Sunday, January 12, 2020
Pastor Leanne Darlington’s sermon from this morning:
Have you ever wondered why your parents gave you the name they
did? Perhaps it was a name passed down from generation to generation
or perhaps it was a name picked out of a baby book that just seemed to
suit. My given name is Leanne Margaret. If I would have been a boy it
would have been Michael Robert. My mom always liked the name
Leanne and it wasn’t popular at the time so that is what was chosen.
Margaret is my sister’s name and she was my Godmother. Each of my
sibling’s middle names included the name of their godparent which was
a tradition in many Lutheran families. Names are a part of our identity
Did any of you grow up with nicknames? Would anyone care to
share their nicknames? Do you still have them today?
Living in a small town, sharing in family time, playing on sports
teams or attending Luther League or youth group allows one to be
named something other than the name given to you by your parents.
Nicknames were popular in our family. My dad’s given name was
Wilfrid, but everyone called him Mike, hence why I would have been
called Michael. But I didn’t know his real name for years, all I ever
heard was Mike, just who was this Wilfrid fella? My sister’s given
name was Bernice, but she grew up being known as Suzy and as an
adult, someone at her workplace gave her the name of Bird. It suited her,
and I often remember her leaving me notes when she stopped by my
house and I wasn’t home. She rarely signed her name; she simply wrote
her note and drew a bird with a little musical note beside it. Names
become part of our identity….
I had lots of nicknames throughout my life and as I was writing
this sermon I began to reminisce about 2 of the most important names,
and I remembered that I had some old shirts with my nicknames on
them, so I brought them along as show and tell.
As a child, I was smaller than most of my peers so some kids in the
neighbourhood gave me the nickname Peewee, they looked out for me
and made sure I was never left behind. All through public school that
was how I was known (show shirts). And to this day when I am in
downtown Tavistock at the dreaded 5-way intersection near the end of
the school day, the crossing guard who was my neighbour growing up
will holler at me and wave saying “Hey Peewee, how’s it going” The
joy of living in a small town, the joy of being loved.
One of my most cherished nicknames is one given to me by my
family over 25 years ago by my siblings. I was the youngest in a family
of 6, and there was 10 years difference between myself and my youngest
brother, and 22 years difference between me and my oldest brother,
some of my siblings were married and had their kids before I was born.
At family gatherings and around the dinner table I became known as
Annie, and it is a term of great endearment and love to me. That name
has become part of my identity. It also helps on the ball field. I played
slo pitch for several years and there were 3 of us named Leanne on the
team. Writing the batters list was a challenging task. So, to make it
easier, I was Annie, there was an LA and a Leanne.
Names and nicknames become part of our identity, they are a
means of belonging and fitting in, it means that we matter and that we
When we are baptized, we are named and loved as well, just as in
our gospel reading this morning when Jesus is baptized by John in the
waters of the Jordan River. It was here that Jesus’ ministry began, it was
the commissioning moment for which he was created and called to do. It
was here that God spoke to Jesus and gave him the name; beloved and
identified him as a child of God. In his baptism, Jesus was named and
claimed by God.
Now our gospel reading this morning was controversial for
theologians back in the day when the canon was being incorporated.
Many of them believed that Jesus was sinless and therefore did not need
to be baptized, baptism was only needed for the forgiveness of sins, for
the forgiveness and washing away of the original sin. But Jesus needed
John to baptize him because it was there that he received his identity, it
was there that God spoke to him, it was there that the manifestation of
God was revealed. It was an epiphany!
Baptism is not just some quaint ceremony that is performed on a
Sunday morning for the benefit of family and friends, although I admit
that this is what many think of baptism today. It is so much more than
that! There is something about baptism that is life-giving and life-
changing. There is something about the water, there is something about
dying to the old life and being reborn to a new life in Jesus Christ. It is
the presence of the Holy Spirit and it is that wondrous relationship with
That is why Jesus had John baptize him that day in the Jordan.
David Lose states that baptism does indeed wash away sin, but it also
does so much more, it promises ongoing forgiveness and a promise of a
relationship with God, it gives us a name and an identity. We are
beloved and we are children of God. Each of us is a child of God and
each of us are loved, and God is committed to all.
We all know that it feels like our world is becoming more and
more divisive, more and more of society wants us to say who or we are
and what we claim to be. Are you left or right? Are you Conservative,
Liberal, NDP, or Green, Republican or Democrat? Canadian or an
immigrant? Gay or straight, black or white, rich or poor, the list goes on
and on? We are led to believe that all these names and identities are
more important than our baptismal identity. That those identities are as
important as the size of the house we live in, the types of cars we drive,
or the designer patch on our jeans or expensive winter coat. Now I am not
saying that we as Christians should throw all these
names aside, because they are a part of who we are, like our names and
nicknames, they fulfill a purpose, give us identity and authority, but let
us not forget who we were first and for most, who we truly belong to
and who we are called to be in the world. We are children of God. We
are loved, and we are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the
world. We are called to be light in the darkness. We are called to reach
out to others, to stand for those who cannot stand on their own and be
the voice for those who have no voice. You have probably heard me
preach this before, but I am not sure I can say it enough, because when I
was on my Internship last year, I listened to many stories from folks of
all walks of life and it saddened me to hear of the abandonment and
distress that people felt of not being loved. You are a beloved child of
God, and so is your neighbour and the person across the city and the
person around the world. We are all Children of God who are loved.
So, let us remember our baptism today. Let us remember that each
time we wash, that each time we are near water, that each time we make
the sign of the cross on our foreheads, we remember the name that God
gave to Jesus and gives to us. Know that in the water each of you are
renewed in faith, hope, and courage here and now, and in all of eternity.
I invite each of you to take a moment after the service this morning
to remember your baptism by coming to the font and dipping your finger
in the water and making a sign of the cross on your forehead. I also
invite you to take a stone or 2, to remind you of the waters of your
baptism, of who you are and who you are called to be. Keep it in your
pocket, in your purse, or on your nightstand to remind you that you are a
child of God and you are loved. Amen.