Updated: Aug 20, 2020
“Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas’ (which, when translated, is Peter).” John 1:42 © NIV
Dear Church Family
I wonder if you’ve noticed how often in the Bible God changes a person’s name?
He may not give us a new name like Cephas, but He is working in us as individuals and as a whole church to change us into the likeness of His Son.
It happens to Abram (who becomes Abraham) and to Jacob (who becomes Israel) in Genesis. In the New Testament some people think God changed Saul’s name to Paul though that’s not likely. However, there is a much clearer New Testament example. Right at the start of His public ministry in John’s gospel, Jesus changes Simon’s name to Cephas or ‘Peter’ as we know it better.
Names in the ancient world were highly significant. Usually they were chosen because they meant something and related to the character of the person. I’m told Andrew means ‘manly’ and I like to think that perhaps my dear Mum, gazing down into the cot at her newborn, thought quietly to herself ‘isn’t he manly? I’ll call him Andrew!’ Far more likely given our modern western culture, she simply liked the name and it was popular at the time in the late 70s.
Most of our names therefore don’t relate to our character. But they did in Jesus’ day. His own name was chosen because it means ‘God saves’ which brilliantly describes who He is. When Jesus meets Simon His first act is to rename him ‘Peter’ meaning ‘rock.’ On Peter’s apostolic testimony and ministry Jesus would build His church.
It’s worth pausing to reflect on what a massive change that must have been for Simon. Going through life for decades with one name only to have it radically changed in one day. New passport, new driving license, correcting family members and friends endlessly for years afterwards.
In all seriousness though it’s a stark reminder that Jesus is all about change. Which is hard because many of us dislike change intensely. Church is often the one place people come because it doesn’t change much. Our building has stood for 700 years in the same place and it largely hasn’t changed at all in that time. God Himself does not change (it’s one of His attributes as the women’s Bible study were thinking about recently).
However, this can easily kid us into thinking God is static when in fact He is radically committed to changing us. He may not give us a new name like Cephas, but He is working in us as individuals and as a whole church to change us into the likeness of His Son. He is also shaping and changing how we operate as a church for the better in many outward ways as well. Let me spell out a few of the exciting changes going on over the coming months (as well as the return to our building following the slow demise of the Coronavirus we hope and pray).
This month we welcome to the Parish our new Curate, Nic Edwards. Many of you will have spotted him during one of our online services being interviewed with Becca and Elizabeth. Do make them feel welcome and get to know them. Nic will be having a fairly gentle start given the circumstances (not many of our activities as a church are currently running) so do pray they are able to settle really well and use the time getting to know people.
Next month our new Youth Minister Pete Brown also arrives in the Parish. We’ve had a brilliant team keeping MYF and T3 going over the last year but they would be the first to tell you we desperately need someone to take on the growth of our youth ministry over the coming years. We’re so pleased God has sent Pete to us – he’s just right for the role and I know many of our teenagers are really excited about his arrival.
I know change can be hard. Many of us will need help to adjust. However, God has such good things planned for us I’m sure as we see Him grow the Kingdom in Moulton and beyond this summer. As we emerge from lockdown and return to more familiar patterns I’m sure we are going to find there are all kinds of ways He’s changed us in the last three months, strange and painful though they’ve been for all of us. We can trust Him to change us for the better even in hard times.
With my sincere love