April 4, 2021 Easter Sunday
“Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown, will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?”
These are the lyrics to the contemporary hymn, The Summons, by John Bell. This hymn was included last week in our Palm Sunday liturgy as I preached on Jesus’ obedience to God’s will and thus our calling to follow in his footsteps to do the same. Isn’t this what Jesus’ entire ministry has been about? It has been an invitation to come and follow him. It is in his final days that the call is much more tumultuous. We have sensed hesitancy among the disciples. They say they won’t deny Jesus, yet they have stepped away and are hidden in the upper room not sure what to do next. It is Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus that take Jesus’ body down from the tree and place him in a tomb before the Sabbath begins.
It was in the tomb where they expected to find him once the sabbath was over. The disciples are grieving and numbed by the experience of Jesus’ death. During the sabbath they are secluded. It is Mary Magdalene who makes the first move as the sabbath draws to a close and she wants to go grieve Jesus at the tomb and ensure his body was properly cared for.
Mary quickly notices that the stone is rolled away, and she runs to get Peter and another disciple without looking in the tomb first. I imagine her arriving to speak to Peter out of breath and frantic. Something does not feel quite right, and she wants reassurance from others that she was not imagining it.
The footrace then ensues between Peter and the other disciple to get to the tomb. Everyone sees something different once they arrive. The other disciple looks in the empty tomb first and notices the linen wrapping lying there. Peter proceeds to look and goes in and sees the linen wrapping, as well as the clothe that had been on Jesus’ head neatly rolled up. We are then told the other disciple then stepped in the tomb, saw, and believed. What did he believe? Did he believe Mary’s account of the stone being rolled away? Did he simply believe that Jesus’ body was no longer there? It is not clear whether the reference to him believing is directed toward the resurrection, yet!
Once they leave, Mary steps to look in the tomb and sees two angels sitting where Jesus’ body would have been laid. Wait a minute, where were these angels just a few minutes before when Peter and the other disciple were in the tomb? Maybe, they were not open to hearing the truth just yet. Maybe that truth was meant for Mary.
And what an amazing truth it is! And it comes to a woman! When there are arguments still in Christianity whether women should be allowed to preach and teach, in reality it was a woman that heard the truth first and it was a woman who first proclaimed the Good News that Jesus is Risen to the rest of the disciples.
We witness Mary’s compassion and love for Jesus through the author of John’s gospel. She wept and kept weeping for Jesus. She is heartbroken and she is looking for answers. She wants to know what has happened to Jesus’ body. She wants to know where her Lord is now. I like to think that she was going to pray in the garden when she first notices the unrecognizable man. She is still weeping, and she thinks that perhaps this gardener did something with the body.
Then she is awakened! She is awakened to the truth. She is awakened by the calling of her name, “Mary.” There is power and recognition in hearing your name be called.
Think of the times in your life that you have heard your name called. When you were baptized. During your confirmation as you affirm your faith in Christ. During graduation where it marks a great accomplishment. During your wedding when it is combined with your partners and a relationship is blessed. In your death, you will be named boldly and in confidence of entering the kingdom of God.
These are the milestones in your life. Hearing your name makes you feel loved and cared for. However, when you are so desperately looking for something, instead of listening, you can miss Jesus calling you. When you have your eyes glued to your smartphone instead of the world around you, you can easily let Jesus slip by. When you do not take time for the silence and seek God in prayer, it is easy to be caught up in clatter and chaos.
Now, imagine Mary weeping in the garden and encountering this man she does not recognize. She is seeking out Jesus. She is looking and pondering deep within herself where he could have gone. In the simple act of stating her name, “Mary,” Jesus awakens her to a new reality. In this first Easter, Mary is not being drawn to the past. She is being drawn into the future.
It is a reminder for us as we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel of this pandemic, though we have a long way to go. The light we encounter on Easter does not reveal the past. It reveals something new! It is a promised new future that Jesus is guiding us into. It is a future full of hope and the truth of Christ. It is a future where we are called to work together in relationship and learn one another’s name. It is a future that first comes into view in the stone rolled away and continues in hearing our name.
“Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?” This unspoken invitation, simply in Jesus saying, “Mary,” reverberates through millennia as we continue to tell and share the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ today. It is not in our seeing. It is in our hearing and more importantly, in our listening. We may hear the noise around us, but are we truly listening for Jesus to call our name amid the commotion and confusion? At times, Jesus speaks our name in whispers so soft we must be fully present, and at other times it can be so loud we have to stop and take a deep breathe. This Easter season I invite you to listen for your name. Listen for your name from loved ones and acquaintances. Listen for Jesus calling you into a new creation. I invite you and encourage you to use other people’s names as often as possible. Hearing our name and speaking the name of others builds a connection and stronger relationship. Today we give thanks for the risen savior, and boldly proclaim him, Jesus Christ the Messiah.
Christ is Risen!
He is risen indeed, Alleluia!