Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
John Chapter 20. 11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,[a] “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.
Today I want to reflect on the power of calling someone by name –
Do you have preferences in the way someone else speaks your name?
More importantly – can you detect how someone is feeling based on the way that person says your name?
That goes for me – and my mother. When she was angry I would get my full name: “Peter” : and if she was really mad then it was all three names…..
Today’s story from the Gospel of John is a story about calling someone by name:
Mary Magdalene is a disciple of Jesus. And Jesus calls her name.
The Gospel of Luke tells us that Mary was one of the women who traveled with Jesus and helped support his ministry from her private reserves. So, she was probably wealthy. The same passage also states that seven demons had been driven out of her, which points to a person who has been healed from a troubled past.
Mary was a woman of courage. When Jesus was arrested, most of the disciples ran away. Mary did not, and she stood at the foot of the cross in a public show of support for Jesus. And now she is at his tomb, early Easter Sunday morning – to pay her last respects.
Only – Jesus body is not in the tomb. And she finally breaks down in despair: she held it together for his crucifixion, and his burial – but now she cannot keep going. And so we find her crying in the garden.
And Jesus finds her in the garden.
Here is the amazing thing about Jesus: he does not rebuke her for crying. He does not tell her that she lacks faith / or that she is weak / or that she must pull herself together…
He does something else entirely: he calls her name…. John 20 vs 16:
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
A name she had heard thousands of times – but never with such love and concern. And I see the effect that this had on her:
Mary moves from tearful hopelessness to a newly resurrected hope.
I am offering this story to us today as an invitation to hear Jesus calling our names with the same love and compassion.
Saying someone’s name is sacred: it can move someone from hopelessness to newly resurrected hope.
The Bible is filled with stories of saying names:
Genesis 1 tells us that God named “light,” and “land” and “stars” and “sea.” Naming is a Godly activity that created our world from a dark, hopeless nothingness.
Genesis 2:19 tells us that after creating the wild animals and birds, God brought them to the man to give names to each one. Naming is a sacred task done in partnership with God.
God called Abram and Jacob and Simon, and then re-named them Abraham and Israel and Peter -- their names marking a dramatic shift in the direction of their life, a new orientation, a new mission, a new way of life bound in faith to the God who named them.
Naming is a Godly activity. Naming is what gives new dignity, and renewed life.
Many of us have incorrectly taken on labels as our names. Maybe we have been labeled a “loser” or a “dropout” or “stupid.” Maybe we’ve labeled ourselves “unattractive” or “over- weight” or “undesirable.” But God doesn’t settle for labels that limit. Instead, God gives us names that call us into a new Godly identity crafted just for us. God sees us individually, has good plans for us individually, and wants us to have a distinct name, purpose, and calling. I wonder if mislabeling yourself has prevented you from knowing that you are loved by God.
Today, we as a church are invited to remember the extraordinary power of speaking a name over someone.
We will do this by baptizing two young people – and speaking out their names.
We will do this by saying the names of those who are to confirm their baptism as infants.
For those being confirmed: Hear Jesus saying your name because he knows you… He made you with care, and is calling you today to follow him.
Today you can choose to trust that he has your future in his hands.
Like Mary you can respond with the words :”Rabboni” – Teacher – teach me the way to live.
And for the rest of us – be reminded of our own confirmation – of our names being called, and us saying : Jesus I am here for you.
And alongside our given family name comes this one powerful name: “beloved child of God.”
But I would fail us if I left us here: I believe that Jesus sets an example for us to follow:
We are challenged to speak the names of other people with the same kindness and compassion that he used when spoke Mary’s name.
Let us speak the names of the people we meet with warmth and Kindness…
Let us speak the names of people in a way that moves them from sadness to joy
Let other people know that they are loved.
You who are being Baptized & Confirmed will hear your name called out by Gretchen – but perhaps today you can hear your name called by Jesus:
Hear Jesus saying your name with love and joy
Think for a moment about how you might respond; would you respond with; “Nah, I’m good. I don’t need to know.” “It’s okay, just keep it to yourself.” Of course not! your ears perk up; you know you’re going to hear about something extraordinary--maybe you’re even the first to hear it. So you’re all ears. Nobody says something like this and follows it up with something boring, like:
“You’re not going to believe what I just saw. There was a guy at that picnic table over there? You know the one under the tree? And you know what he was doing? He was EATING A SANDWICH. Right there. I saw it with my own eyes!”
