technology to see the seeds that you’re planting in our children, our spouses, our friends, our co-workers, and our neighbors. We cannot name what we never see. Forgive us for the distorted names that we give and help us to faithfully hear your word, wisely see your works, and creatively name your world. 

    Father, we know that if we in the church regard sin in our own midst or in our own hearts, these prayers will be ineffectual, so we confess our individual sins to you now. 

Assurance of Pardon

Though you have named the world falsely, God has not. Let him be true, though every man’s a liar. In the beginning, he called you priests, kings, and prophets. Because of your sin, he called you rebels, traitors, and sick. But now, in the gospel, he has given you a new name. “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased.” That’s how God names Jesus, and because you’re trusting in Jesus, that’s how he names you too. Beloved of God, Delighter of the Father. You have confessed your sin, you have acknowledged your iniquity. Therefore by the authority of Jesus Christ and as a minister of the gospel, I declare to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.