When God Calls Your NamePosted: March 31, 2013
SLIDE 3: MARY AT THE TOMB
John’s story of the resurrection begins with a lone woman, who was devoted to Jesus going to the tomb. Everyone else was afraid and still in hiding. Jesus and Mary Magdalene shared an important emotional attachment that compelled Mary despite danger and fear to venture alone to the tomb, and why the Risen Christ first appeared to her.
SLIDE 4: PETER AND THE BELOVED DISCIPLE COME RUNNING
Alone and afraid, when Mary found the stone rolled away from the tomb, she returned to the Upper Room to inform Peter of her discovery. Peter and “the disciple Jesus loved,” ran to the tomb. The unnamed disciple was younger and swifter and outran Peter. He stooped and looked in and saw the grave clothes lying in the tomb, but he did not go in. When Peter arrived, he went right in to the tomb. The placement of the napkin that had covered the head of the body was different from the rest of the shroud. But finding no other evidence of what might have happened to the body, the two men returned to the Upper Room.
SLIDE 5: MARY TALKS TO THE GARDENER
Mary, however, inconsolable in her grief stayed at the tomb. And here the narrative in John parallels the resurrection accounts in the synoptic gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke. Looking into the tomb again Mary saw two beings of light, who had not been present, when Peter and the unnamed disciple had investigated the scene. Thus, the vision of angels seen by Mary, was there specifically for her benefit. They were not present just for anyone who happened to drop by the empty tomb that morning. In addition to appearing, the angels spoke to Mary asking her why she was weeping and whom she was seeking. Of course these questions provide wonderful dramatic effect for the story. The reader or listener already knows the answer, and the only question is how long it will take Mary to figure it out.
Mary answered the angels, and then without waiting for a response from the beings of light she turned around and saw Jesus standing there although she mistook him for the gardener. This detail suggests the possibility that however the Risen Christ appeared, he was not as plain as the nose on your face. And so Mary began imploring this “gardener” to tell her where he had transported the body.
SLIDE 6: JESUS CALLED MARY’S NAME
The moment of recognition in the story was when Jesus called Mary’s name. Perhaps this is the larger truth of the story. Hearing her name pronounced by the “gardener” Mary recognized the Risen Christ – the Christ who constantly appears in disguise. The Christ who often appears to us today, but remains unrecognized, because we cannot see him in the neediness of others – the hungry, the thirsty, the sick or imprisoned. We do not know the length of Mary’s encounter with the Risen Christ, or how the encounter broke off. Mary subsequently returned to the Upper Room to announce that she had indeed seen the Lord, a claim most of the other disciples dismissed until later that evening.
SLIDE 7: HAVE YOU HEARD GOD CALL YOUR NAME?
The larger truth of the story is that we are changed, transformed forever, when we hear God call our name. Have you heard God call your name? What does God want you to do? What does God want you to become? When God calls our name we know God is real and not even death can separate us from God’s love. This heart knowledge is ultimately empowering, for we no longer need to fear and no one can take our joy from us.
SLIDE 8: GOD LOVES US PERSONALLY
God calls us by name because God loves each one of us individually and personally. God doesn’t love us as a group as a lump of humanity. As Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew, “Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? But not one of them will fall to the ground without your heavenly father knowing about it already. Why even the hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not be afraid, for you are worth more than many sparrows.” Even the hairs of our head are numbered. Of course for some of us that task becomes easier and easier. That’s why some of us have thrown in the hairs of our beards.
It is sort of like the little girl who mis-prayed the Lord’s Prayer in Sunday School, “Our Father who art in heaven, how do you know my name?” God loves us individually, and that is why God calls us by name.
SLIDE 9: MAYBE WE HAVEN’T BEEN LISTENING
Now maybe this morning we are wondering about the resurrection. We feel unsure of the claim someone could be killed, dead and buried and yet live again. Maybe we have never heard God call our name. The first question we might consider is, have we been listening? We live in a very noisy world. We turn on our radios in the car, our televisions at home. We have computers, ipads, iphones, and video games to distract us. Maybe we haven’t been listening.
SLIDE 10: MAYBE WE AREN’T RECOGNIZING OUR NAME
Maybe we aren’t recognizing our name. God is calling we just don’t recognize God is calling us. I am reminded of the young man from the South who joined the army. And like some Southern boys he was given initials instead of a full name. He was R.B., R.B. Jones. His first day his drill sergeant had him filling out forms, and the first thing he had to navigate was one of those forms where you have to input your name all in capital letters in boxes – first name, middle name and last name. So R.B. started filling in the boxes very carefully. For his first name he wrote R and then in parentheses he put down the word only. For his middle name he wrote B and then in parentheses “only.” And then he entered his last name “Jones.” Fifteen minutes after filling out the form R.B. almost missed hearing his name called, when the sergeant called out, “Ronly Bonly Jones.” I can see that, it’s an honest mistake. I mean God has a couple of times called me using my secret divine name, “Hey Stupid.” But in fairness to God, she didn’t mean anything by it, she was just trying to get my attention.
SLIDE 11: WE DON’T WANT TO HEAR
Now another reason we might not be hearing God call our name is we don’t want to hear what God wants to tell us. Like the man who fell off the edge of a precipice, and on the way down he grabbed this scraggly plant growing out of the side of the cliff. As he was hanging there he looked up to heaven and started yelling is there anybody up there? After a minute he heard a voice from the sky say to him, “let go you are in my care.” The man thought about it for a few seconds and began yelling again, “Is there anyone else up there?” Sometimes we just don’t want to hear what God has to tell us.
SLIDE 12: LISTEN IN SILENCE
Let me suggest then we take time each day to listen, listen deeply in prayer in silence. Turn off our radios, our televisions, our computers, our ipads, and our phones, and listen to the silence. No facebook, no twiiter, no e-mail just silence. At first, silence is difficult, for all of our internal drunken monkeys begin to chatter. If we persist, however, the internal voices will finally quiet and then God might get through.
SLIDE 13: GOD WANTS TO REASSURE US OF HER LOVE.
Then become open to the possibility that God doesn’t want to tell us what we want to hear – sort of an inconvenient truth. And remember no matter how much we don’t want to hear what God has to say, it’s for our own good. And most of time when God speaks she wants to reassure us of her love. Like with Mary and the other disciples Christ wants to assure us that though the Empire can kill our bodies, they cannot kill our spirits. Though we may die we will live again, and then nothing can take our joy from us.
SLIDE 14: WE NO LONGER NEED TO BE AFRAID
When God calls our name God wants us to know we do not need to be afraid. Easter empowers us to become the people of faith Jesus beckons us to become. The promise of the resurrection empowers the followers of Jesus over against fear. The forces of Empire threaten, cajole, penalize and if necessary will kill those who stand up for love and justice. The celebration of the faith of the martyrs reminds us that those who want to protect the wealth and privileges of the Empire fervently guard and defend the status quo. Overcoming our fears of the penalties the Empire can level against the followers of Jesus is the most important factor holding back the community of faith. Embrace the resurrection, believe, have faith and go forth to feed the hungry, care for the poor and advocate for the oppressed.