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2 Lent Year B                                                                                    2/25/2024

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Psalm 22:22-30; Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38

Rev. Mark A. Lafler



In our Old Testament reading today from the book of Genesis we have the narrative of another covenant…

Last week we had the covenant that God made with all people through Noah, and it was signified by a rainbow.


This week we have the covenant God made with Abraham.

God said:

I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you,

and kings shall come from you.

I will establish my covenant between me and you,

and your offspring after you throughout their generations,

for an everlasting covenant,

to be God to you and to your offspring after you.


He was 99 years old when the covenant was made.

And he and his wife did not have any children.

Nevertheless, in God’s timing through his wife Sarah,

a family was born, a nation, the people of God…


This covenant brought forth the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

The redeemer of the world.


In this covenant, Abraham’s name was changed from Abram to Abraham.

Abram means exalted father.

Abraham means father of nations.

His old name expresses something that wasn’t him…

He wasn’t a father.

His new name expresses the very nature of the covenant.

He became a father of many people groups.

His wife changed names too from Sarai to Sarah.


There are a number of other people whose names were changed too.

Abraham’s grandson Jacob’s name was changed to Israel.


And you are probably familiar with some name changing in the New Testament too:

Simon becomes Peter…

And Saul becomes Paul.



Names are important to all of us.

We are given a name when we are born, and it becomes attached to our identity.

It doesn’t say everything about who we are…

As Shakespeare pointed out in Romeo and Juliet:

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.”

He was suggesting that names themselves are just a way to distinguish things or people,

but names do not have any worth or meaning.


But names do become the verbal marker of who we are.

Our names… and our last names…

identify who we are attached to…

What lineage we have…

Our family history.


In our reading today we see God changing names…

And by doing so, he changes Abraham and Sarah’s identity…

Putting his covenant upon their very identification.

He was transforming them.


Changing more than just their names…

He was changing the very fabric of who they were…

From a barren couple… To the father and mother of nations.


And I believe this points toward what God wants to do with us.

He wants to change who we are too.

He wants to bring transformation in us through Jesus Christ.

Through the death and resurrection of Jesus…

We can be made new in Christ Jesus.


This is what we call conversion…

Where we are changed from being creatures of God to being children of God.[1]


Actually, I just heard a good little talk on this very word conversion…

or convert… yesterday.

Christian conversion means to change with Christ.

The vert part of convert is where we get our word verge (or verger) from…

It means to change course or to direct.

The prefix con (in convert) means with

So, the word means to direct or change with…

Christian conversion is to be re-directed with Christ Jesus.

Jesus is all about changing us…

Transforming us…

He wants every part of who we are…

Heart, soul, strength, and mind.

Our whole being.


  1. S. Lewis speaks to this in Mere Christianity.

He writes:

Christ says ‘Give me All.

I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You.

I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it.

No half-measures are any good.

I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down.

I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out.

Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked – the whole outfit.

I will give you a new self instead.

In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.’[2]


God wants to transform us into himself…

As St. Athanasius said:

He became what we are so that he might make us what he is.


God is all about transforming our life into him.

He is all about changing our name…

Our identity…

Our purpose.


Now this truth of scripture can sometimes have difficulty with the philosophy of our day.

You see, our world advocates inclusion.

Our world preaches acceptance.

Our world teaches tolerance.

At least in the forms of what is largely socially approved.


And the scriptures would encourage inclusion, acceptance, and tolerance too.

We would say:

All are welcome.

Come as you are.

We want this place to be warm and welcoming.

However, if we didn’t take the teaching of the bible any further…

We would be amiss.

We are not meant to come to Jesus and not change.

To truly confess Jesus as Lord of our life…

To truly confess Jesus as Savior of our life…

There will be fruit of life changing…

Evidence of a walk in Christ.


The light of Christ shines into the darkest places of our hearts and minds…

It is a light that transforms.


We are to become more and more like Jesus…

There is more to life than just being included, accepted, and tolerated.

We are to be transformed in Christ.

Because in him…

We find our true personhood…

Our real identity is found in Christ Jesus.


The scripture says:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world,

but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

(Romans 12.2a)

It is not about God approving our story…

Praise God!

I know there is too much wrong, too much sin, too much evil, in my story for God to approve…

I don’t need him to approve it…

I need him to redeem it!

It is not about God approving our story…

It is about us continuing to submit our story to him.

So that he can redeem our story…

Transforming our story.

A name-changing story.


Again, the scriptures say:

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory,

are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory,

which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

(2 Corinthians 3.18)


Many of you are probably familiar with the story Pilgrim’s Progress.

It’s a Christian Classic written by John Bunyan in 1678.

It is an allegory tracing the story of a pilgrim who journeys through the world all the way to the gates of heaven.

If you aren’t familiar with the book, I recommend it to you.

Most of us are familiar with the pilgrim’s name throughout the book.
Christian is his name.

But how many of us would recall his original name?

It is stated plainly in the book.

In the opening scene, the pilgrim is having a conversation with a porter, who asks, “What is your name?”

Pilgrim answers: My name is now Christian, but my name at the first was Graceless.



This allegory points toward all of us who claim Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Our new name is Christian, but it once was not.

We once were without grace…

But the moment we believed and confessed…

The day God transformed our life…

We went from Graceless to Christian.

The anointed one, Jesus Christ,

becomes our very name.

Little Christ…

Followers of Christ.

Church, people of God…

Let us not be fearful of God’s new name for us…

When God transforms our name…

He is doing what is best for us and for the world.


When Saul’s name was changed to Paul, he called Gentiles to himself.

When Simon’s name was changed to Peter, he built his church.

When Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, he founded God’s people.

When Abram and Sarai became Abraham and Sarah,

He made a covenant that he would call every nation to himself.

And He did this through Jesus Christ…

The one who fulfills the law…

The one who fulfills the covenants…

Jesus, the name that brings salvation…

The name above all names…

In his hands are love and justice…

And he is calling you.


Answer his calling…

And listen to him when he says your name.




[1] CS Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1952, 2001), 220.

[2] Lewis, 196-197.