What’s in a name?
Every fortnight people from a farming background in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, or who have a heart for the countryside, offer a personal reflection on faith and rural life. They hope that you will be encouraged by it.
While travelling around England and Scotland, I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that almost every farm has a name. Farm names aren’t quite as common in Northern Ireland, but that doesn’t mean that names aren’t important for farming on this side of the Irish Sea.
Growing up in Mourne, every field on our farm had a name. If you were told to move a batch of lambs from the Long Field to the Meadow, or to spray the nettles in the Wee Hill, you knew instantly where you had to go. These names helped to create a sense of place and identity.
Anyone involved in breeding pedigree livestock will be familiar with having to name your animals. Each one proudly bears the name of its herd, or flock, alongside its own individual name. For those breeders who regularly win first prize in the show ring, this name becomes synonymous with their success, and their animals often command higher prices at the pedigree sales.
In the case of pedigree dairy cattle, a cow’s individual name will often include the names of both its sire and dam, to help identify the cow’s families from which it has been bred. Names help create the idea of family, and of belonging.
Then there are the brand names on our farm machinery. On some yards its “if it ain’t New Holland blue, it won’t do” or “if it’s not Massey Ferguson red, keep ‘er in the shed”. Names can sometimes encourage us to make choices.
In the Bible, the first chapter in the New Testament begins not with the Christmas story, but with a long list of names. In Matthew chapter one, we plough through 42 names that detail the genealogy of Jesus, from as far back as Abraham.
This list is historical proof that Jesus was fully human, a true Jew, a descendent of King David, as the prophet Isaiah had foretold some four hundred years earlier – He is God’s Messiah. “He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever” (Isaiah 9:7).
The family history of Jesus, God’s Son, includes the names of many great Bible characters like Abraham, Jacob, Rahab, Ruth and David. But when you study them, these ancient people were far from perfect. They struggled daily with sin and temptation - lies, deception, and sexual immorality, even murder. Yet God, by His grace, forgave their sin and chose to use these people in amazing ways, and ultimately to help accomplish His salvation plan as the earthly family of Jesus.
When we trust in Jesus, He forgives our sins as well, and we become part of His heavenly family. We share His identity, and He can use us in amazing ways too.
Jesus’ name is extra special, not just because of His many miracles, or insightful teaching, but because He is God. As the Apostle Paul reminds us “God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).
Jesus is inviting you to become part of His family. Will you choose to call on His name today?
Ronald Annett works for a local animal feed company and helps out on the family farm in the shadow of the Mourne Mountains. He is a member of Mourne Presbyterian Church in Kilkeel, County Down.
If you would like to talk to someone about any of the issues raised in this article, please email Rev Kenny Hanna, PCI’s Rural Chaplain at [email protected] or call him on 07938 488 372.