“Called By Name” Easter Sunday (April 20, 2014)
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Teacher out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.
Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Teacher away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Creator. Go instead to my brothers and sisters, and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Creator and your Creator, to my God and your God.’”
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Teacher!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
Will you pray with and for me? Loving God of good surprises, open our hearts to your Easter joy; give us grace to recognise you in the everyday, to hear your voice calling our name. May all that we speak and hear bring us closer to an understanding of your love for us. In all your names, amen.
I love John’s version of Easter morning. The two disciples, running to the tomb, afraid that what Mary said was true, confused, maybe even panicking. And then—nothing! Just the empty graveclothes, and an empty tomb. John says, “and they believed—“ but he doesn’t say what they believed…that the tomb really was empty? That maybe Jesus wasn’t dead?
But Mary—she stays there, crying, afraid of what it means—that someone has stolen Jesus’ body, and she and her friends can’t even mourn him properly. She is wrapped in her sorrow, grieving her teacher and friend.
And then—someone is speaking to her, she doesn’t know who, but it doesn’t matter because Jesus is dead and even his body has been taken…she has nothing left of her hopes; so what does anything else matter? Unless perhaps this person knows where Jesus’ body was moved to—maybe a different tomb? Maybe Joseph of Arimithea had second thoughts and decided it was not a good idea to let them use his tomb for Jesus…
And then the person calls her by name, and she recognises Jesus.
Do we miss the joys of life because we are too focused on the sorrows? Yes, there is a lot of grief in the world—we have all lost loved ones, friends, partners, siblings, parents; there are earthquakes, wars, hungry children, murder, theft, lies and deception, greed and corruption. But there are also joys—the relationships we shared with those who are gone; the relationships we share with those who are here; simple enjoyments such as good food, a walk by the river, the lovely sights of animals and birds and fish in the parks and in the woods, the sheer pleasure of a good book or movie; of conversation with friends.
We can become too focused on the grief of Lent and Easter—we can become stuck on Saturday afternoon, mourning Jesus, wrapped up in the great sorrow of his crucifixion. It is easy to forget, sometimes, that there is joy in the morning—the sad walk to the tomb to anoint a dead friend becomes a dance of joy for a resurrected Saviour!
Mary couldn’t see it at first, either—her heart broken, she was so immersed in her grief she couldn’t recognise Jesus when he stood before her. But there he was—all her sorrow turned to joy in a moment, seeing her beloved teacher and friend, hearing him call her name.
This is the moment that most moves me…when he calls her by name, speaks tenderly to her, in the voice she finally recognises—he calls her by name and she sees him, really sees him.
We all have had Good Fridays in our lives—none of us has had lives without grief or terrible loss. It can be hard to remember a time without that sorrow; and it can be hard to let go of it, because it feels like letting go of the sorrow is letting go of the one we loved, or the work we miss, or the health we no longer have, or the relationship that has ended. But when we let go of our mourning, when we look up from our sorrow, then we can hear our name, spoken in love and promise—of all that still is, even though we thought it was gone.
I am not Pollyanna—I know sorrow can tear your heart apart. I know there are no easy answers; no magic wand. But that is the other side of love—without love, there is no grief. Our very love makes the grief deeper. But that same love can carry us through those days of pain; that same love is what made days bright for us before, and it can do that again.
Don’t stay with Saturday afternoon—step into the Easter light of the morning and an empty tomb, and a beloved voice calling your name.
In all God’s names, amen.