I stopped by a basketball court during a bike ride yesterday. One guy, during their game, said, "Hi, John." I responded, "Hi, Mike." When they finished their game, three or four came over and asked if I was going to play. I told them I had broken my collar bone playing basketball and was waiting for the doctor's permission to play "competitive basketball." I had played with this group of young men during the winter and early spring. Then, they seemingly disappeared. Then, I broke my collar bone. So now, about four or so months later, I providentially stopped by a basketball court, they are there, and they call me by name.
I was amazed. I was pleased. When I was playing basketball, I had been praying that God would break down the age barriers (I usually am twice as old as most), the ethnic barriers, and maybe some other barriers. There always seemed to be a barrier of some sort to hinder us from connecting. If I did begin to connect with people, then they would seemingly disappear (move to another basketball court, have a job change, etc.), as this group seemingly did. Yet, here they were, and they called me by name.
Isn't that special when people address you by name? I am not talking about a formal or an official title, such as, Mr. Melhorn or Pastor John. (By the way, I don't mind Pastor John, but many times the whole concept of me being a pastor is a "hang up" or barrier with people;. They are afraid I might preach to them or condemn them for their sins if they say or do something.) When I say it is special to be called by name, I am speaking about when two people address each other without any "barrier" and use your personal name - not "buddy," "sir," "ma'am," "Hey you," and so forth. When a person thoughtfully addresses you by name, how wonderful! It says you belong. You are one of them. We all want to belong.
"Hi, John!" made my day. They called me by name!
P.S. Read and meditate on John 10:1-5, especially verse 3. Jesus, the good Shepherd, calls his sheep by name. Awesome!