Nobody says something boring after that phrase. It’s more like; “You’re not going to believe what I just saw; there was a dog riding a skateboard.” Whatever it is, you know that a person who says “You’re not going to believe what I just saw” has a story to tell. They are a witness to something extraordinary.
A witness is made when something extraordinary happens, they see it, and they tell the story.
It is a heavy thing to bear witness;
A witness is one who testifies to their presence and attention in a particular moment in time when something extraordinary happens. A witness stands up in a moment of uncertainty and says; “I was there. I saw it. This is what happened.”
This is the kind of moment that met the first visitors to the tomb of Jesus on that early Easter morning so long ago. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and some other women who were with them had come to the tomb to finish the customary burial rituals they had begun to prepare before the sabbath. While surely this was a sad and difficult moment for them, it would not have been out of the ordinary. This ritual happened every time someone died; it was simply what the women always did.
But when they arrived at the tomb, we are told, something very out-of-the-ordinary happened. They found the tomb empty, and the stone rolled away from the entrance. Then they were met by two men in dazzling clothes, who told them the body wasn’t there; that Jesus had risen, just as he said he would. And at this moment; something fundamentally changed; these women became witness-bearers. They now carried with them the weight of a story only they could tell; for only they had seen it.
And what is characteristic about Luke’s telling of the story of Jesus’ resurrection, is that the stories keep coming in rapid succession, like an action film. In Luke’s telling, we are led from one scene to another as the resurrection story gets out; after he hears the women’s account, Peter runs to the tomb to find it empty just as they had said. He goes home amazed. Then Luke tells us that on that same day two of those who had been with the women and heard the story were talking about it on the way to Emmaus, when they were met by a man who asked them what they were talking about. So they bore witness to this man, they told the story, and the man turned out to be Jesus himself!
They broke bread together, and then Jesus disappeared from their presence. So immediately, “that very hour” the text says, they got up and went to the rest of Jesus’ followers and told them what had just happened. I can just imagine them rushing into the room and blurting out; “You’re not going to believe what just happened.”
Then in the very moment that they were discussing this together, Jesus himself appeared to them. He showed them the scars on his hands and feet, ate some fish, and then gave them the greatest commission of all. He told them;
As I read chapter 24 of Luke’s gospel, I am struck by the way Jesus appears to these disciples, these dear and beloved friends of his. It’s like he is giving them opportunities to articulate for themselves the wonder of what is happening, as it is happening. First, the women; then the two men on the road to Emmaus; then the disciples who can’t help but chatter amongst themselves in wonder Jesus could have appeared to everyone all at once; but he doesn’t. It’s like Jesus is giving them a chance to practice the art of bearing witness for themselves; so that the story is not just Jesus’ story--it is their story too.
Luke’s gospel concludes by telling us that these newly commissioned witnesses…
Friends, the message Jesus gave to his disciples is the same one that he gives us today; “we are witnesses to these things.”
We have a great story to tell! A story of one who patiently walked alongside us, sharing in the dust and grime of ordinary life, lifting up those who had been ignored and left behind, healing and restoring, bringing new life into dead places and finally conquering death himself so that we might have eternal life. This is the story of Easter.
So what is your story?
Perhaps today is a day when you have found it hard to be joyful.
Challenge after challenge seem to come your way. You try to do all the right things and make good choices, and yet, you find yourself empty, like the men on the road to Emmaus who said; “But we had hoped he was the one.” We had hoped things would be different. Maybe you’re there today; confused that things have not turned out the way you expected. Allow Jesus to reveal himself to you in these moments of worship. Trust that the risen Lord is bringing new life to you.
Perhaps you have been through a recent devastating loss;
like the women rising on that first Easter morning you are going through the motions, doing what is expected, all the while carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. May you find in the resurrection story the hope that reminds you that God brings life out of death in ways you might find hard to believe at first; but that are nonetheless real and true.
Maybe, like Peter you’ve heard the story and you’ve come to see for yourself. I hope that like Peter you might be surprised to find an empty tomb bereft of its prize; I pray you find in this blessed sanctuary a room crammed with joyful witnesses, an invitation to believe, and the courage to tell your very own resurrection story.
As we approach the table of the Lord on this Resurrection Day, hear this, beloved of God; Christ invites all to come to his table who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another. In the United Methodist church we practice an open table; we do not put limits on whom God invites to God’s table. And so, all are welcome to come, be nourished, and be made new as we share in this outward sign of God’s inward redeeming grace. Do you love him? Do you seek forgiveness? Do you seek peace with your neighbor? Come and be fed.
