“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”
  I don’t know a lot about being a kid these days, but when I was a schoolboy, this was a familiar adage that the adults would try to convince us was true.  I know why they promoted it, because they were hoping to avoid unpleasant altercations and fistfights.  Bullies were to be ignored, not confronted by their victims.  “Just walk away”, was the mantra.  That would be good advice for times when walking away would be easy, but in some situations, simply walking away is not good enough.  If just walking away requires us to stifle our feelings of hurt down and not to deal with them, it can have powerful and lasting negative result.
 
Now some adages, even those which many folks scorn as trite, are more or less true, as far as they go.  “A stitch in time saves nine.” “Time and tide wait for no man – or woman.” “It is better to light one little candle than to curse the darkness.” 
 
This old saw, though, is especially pernicious because it is most definitely NOT true. “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can hurt me even more.” This is the truth about that old adage.  Words have meaning, and words have consequences.  Words that are also names are more powerful than many of us ever realize.
 
Words can have some blazingly harmful effects when they serve to attack someone else’s self esteem, dignity, peace of mind and spirit. 
Almost every person who is seen as different from the accepted norm knows what negative power a name can have.  Names like the N-word for people of a different skin tone or the F-word for people perceived as being homosexual are extreme examples of words that can damage and even kill the spirit and perhaps even the body.
 
Names have power, power to bless and power to curse.  Power to build up and power to tear down; power to love and power to hate.  Power to give life, and power to kill.
 
I am embarrassed to admit that I don’t remember his name, but while I was in Seminary I met a fellow student, a man who was studying for the priesthood from one of the tribal nations in Africa.  Again, I do not remember which nation it was, but what he told me I do remember.  In his tribe, when a male child is born, he is given a name, a secret name, which remains known only by his father and possibly by his mother.  No one else ever knows that name, his real name.  In that culture, they believe that if an enemy discovers your real name, that gives him power over you.  So at birth, a male child, given a secret name, his real name, also receives a public name by which he will be known to others, but his real name remains a top secret throughout his life.  One of the steps from childhood to adulthood will be the time when he himself learns his real name.
 
In the play, “Romeo and Juliet”, Shakespeare has his character Juliet state that, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  But would it?  Do not names have a certain influence upon our perceptions?  As one brief and perhaps indelicate example in my own life, I bravely offer the following:
 
When I was in college, I worked at various jobs to help my Dad pay for my tuition and fees.  For several summer vacations, I worked for the Sealright Company.
Sealright was a factory which made, among other things, paper cups and milk and ice cream containers.  There was a company cafeteria where workers could buy a nice lunch.  For those people buying milk, coffee or sodas to go with their lunch, they would provide overruns of paper cups made right there in the factory.  They were perfectly good, perfectly clean paper cups.  An overrun was simply the situation where too many of a certain order and logo were made, which was a common occurance.  On one particular lunchtime, I went through the line selecting items for my lunch as usual, filling one of the paper cups they supplied with milk.  As I sat down to enjoy my lunch, I began by raising my cup of milk to take a sip and behold, at eye level I beheld the lettering on the cup which proclaimed, “Urine Sample.” Now I knew in my mind it was just an ordinary clean paper cup, but do you think I could force myself to drink from it?  I knew it was materially no different from any of the other cups that said things such as “Maxwell House Coffee”, or “Drink Coca Cola”, or “Fresh Dairy Milk”, but I could not drink it.  I complained to the cafeteria manager, who with great apology removed that particular supply of cups and replaced my milk for me. 
 
Joseph was troubled because he had learned that Mary, his future wife, had become pregnant.  Scripture tells us that he pondered what to do about it.  He loved her.  Although he was hurt and angry, he did not want her to be humiliated or stoned to death because of it.  It was then that an angel came to him in a dream, assuring him that Mary had not betrayed him.  He was to marry her and he was instructed to name the child Jesus.  He remained obedient to God through this message from an angel, and he did name the child Jesus.
 
Jesus.  The Name above every name.  The name given by God himself for his only-begotten Son.  The Holy, God given Name given and taken by God, the great answer to that secret Name. “Who are you, Lord?”  The Great I AM!
In my teenage search for faith, someone told me about this little prayer called “The Jesus Prayer.”  It is simple, it is direct, and it has power.  It goes like this:
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God; have mercy on me, a sinner.”
I know, I know.  Some will say that it sounds too negative.  Why do we have to wallow in the sin part?  Can’t we just ask for a more positive faith?  Why drag this negativity into it?
 
All I know is that it works for me.  I think and feel that it identifies me as a work in progress.  I think I understand Saint Paul when I come close to rejoicing in that I am a sinner.  A sinner who can know the joy of sin forgiven.  Yes, for me, that little prayer has power.  But the real key, the most essential element is the Holy Name of Jesus.  Some have told me, and I have heard people say, “It is hard for me to pray.” or “It has been so long since I have prayed, I don’t know what to say.” “Where do I begin?”  My suggestion is simply this:  Begin with the Holy Name, Jesus.  The Holy Name of Jesus has power.  Sometimes, when even the simple Jesus prayer seems too much, just the one word prayer, “Jesus” is a strong aid. JESUS is the Word above every word.  JESUS is the Name above every name.  The name JESUS is the Word of power.  Above all, JESUS is the Word which conveys within itself the creating engine of God’s infinite love.
Above every word known to mankind, words which build and words that destroy, words that create and words that kill the soul, words that bless and words that curse, there is one word, one Name that is above every name.  The one name that in itself can bless, heal, create and save.  JESUS.
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God; have mercy on me, a sinner.”
AMEN.

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