Before I begin: (You can skip to the next paragraph if you get bored) my name is John Novis Elkins. I am named for two people. John McFadden, a missionary and friend of my Dad’s. My middle name comes from my grandfather, Novis Elkins. I am privileged to bear the names of such great men. My first name is Hebrew. It means, “The LORD’s Favored” or “YHWH has Graced.” The best I can tell, Novis in Hebrew comes from the word for “sick” or if it comes from Latin, it means “new.” So I am either sick with grace or I am graced anew. Each of these I believe is fitting for me and I am proud to be John Novis. This name means a great deal to me. When I was a child, I used to only respond to people who would call me by all three. Imagine calling to me, “John” and I didn’t answer. “JOHN!” and a seven year old version of myself looked you in the eyes and said, “my name is John Novis Elkins.” In college I tried to go to the name Novis, in order to distinguish myself from other Johns. My wife calls me John N as does the girl who is like an adopted daughter to me. This name is important to me. Now to the rest of the story.
Every year, in our church’s annual Passion Play, I have played a Pharisee (please hold back comments about type-casting). This year, I have been blessed to play a disciple (not one of the big three… I get to be James the son of Alpheus- the non-speaking disciple, I think I am going to pretend he was a zealot and carry a big knife!).
Tonight Mark, the guy that plays Jesus, was calling the disciples. I am the last one to be called. I watched the scene unfold, the way it has every year with Mark calling out to every disciple. Naming them one by one and calling them up to the stage. Mark does this scene well, raising his hands with dramatic emphasis when appropriate and greeting each disciple with a smile and handshake. I am the only disciple that enters through my particular door. I was looking down, waiting for Jesus to call my name, James. Jesus turned to me and said, “John!” First I thought their must be an error in the script. “There’s only one disciple named John,” I muttered to myself in irritation. Then I tried to correct Jesus, “I’m James.” Jesus looked at me as if to say, “yeah yeah yeah… John! Come up here already!”
It occurred to me, there will come a day when Jesus calls my name. I don’t mean the name I was given, but he will call MY name. It will be an odd recognition. Revelation 2:17 says that we will get a stone with a new name on it, a name that only God and the one receiving the stone will know. I may feel like the only one who enters at my door in this dark world we live in. But I will be called to join the great cloud of witnesses, my family in Heaven. I wonder, when Jesus calls me by the name that is mine, will I think there is an error in His script? Will I try to tell Him, “but… my name is John Novis Elkins.” You see, a name is not just a set of letters that you identify with, it is who you are. It is what describes your soul. It is you. The reality is that my name here is not who I am. While I am proud to wear my name here, I will be given a new name. You see, Jesus knows who I am, for real. One day he will give me that name, and I will know it! I will know who I am fully! I think it will be an odd recognition, but it will be recognition.
This world is a shadow. We know the truth now, only in part. Then we will know, even as we are fully known. If you have faith in Jesus, you are not the person this world sees. You are the person God sees you to be. The key to what I just said is that you “ARE.” You are this person, this is your name, you ARE the name God will show you. Do you know Jesus? Do you have another name that is who you are?