Tag Archives: I am who I am

“I am” and Green Algae

Last week-end I participated in our ninth grade confirmation retreat at Camp Wapo.  The sixteen youth will be confirmed in October, affirming their baptismal covenant. This group had a few “energetic” boys who could be distracting at times so we had to find creative ways to teach.

The retreat focused on the “I am” statements in John’s Gospel. At Friday’s campfire we introduced God’s name “I AM WHO I AM;” God gave this name to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14). The name in Hebrew became so sacred that later generations of Jews would not pronounce it. Yet Jesus utilized the “I am” name to describe himself. For example in John 9 when he healed a man born blind, he said, “I am the light of the world.”

The next morning we explored the other “I am” statements of Jesus. To keep their attention, we walked about the camp as we discussed, thinking about “I am the way” (John 14:6). We walked through the gate of the “Gaga Pit,” for a discussion of “I am the gate for the sheep” (John 10:7).

I am the vine, you are the branches.

As we stopped in a grove of trees, we listen to Jesus’ words, “I am the vine; you are the branches” (John 15:1) and prayed as we grasped the trunk/vine in our hands. For the most part, the students seem to be connecting to Jesus’ words.

As we approached the swimming beach, I had planned to have the student remember their baptism and Jesus’ words, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25-26). We were to walk down to the lake shore, dip our hands in the water and make the sign of the cross on our forehead. We would say the words, “I am alive in Christ.” The water would connect us to our baptism and our life in Christ.

However I had neglected to scout the beach prior to our approach. It had not been used for a few weeks, since summer camp ended. As I walked to the shore, I discovered that there was at least a half-foot of thick mud at the water’s edge and that the water had become a sickly green. Instead of life, the water reminded me of death. Uncertain what to do, I looked up to see one of the “energetic” boys walking out onto the dock. It stretched beyond the mud and green algae.

So there on the dock, we reached over into the lake water and renewed our baptism, water dripping from our heads and hands.

I hope someday that I can incorporate an actual immersion under the water as a way of remembering our baptism. I am still Lutheran in my embrace of infant baptism as God’s means of grace. God starts the covenant relationship. But I think many of us need experiential rites along the way to affirm and remember this covenant. Being dunked in a lake could help us remember that we are buried with Christ and raised with Christ in the waters of our baptism (Roman 6:3-4).

I will first need to find a lake without green algae.

Lord Jesus, I am alive in you. Thank you

Names Matter

Oh Lord, our God, how majestic is your name in all the earth.
Psalm 8:1

My parents named me John Vincent KellerJohn comes from the Hebrew name, Jonathan (I Samuel 13), which means gift of God.  My middle name is from my father, Vincent Keller, and comes from the same root as victorious or winner.  So my name gives me a certain amount of pride: I am a gift of God and a winner.  Then to keep me in my proper place my last name, Keller, is the German word for basement or cellar.  I need to remember my humble roots.

Names are significant in the Bible because they are not just tags that differentiate one person from another.  Names carry meaning and significance, essential characteristics of a person.  The Lord God revealed his name to Moses at the burning bush when Moses asked him for it: I am who I am.  (Exodus 3:14).  The Hebrew root of this is YHWH and means to be present or to be encountered.   Another translation of YHWH could be I will be present where I will be present, a reflection of God’s promise to be near us and yet free to be God.  Names reveal character.

Jesus is also given a special name.  In Hebrew his name is Yeshua, which means God saves or rescues.  His father Joseph is told to give this name to Jesus because he will rescue his people from their sin (Matthew 1:21).   Later during his ministry, Jesus will rename Simon, the brother of Andrew, to be Peter or Petra (Greek) which is Rock.  Simon Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah is the rock upon which the church is built (Matthew 16:16-18).  Names matter.

I think of that when I walk into Resurrection Lutheran Church.  This congregation is named for the wondrous historical event, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. With Jesus’ resurrection comes the promise that we too shall rise.  We begin the resurrected life here on earth when we die and rise with Jesus in our baptism.  Resurrection begins as we trust, live and serve God.  Our congregation’s name matters because it reminds us of the Vibrant Life of Faith in Christ.

In what ways do you call upon “the name of the Lord?”

Lord Jesus, thank you for fulfilling your calling to rescue us from our sin.