The Mad Hatter Calls
Needed: A New Groove (Sufjan Stevens)

Naming Names

Names"Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way and see that they have everything that they need."  (Titus 3:13)

I take great comfort in these parting words in the Apostle Paul's short letter to Titus.  Even lawyers are found on the Way.  And the self-reliant lawyer Zenas is the one who needs help.  Lawyers -- those parasites of human misery (to echo the dimmest view uttered about them) -- will be found as faithful disciples.

We know nothing more of Zenas, as we know nothing more of other names dropped at the ends of other letters by Paul.  There's Aristarchus (Philemon 24); Erastus, Trophimus (sick in Miletus), Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, and Claudia ( 2 Tim. 19-21); Epaphras (wrestling in prayer), Nympha (who has a church in her house), and Archippus; Eudoria and Syntyche (who have a disagreement); and all the friends and relatives, both men and women, mentioned by Paul in Romans 16.  There's even a bureaucrat, the director of public works, Erastus  (Rom. 16:23), meaning that there must be hope for the scurrying moles of the Social Social Administration and other faceless bureaucracies.  Paul's letters are literally literately littered (indulge my alliteration!) with particular people whose names mean nothing to us now.  Why?  Why include these names in Scripture?

For at least three reasons.  First, these particular names, like the particular names of places, root Scripture in space and time, giving it a credibility that might be lacking were it nothing but dogma and abstractions.  The Word is about real life.  God became flesh.  Real people came to faith, suffered, and died in faith.  Like great songwriters anchor their lyric in particulars in order to strengthen the universal appeal of the song's theme, so God has told a Story filled with rich particulars of people and place to strengthen the appeal of its truth -- to enflesh its dogma.

Second, the attention to people with real names demonstrates the reality of our being made in God's image, the dignity of the individual.  I know not only that people came to faith but that Nympha and Erastus came to faith.  They mattered to Paul.  They matter to God.  And if they matter to God, then so do I.

Finally, naming names hearkens back to the earliest parts of the Story -- Adam giving names to the animals and then to woman.  Poets know the truth that when you name something you know something significant about who the person or what the thing is that you are naming.  When Paul names names we can hear God saying, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. . . . (Jer. 1:5).  Paul knows Archippus.  God knows Archippus.  God knows me -- he sees deeply into who I am.

That's scary. . . and comforting. The Name above all names knows my name.  He's got my number.