Park Hill Congregational UCC
Rev. Dr. David Bahr
May 27, 2018
“Changing Identities: Transgender Renaming Ceremony”
Mark 4: 35-41
On that day, when evening had come, Jesus said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
In Mark chapter 4, Jesus stilled the storm, to which the stunned disciples ask, “who is this?” They will keep asking for a long time. Jesus even asks them later in chapter 8, “Who do people say I am?” Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets. Who is this?
Today we are going to celebrate a name change. A rite of passage for someone who is transitioning from the identity of one gender to another. Some religious communities have begun to recognize this as an important rite of passage for which it is appropriate that we ask God’s blessing.
In light of that, Rev. Jah and I discussed having a dialogue on “identity.” Our conversation began by my musing that I don’t know who I am in the country of people celebrating cruelty. She reminded me that as a white person, I must not have noticed this is not a new reality for African Americans.
Changing names and identities, though perhaps not gender, happened in both Old and New Testaments among some of our most important ancestors, like these four:
Abram became Abraham
Sarai became Sarah
Saul became Paul
Jacob became Israel
Abram went from Exalted Father to Father of Many – after God promised 99 year old Abram that his name, his descendants, will become as numerous as the sands on the beach.
Likewise, 90 year old Sarai went from My Princess to Mother of Nations.
Saul, famously known as a particularly nasty persecutor of Christians, saw a vision Jesus, who asked “Why do you persecute me.” Saul of Tarsus was blinded and fell from his horse. He was blind for three days, after which he became Paul, meaning, small or humble.
Jacob wrestled with an angel at night, one of my favorite biblical passages, and refused to let go until he received a blessing. The angel even put out his hip. In his mother’s womb, he grabbed the heel of his twin Esau so Jacob could come out first. Jacob means to supplant, circumvent, overreach – or heel.
After wrestling for the night, he was given the name Israel, which means God Perseveres. Or, in our wrestling, May God Prevail.
So, if I may, Jah changed her name from Lorraine. Jah, spelled J-a-h, is the first half of the proper name of God – Yahweh. This first half means The Everlasting. This name change is from her given name Lorraine, which her mother explains, means she was named after the French province of Lorraine.
My name means Beloved. When I was in middle school I remember wishing my name was Christopher. I don’t know why. Christopher means Bearer of Christ, so I guess, it would have still fit. But I like the addition in the Urban Dictionary – “Christophers are usually handsome, caring, generous, and funny guys.”
Today we celebrate the changing of names from Thomas to Aimee. A,i,m,e,e. That means her name is changed from Twin to Dearly Loved. And that’s why we surround you as a church community, to recognize that you are indeed Dearly Loved.
Name changing ceremony
From Thomas Creed Davis to Aimee Melissa (meaning bee) Davis.
We affirm that this new name symbolizes who you are becoming through the grace of God.
We honor the names given by your parents.
We release them into your history and acknowledge that the time has come to declare a new name.
This name is the culmination of a long and difficult journey, including being told to leave another church, but as well, this is a time of beginning.
People of God: Will you support Aimee on this journey?
All: We promise our love, support, and care
Let us pray: Dynamic and holy God, we remember how you changed the names of Abraham and Sarah as they set out to follow you into the unknown.
We remember how you changed the name of Jacob, after a long night of wrestling with you.
And how Saul, the persecutor, became Paul, the founder of dozens of Christian communities.
We now publicly declare and affirm the name you have bestowed upon Aimee Melissa.
May Aimee walk in the spirit this day and always, knowing that God made an everlasting covenant with her from her birth, regardless of name or identity. And that covenant shall never be cut off. Amen.
Aimee: We rejoice that your name is written in heaven.
Everyone repeat after me: Your name is Aimee.
 Adapted from liturgies of the UUA and Memorial Congregational Church, Sudbury, Mass. Prayer from www.manyvoices.org
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My three loves are being the Pastor of Park Hill UCC in Denver, Hiking in the Colorado Foothills and Mountains, and Travelling around the world