From Exclusion to Inclusion
We continue today our sermon series:
Sometimes we can make assumptions in our relationships about who is sick and who is well. As we open ourselves to radical hospitality, both in the giving and the receiving, God begins to gently open up the sick parts of us to healing from surprising places and people.
Nouwen was opened up to a new level of spiritual intimacy and vulnerability when he was led to serve at L’Arche Daybreak, a home for those with physical and mental disabilities in Canada.After straining and striving in the hallowed academic halls of Yale and Harvard, he found himself among those facing enormous challenges in navigating the very simplest tasks of daily life. There he met Adam, about whom he writes;
I think about the community Nouwen describes here, and compare it to times when I’ve been in professional gatherings. Many of us have gone to them; they may be organized around a particular profession, or an academic discipline or a business venture; I find when I have attended these things I sort of grit my teeth through the posturing and the preening, as we all try to “make an impression” or “get noticed”; pass around business cards or instagram handles and do our best to look successful. It’s exhausting. You know what the best part of those gatherings is? After all the formal sessions. When people gather in groups of haggard people, tired of the show, and be themselves.
Intimacy is not fostered in great halls of power but in quiet side rooms where people allow themselves to be vulnerable, in a community of the weak.
In our text today, Jesus receives the radical hospitality of Levi Matthew the tax collector. He reclines at table with those the powerful people ignore, overlook, judge, or ridicule. He enters into spiritual intimacy around food and drink in a community of the weak. It is his way. And it makes no sense to the powerful people in town.
I’m sure there were many who raised their eyebrows at the Harvard and Yale professor who left the halls of academic prestige and influence to spend his days with those who struggled to get dressed in the morning. But thiat is the way of Christ. And Nouwen found in community with them that vulnerability leads to solidarity--when all are included, all are built up and encouraged in the Body of Christ.
It is the first Sunday of the month, and as such it is our custom here at Brookings First UMC to celebrate communion. There is a distinctively Methodist practice when it comes to communion that demonstrates our commitment to Jesus’ radically inclusive way in the world. We practice an open table. Consider the scene at Levi’s house on that joyful evening. He invited all his friends. The disciples were there. Jesus were there. All were welcome, even the scribes and Pharisees if they could have stopped looking down their noses at these people long enough to see them. All were welcome around the joyful table of radical hospitality, this rowdy, celebrating group of misfits. This is the way of Jesus; it is the way of shocking welcome, of arms wide open, of spiritual intimacy and open communion.
IN her book Searching for Sunday, Rachel Held Evans said;
As we gather around our communion tables, whether it be here or in our homes, we are practicing the radical hospitality, the spiritual intimacy, and the open communion that are hallmark’s of Jesus ministry on earth. The sacrament of communion opens us up to communion with God and communion with one another as we share the bread and the wine; as we remember the body broken and the blood poured out. We celebrate, we remember, we give thanks. It is a most intimate, incarnational act.
What does it look like to be a community of the weak? It looks like saying “yes” when Jesus meets us along the way of our lives and calls out; ‘Follow me.” It looks like sitting down at the table of abundance with no one left out and always room for more. It looks receiving the gift of one another, letting our hair down, and passing the bread and cup. As we come to the table today, know this; you are welcome. You are always welcome. Come and celebrate the feast of Christ.
Let us pray:
Lord as we gather around this wonderful meal
everywhere and in every place;
bless us all your children.
As we eat this bread and drink this cup
linking arms around the world,
pour your grace into us all.
Grace us with your presence
as we quietly and loudly pray to you.
May we see in each other
your light, your love and you.
May it not matter our differences,
our names, our languages,
our looks, and our way of doing things.
May what matter today and everyday be that we are one in you.
And as we pray many we call to mind our brothers and sisters
who are unable to be with us today whether in body or spirit.
May you bring comfort to those who are grieving, lonely,
heartbroken, ill or broken of spirit.
May you strengthen those whose lives feel shattered,
don’t make sense, in crisis, and experiencing loss.
May you say the healing word to those who need it.
May you bring the human touch of love
to those who have not been touched.
May you love the unloved through us.
May you shine your light
into those whose world is covered in darkness.
May you use us to feed the hungry,
clothe the ones who need clothes,
give a cup of water to those who are thirsty,
shelter the homeless, visit the sick and those in prison.
May our lives be awakened to you, Lord,
to your love and to your kingdom
whose door is always open to all. Amen.
(introduce Closing song)
Benediction: Go in peace and may God’s peace go with you; and may you bring bring hope and healing and radical welcome to all whom you meet. AMEN.