What’s In a Name?  Part One: Scorpio, Switch, and The Labels We Wear (Genesis 17)

Branding is an exceptionally powerful part of the gaming medium, and licenses have either succeeded or failed many times simply due to the effectiveness of the marketing campaign and a catchy title.  The console side of the business is no exception, and over the years you can really gain a lot of insight into both the mindset and the future of a company by how they choose to identify their signature product.  Take Sony for example.  Their very disciplined approach to their brand is exemplified by the simplicity of their naming system, forgoing any sense of creativity and simply labeling each successive system PlayStation 1, 2, 3, 4 and so on.  Simple, easy to understand, and a reflection of their straight-forward consumer approach.

Nintendo, on the other hand, prefers to match to the beat of their own drum with mysterious code-names such as the “Revolution”, “Dolphin”, and “NX” before finally settling on unique constructs such as the Wii or the Switch.  Their playful and creative approach is clearly reflected in their branding choices.  Turn your gaze to the past and you will find the bold but slightly over-reaching gallery of console names from my favorite mistake, Sega.  The promise of names like Genesis, Saturn, and Dreamcast conjure up larger-than-life visions that unfortunately none of these products were able to live up to.  And then you have Microsoft, the company that continues to try to think outside of the box despite literally naming their product a box.  While the Xbox brand name was certainly a catchy start, I’m still trying to figure out what exactly they were trying to accomplish with the “360” moniker and now the even more confusing Xbox 1, which is actually either the Xbox 3 or even higher if you are counting the various redesigns they have created.  And now with the project code-named “Scorpio”, they are poised to release an even more powerful version of their very successful Xbox one, but once again the final name that is chosen will have massive repercussions for years to come.

I am certain that we will have that answer within the next several weeks, and it will be interesting to see if the Scorpio code name actually sticks or if there is a superior branding plan that will more adequately describe this system to prospective buyers.  But this actually reminded me of some Scriptures where God chose to rebrand people by literally changing their name that aligned them with their true purpose.  You may be surprised at how often this happened, and anytime you see God do something more than once there is a pretty good chance there are some insights to be gained from it that we can apply to ourselves.

ABRAM/ABRAHAM and SARAI/SARAH: In Genesis 17 we find that the Lord is in the midst of making a covenant with Abram that would dramatically affect the course of human history.  This was not immediately apparent at the time though, as Abram was nothing more than a financially successful nomad without a single heir to his name.  But the Lord sees all the way through to the endgame, and despite  Abram’s advanced age and Sarai’s empty womb a promise is made.  And to seal the deal on this, God decided that a full “under new ownership” sign would be planted on the birth certificates for each of them.

Abram had the misfortune of having a name that meant “exalted father”, which is a bit rough when you consider he was rocking an empty cradle with Sarai.  And the meaning of names held great importance in those days as we will find over the next several examples, so each time Abram had to introduce himself as the “exalted father” it is likely that he would be asked, “Oh, really?  How many children do you have?”  Probably not ever a fun question to answer.  I am assuming it would be kind of like me introducing myself to everyone with the name “Brad Pitt”, then watching their amused looks of pity as they compare me to someone who I have very little in common with visually.  Other than the fact that we both have the same number of limbs, it’s a bit of a poor match.  And Abram was reminded every day when he heard his name that he was a walking oxymoron, a complete photo-negative of what his name implied.

So when God makes this covenant with Abram, He goes beyond mere words.  The Father changes both the names of Abram and Sarai to Abraham and Sarah with the explanation that simply being exalted father was setting a low bar.  The Lord saw that empty womb as the birthing point for not just many children, but a NATION.  Indeed, Abraham’s new name meant “father of many nations”, and the genealogy of much of the world can be traced back to this one man with the seemingly embarrassing and   deceptive name.

We may not put as much emphasis on names and their meaning as a society, but we are all familiar with LABELS and how they can have a very similar impact on how we perceive ourselves, how we perceive God, and how others perceive us and our relationship with God.  For example, if I say the phrase, “Unmarried pregnant teenager” that conjures a certain mental picture in many people’s minds, and it is probably less than flattering.  But labels can be deceiving, because I was actually referring to Mary the mother of Jesus Christ right there.  Funny how a preconceived notion about a label can skew your viewpoint, right?  Or what if I asked you how you felt about racist, hypocritical, occasionally vulgar outdoorsman and whether he should be a pastor?  What image comes to mind?  Is it the apostle Peter, who along with the other apostles looked down on Gentiles and Samaritans as lesser people and denied his Lord with curses?  Probably not, but the label is accurate.

So now for my question to you.  What labels do you carry, fairly or otherwise?  Maybe you earned your poor reputation like Peter, or perhaps you were unfairly mis-characterized like Mary.  Either way, you are not bound to those or the shame they carry any more than Abram was left to carry the ignominy of a name that may have matched who he was, but not who he would BE and how he would be remembered.  If that hits you on the nose, rest assured it does the same for me as well.  And in our next case study we will dive into someone whose name may have been accurate, but it also invites a “what came first, the label or the behavior?” question.

Until next week, remember that the label you were born under and have carried for your entire life does not define you, and it’s not how God sees you.  To the world Abraham was anything but a father, but to the Lord he was the father of many nations.  Just because it hasn’t happened yet has no bearing on the view of the One who sees the end from the beginning.  And He sees the finale to your story from the start as well and  has rejected the cruel inferences of how you have already been cast.

You are not the divorced one, the broken one, the abused one, the angry one, or the useless one, even if you have experienced these things.  You are not defined as the convict, the hopelessly addicted, or the lost cause.  You may have betrayed some people, disappointed others, and you have probably failed multiple times… welcome to the party.  I’ll join you at that table.  Those labels are not your future and they aren’t going on your name tag.  Embrace the name He has given you, even if you don’t look like it yet.  Abraham didn’t suddenly have a nation of children surrounding him when the Lord renamed him, but I have a pretty good feeling you know many of his children now.  There’s  not a corner of this earth that has not been impacted by the nations of children that were just waiting to be birthed from Abraham, and He has called you to birth something on this planet as well.  The Lord didn’t fashion a single cell of our body that does not serve a purpose, and He didn’t waste a single day of creation making something simply to say, “Never mind on that, what was I thinking?” and wad it up and toss it away like a poor sketch on a piece of paper.  He is very intentional about each life He grants, and while your purpose may not always be apparent it is still baked into your name just the same.  As we will see next week, who you have been isn’t always who you will be…

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