Skip to main content

hello, my name is...

Hello, my name is Matte and I am a student. Seems fairly straightforward, right? Not really. You see, I have been reading the story of Abram again in Genesis, and I noticed a thing or two about the difference between what we call ourselves and what God calls us.

Abram's name meant "exalted father." He did pretty well with the exalted part (had a knack for getting rich and for the most part, enjoyed a good reputation), but the father bit...it just wasn't happening. If Abram were to introduce himself to us, it might have sounded something like this:

Hello, my name is Abram, and I grew up with a father who didn't follow through on what he said he would do. Genesis 11:31-32. His father set out for Canaan but settled in Haran, which was about halfway there.

Hello, my name is Abram, and though I have a lot of potential, I find it hard to leave everything behind and pursue the call of God. Genesis 12:1-6. He left his home, but not his family behind, taking his nephew with him.

Hello, my name is Abram, and I sometimes exercise bad judgment in order to make my life easier and better for myself. Genesis 12:10-17. He lied about his wife in order to gain favour with influential people.

Hello, my name is Abram, and I have some family troubles and quarrels going on. Genesis 13:5-9 and 14:14-16. There was some fighting, some going of separate ways, some capturing, and some attacking and plundering.

Hello, my name is Abram, and I am disappointed at the way some things have turned out in my life - at God's lack of action, to be honest. Genesis 15:1-3. He had a lot of riches but no heir, even though God had promised him one many times.

Hello, my name is Abram, and I sometimes choose compromise over waiting for God. It seems better than being known as a man of inaction, a man who does not follow through. Genesis 16:3-6. He agreed to his wife's plan of getting the servant girl pregnant, which resulted in a lot more family trouble.

And then, something crazy happened. God changed Abram's name (Genesis 17:3-8). God added the letter "heh" near the end of his name. The letter stems from a root that means, "to breathe." Say it (heh) and you hear the sound of a breath being exhaled. The interesting thing is that God's name has two of these letters in it (YHWH). It was like God was breathing some of himself, his life, his spirit into Abram (see Genesis 2:7 where God breathes into humanity for the first time). He did the same with Sarai, Abram's wife, and added the breath of "heh" to the end of her name as well.

No longer would the childless man hear the embarrassing contradiction of his name, "exalted father," when people addressed him as Abram. Now, every time someone called him Abraham, he could hear the breath of God breathing into who he was, making it possible for him to be what God had called him to be.

The name I was given at birth was Martha Helen. I was never particularly fond of the name (doesn't it sound like someone's old aunt, or the queen's second cousin?), but when I think about what it means, I am challenged to live up to its grand calling. Martha means "lady" and Helen means "light." Therefore, I am called Lady Light. Cool, isn't it?

The name I have gone by since college days is Matte. There were an overabundance of Martha's in my family circle at the time, so I came up with the unique derivative. It just seemed to suit me better than Martha, but after a few years, I wondered if I should go back to the name, Martha. Was I somehow losing some of the richness associated with my given name by not using it? When I asked God about it, I was reminded if an image of a framed picture, like the one at the top of this blog. The paper between the frame and the photo is called a mat. It is what draws the eye to the picture and shows off its beauty. And that is indeed what I want to do: draw people's eyes to the beauty, the mystery, and the wonder of who God is and what masterpiece he is creating.
Hello, my name is Matte, and I point to God.

The above is based on a talk I gave last night at our church gathering.
The framed version of my photo is available at www.redbubble.com/people/mattedowney

Comments

Anonymous said…
Good point, though sometimes it's hard to arrive to definite conclusions
Jonny Kirk said…
A great post. So many great truths, I'm Jonny, perhaps I should be Johnny...!

Popular posts from this blog

what does the cross mean?

Words which we use a lot can sometimes become divested of their depth of meaning. In the Christian tradition, we talk about the cross a lot. We see visual representations of the cross in prominent places in our gathering spaces, we wear crosses around our necks, some get crosses tattooed on their bodies. The cross is a ubiquitous symbol in Christianity, so lately I have been asking myself, what exactly does the cross mean? For the most part, the cross as portrayed in contemporary Christianity is a beautiful thing, festooned with flowers and sunsets and radiant beams of light (just google cross or cross coloring page). But in the first century, the cross was a symbol of disgrace. To the Roman empire, this ignoble instrument of death was for those who were traitors and enemies of the state. We are many centuries removed from this view of the cross as the locus of torture and death and shame. The fact that Christianity has made the cross a symbol of hope and beauty is a good thing, but p…

stained and broken

Recently, I was asked to speak at another church, and the passage of Scripture which was assigned to me was John 1:6-8. "There came a man commissioned and sent from God, whose name was John. This man came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe [in Christ, the Light] through him. John was not the Light, but came to testify about the Light." (John 1:6-8, Amplified Bible)

The first question I usually ask when reading something in the Bible is this: What does this tell me about God? Two things are immediately obvious - God is a sending God and God wants to communicate - but there is a third which merits a bit more attention. Though God could communicate directly with humanity, sending truth and love to every individual via some divine mind-and-heart-meld, God chooses to send messengers. Not only that, instead of introducing Jesus directly to the world as the main event, an opening, warm-up act appears as a precursor. What is the point of incorporati…

the songs we sing

NOTE: I am going to make some pretty strong statements below, but understand that it is my way of taking an honest, hard look at my own worship experience and practice. My desire is not to be overly critical, but to open up dialogue by questioning things I have assumed were totally fine and appropriate. In other words, I am preaching to myself. Feel free to listen in.

---------------------

When I am in a church meeting during the singing time, I sometimes find myself silent, unable to get the words past my lips. At times I just need a moment of stillness, time to listen, but other times, the words make me pause because I don't know that I can sing them honestly or with integrity. This is a good thing. We should never mindlessly or heartlessly sing songs just because everyone else is. We should care deeply about what we say in our sung, communal worship.

At their best, songs sung by the gathered body of Christ call to life what is already in us: the hope, the truth, the longing, t…