Driving to church this morning, I listened to the coverage of the September 11th memorial service in New York. What really hit me was the reading of the names: 167 pairs of victims’ family members took turns reading each of the nearly 3,000 names of those who died in the attacks. The NPR commentators said this would take most of the day.
My college observed Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), and one year I signed up to read the names of those killed in the Holocaust. I had a half an hour or an hour time slot; I don’t remember. What I do remember is the reverence of that act, both the reading and the listening. It was not a pleasant experience–I came close to being sick when I was finished–but it was a holy one.
Names matter. It matters that we know them, and remember them, and say them out loud, whether we’re greeting someone after worship or speaking their names after they have died.
Names matter to God, too. In our baptism, God names and claims us, not just with the name our parents have given us, but with the name “Christian.” With the name “child of God”. In baptism, God says, “You are mine.” And the church says it, too. As Mark DeVries put it in his talk on Sustainable Youth Ministry, in baptism we say, “Dibs on the baby.” We say, “That one’s ours.”
So that’s what I’m thinking about today. The names of the lost, and the names of the found, and my prayer that Jesus, the one who refuses to let even one sheep go missing, has found all the lost ones and drawn them to himself.