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The name game

by davesandel on February 11th, 2021

Thursday, February 11, 2021             (today’s lectionary)

The name game

The Lord brought each animal and bird to the man to see what he would call them, and the man gave names to all the cattle, all the birds, and all the wild animals. But none proved to be a suitable partner for the man.

Johnny Cash sang his friend Bob Dylan’s song, “Man Gave Names to All the Animalsin the beginning, long time ago … the whole song is a setup for the last stanza:

He saw an animal as smooth as glass

Slithering his way through the grass

Saw him disappear by a tree near a lake …

So ends the song but not the story. We haven’t done so well with our naming and controlling everything except our own disfunctions, disasters and self-induced catastrophes. “Blame” and “name” sound so much alike, don’t they?

As I lay in bed yesterday morning in Urbana, wondering how the ice cold weather will affect me, my car, my water pipes, my life … I started naming everything again. All my problems … I catch myself, breathe deep, pray the Lord’s Prayer, but halfway through I forget and start naming my them again. My mechanic buddy Spence tells me , “I don’t let myself think about things like that.” He means, I think, the things he can do nothing about.

Good plan. So I notice my dread again, and that I am caught up in naming anything and everything that is not yet finished in my Urbana week. I stop, one more deep breath and pray the Jesus Prayer a few times. The air outside the blanket is very cold, because we don’t have much heat upstairs. The electric blanket reminds me of God’s warm arms. Breathe deep again. Let the naming go.

It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a partner for him. But none of the animals proved to be a suitable partner for the man ( in Hebrew Adam means “man,” from adamah, which meansearth”). So the Lord cast a deep sleep on the man and while he was asleep removed one of his ribs. Then God took the rib and made a woman out of it.

And the man was happy. This one, yes! At last.

This is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. This is why a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh. And the man and his wife were naked, and they felt no shame.

Solomon in Ecclesiastes makes sure we all know that having a warm body beside you in bed is a good thing. A pillow just isn’t the same. A pillow is never 98.6 degrees, and a pillow doesn’t match up with me the way Margaret does.

When we are apart I think I do a lot more naming of my dreads. I cling to them like I cling to Margaret when we’re together. The Hebrew word for “cleave” means to stick together like glue. We can get overdo it and get entangled and enmeshed that way of course, but our loyalty, our teammate-ness, and our warmth for each other are pearls of great price. Priceless, really.

Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls.

(Genesis 2, Psalm 128, James 1, Mark 7)

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