Last Sunday I went to St Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne for a service celebrating the 175th anniversary of the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne. It was a beautiful service and the visiting Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, preached a fine sermon.
Welby, like me, is not especially gifted at remembering names. He recounted an embarrassing episode decades ago when he forgot his wife’s name: “This is . . . (awful mental blank).” Caroline came to his rescue.
His middle son, who apparently claims every challenge is because he is a middle son while every success is due to him overcoming being a middle son, once looked at him sadly as Welby ran through his children’s names in rebuking him.
Many parents will know this. I’ll use my children, as I don’t know his: “AraMicNatSamLen, stop that now.” His son said, “I don’t mind being called my brother’s name, or maybe even my sisters’, but Dad – the dog?”
I had a philosophy professor at Melbourne University who struggled to remember any name. I’d say “hello —“ as we passed in the corridor. He would say “hi mate”, and 20 yards past him the despairing wail would come, “err, Barney”.
The fact is that God knows my name, and never forgets it. He knows the name of every one of his people, and more, he knows me far more intimately than I know myself. He knows every failure to love, every bit of selfishness, every bit of laziness or unkindness.
Yet, and this is the miracle the Bible teaches, he loves me and every one of his people unconditionally, and has done so since before the foundation of the world, because of course God is not confined to time.
How wonderful to be so thoroughly known, yet still loved.