Sunday Thoughts

by

– by Al Sturgeon
(published every week in Desperate Houseflies)

Naming, according to the Bible, was the first use of human language. And naming, in my opinion, has remained important ever since.

So what’s in a name? According to Eugene Peterson (there I go again), “A name is particular and calls attention to the particular, the ‘nature,’ the specific. Two friends enter a forest. One sees a mass of trees, the other sees spruce and oak and pine and elm. One looks at the ground and sees tangles of needles and brush, the other looks down and sees blood-root and hepatica and arnica. One looks up and sees a blur of motion through the leaves, the other looks up and sees a Red-Eyed Vireo and a McGillivray Warbler and the Least Flycatcher. Which of these two is more alive to the garden and more in relation to the life spilling out and reverberating all through it in colors and songs, forms and movements – and to God who planted the garden and put us in it?” (Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places)

So what’s in a name? It gives specificity to an object. But I suspect the follow-up question gets shortened to, So what?

Let’s open our history books, class. One of the revolutionary concepts of the Declaration of Independence involved the idea that human beings are created equal with basic rights. At the time, we’re talking wealthy white Englishmen of course, but the concept emerged. Over time, the struggle for basic human rights extended toward everyone regardless of, well, anything. We are taught that everyone is born with equal value and equal rights.

However, lest we mistake our world to be utopian, even the best of us rarely practice what we preach. Instead, the human creatures that we find “valuable” are those who have value to you and me. In fact, when we introduce someone by name, we introduce him or her in relation to why they are valuable to (notice the important person here) ME! (This is MY co-worker, MY neighbor, MY doctor, MY aunt, MY insurance man…) This is our world.

Following Jesus, however, takes an entirely different approach to humanity. Human beings are valuable – not because of what they can do for me – but simply because they are from God. Every person. This is the viewpoint of the Good Samaritan. And this is the eternal viewpoint of the follower of Jesus.

So what? Peterson takes us on a garden tour and asks us who is more in tune with the surrounding world, the vague tourist or the traveler who takes it in with specificity? The scenario, however, extends to the religionist on tour in Garden Earth as well. Who is in tune with the Master Gardener, the traveler who sees the people God has created in a utilitarian way (I’ll get to know them if they’re useful to me!), or the follower who learns the names of every intrinsically valuable person around?

Are you interested in getting to know people you come in contact with well enough to call them by name? Or, are you content to live in a world where the only people you know specifically are those who you may find useful? That, my friends, separates us. It is summed up in a question once asked Jesus: Who is my neighbor?

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One Response to “Sunday Thoughts”

  1. JD Says:

    I cannot bear for this post to be commentless. So there.

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