NounStudy i: Introduction
1. The action of introducing something; a thing newly brought into use or introduced to a place for the first time.
2. A formal presentation of one person to another, in which each is told the other's name.
Over the last year and a half, I've been struggling to find the right tool to let the people who were interested in what was happening at Austin in on some of details. When I would write my larger newsletter, it always seemed a little artificial: I would give some big, overarching ideas of what was happening, maybe I'd try to be pithy somehow. But it always seemed to take more time than I thought it should, and if the minimal amount of newsletters that have been sent out is any indication, it wasn't something I with which I had much interest. Our Facebook page has one or two digital dust bunnies under old pictures of moving vans and bright-eyed 2015 first-year seminarians.
This email, then, is my attempt of Newsletter 2.0, called NounStudy. Each email's intent will be to take one noun and write about it for a few hundred words. I hope to tie in many of the things I've learned and am continuing to learn as a husband, father, and seminarian. I also will do everything I can to send them semi-regularly: a least one every couple weeks, and maybe more if there's something especially important or striking. Hopefully it will spurn some thinking in you, too.
So, that takes care of the first definition of introduction, at least: NounStudy is being released into the internet ether for the very first time, creatio ex niliho.
But what about the second definition? Frederick Buechner, in his book "Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC," defines his name like this:
...if someone mispronounces [my name] in some foolish way, I have the feeling that what's foolish is me. If somebody forgets it, I feel that it's I who am forgotten. There's something about it that embarrasses me in just the same that there's something about me that embarrasses me... When I tell somebody my name, I have given him a hold over me that he didn't have before. If he calls it out, I stop, look, and listen whether I want to or not. In the Book of Exodus, God tells Moses that his name is Yahweh, and God hasn't had a peaceful moment since.
It's interesting to think that up until that moment in Exodus, God doesn't really name Godself: God gets called a lot of things, and even has conversation with others, but only in the burning bush does God say who God is - I AM, or Yahweh. And, as Buechner notes, from that point on, the stories in Scripture become an entire arc of God interceding in new ways repeatedly to save God's people as they called out God's name again and again. There became a unbreakable tether between the people and God that is different before and after that moment in Exodus.
That's what introduction does to each of us, too. Once I have formally introduced myself, we are connected. You can call out my name saying you need help and I will feel useful. You might not call me at all and I might feel alone. If I never talk to you again, you will probably feel something. There is power in that, and as I think about what it means to be a pastor, or a neighbor, or just a person at a cocktail party, it's something I am more mindful of: when we introduce ourselves to one another, we have given each other a key to begin to open the door to each other's life.
Just because we know each other's name, though, doesn't mean we know each other. That takes time. And so I hope these emails (and your replies, if you so choose) are ways that we get to know each other. I will keep calling for you and checking in on you: I look forward to unlocking your world a little bit more, and having you unlock mine.
Until the next time, feel free to get ahold of me via my email address, or by whatever means you'd like. Also, if you think someone else would like this email, feel free to share, too.