Third Sunday of Lent – What’s in a name?

First Reading: Exodus 3: 13-15

Moses said to God, “But when I go to the Israelites
and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’
if they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what am I to tell them?”
God replied, “I am who am.”
Then he added, “This is what you shall tell the Israelites:
I AM sent me to you.”

God spoke further to Moses, “Thus shall you say to the Israelites:
The LORD, the God of your fathers,

the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob,
has sent me to you.

“This is my name forever;
thus am I to be remembered through all generations.”

What’s in a name? Sometimes not much, but it’s everything in the reading from the Book of Exodus for the 3rd Sunday of Lent.  Pay attention to this back-and-forth between Moses and God.  It’s easy to for us to miss its significance until we are reminded for the ancients, more so than for us, that knowing someone’s name meant knowing his or her identity and – as a result – having power over that individual.   

Let me lay the scene out in contemporary verbiage: 

In this passage God clearly establishes his power position: take off your sandals, keep your distance, I’m the one who formed you into a people. Moses, after being given the job of leading the people out of Egypt, tries to gain some power over God by learning his name. God responds seemingly enigmatically: “I am Who am.” With apologies to the scholars, and asking pardon for my 21st century chutzpah, let me share my own awkward paraphrase of God: “Moses, you think you can have power over Me by knowing My name? So here it is: My very name identifies Me as the one over you. You cannot have power, and as the one who will be with you and for you as your protector and champion – on my terms, not yours. Deal with it!!!”

This is the same God whom we Christians are trying to draw closer to this Lent.  We have the same tendency as Moses – to want to control God.  Lent provides us with the opportunity – through prayer, penance, and service – to get at least a little more at ease with allowing God to be God and letting his grace guide and comfort us – trusting that his terms are better than the ones we would devise on our own.  Let’s try it for this week. Let’s try to let God be God without giving Him our opinions or asking Him questions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *