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