Jesus came standing next to Mary Magdalene, but she did not know it was him. When Jesus called Mary by name, she recognized him. A most brief and beautiful portrait, so intimate, so familiar. Mary felt she had lost everything: her Lord, her friend, her way. Called by her name, Mary was found; she regained sight, saw Jesus beside her.
Jesus calls us by name. Some people hear God speak literally, audibly, as Mary did. That is not my experience. If it is, I missed it. If you experience that, be grateful. I do hear God call me by name, and it is powerful, resurrection power, like what Mary experienced. I bet you have experienced it too.
Like Mary, we experience much death. We have lost friends and teachers. We have lost our way. We have lost health, relationship, abilities, and dreams. Grief, confusion, and fear are frequent in the first Easter stories, at in us. Death is not simply at the end. We die and die again, losing more and more. Life is so hard. It kills us. What is killing you today? What have you lost or are losing?
God comes to us when we are face-first with death. As with people of scripture including Mary, Peter, John, Martha, Jairus, Abraham, Sarah, Leah, Rachel, Hannah, God comes amid our weeping, when we can’t see or imagine anything more.When all we can hear is: “It is finished” and all we can see is death. Jesus comes acknowledging our weeping, our fears, and our questions. Jesus stands beside and calls us by name.
Have you had this experience? How do you remember it? Not literally for me, but I have heard God call me by name through brothers and friends, people I know well. I have also heard God speak through strangers, those I whom I had not me, and sometimes did not want to meet or with whom I would not likely interact.
Friends, neighbors, and strangers sometimes speak a word, ask a question, or are present such that we are touched, turned, encouraged, known. It may be a word of encouragement or an affirmation. Their question may prompt new directions.
Perhaps it was a person palpably present with you as companion, welcoming, sharing space, listening such that you felt known and divinely called by name. Perhaps a friend or stranger was present with you as companion and host. Perhaps it was having someone listen to you to that you felt called by name. Sometimes when I have reached out to others to offer presence or a word, even for a brief moment, and I have had a profound sense of receiving and Jesus knowing me, too. Another’s word, question, or presence often helps, even saves, us.
Jesus calling our name may be a feeling of peace or calm, of wonder or exhilaration that comes, well, you know where you have experienced it. Maybe in a garden, or at the beach, or in the woods, in a museum, when baking or building, writing, running, or singing. It may be through the words, stories, or people of scripture, or of literature, drama, and the arts.
Pay attention to tears for they help inform us that we are being touched and known. Called by name is being known. We like it when someone remembers our name. Much more when someone we love says our name. Jesus knows your name, knows who you are, how you are, everywhere you’ve been. God knows what your pain and suffering, your desires, your joys, your life. God’s got your number. God adores you. God has come and will come calling you by name.
Since much of life keeps killing us, we need Jesus’ power to turn often, return to sight, to life, to love. How do we experience resurrection power in order to face tomorrow?
Look back. Draw on your memory. Jesus is victorious but not as the world expects and often not as we imagine or want. Resurrection power comes surprising in the ordinary and informal, including our past. How has Jesus called you by name before? How have you made it through death already, through past losses? Look back and remember past deaths and losses. What are you grateful for during those times? Recalling gratitude helps us see God.
Resurrection comes small like seeds and leaven. One little word of encouragement, one affirmation, perhaps evoking one smile or laugh. One little gift can change us. There is more power when we look back, remember, and give thanks. Memory is the wellspring of hope for the future we cannot see. Memory is the wellspring of hope for the future we cannot see.
Remember. Remember gifts, that for which you are grateful. For the words, questions, and presence of friends and strangers who have helped you, saved you. For the places, experiences, moments, tears which touched you. Hold onto them as hope for tomorrow.
What brings you here today? Perhaps you usually come at Easter. Perhaps you felt a nudge to come today, or perhaps you are often here. Maybe you did not expect or want to be here, but somehow you came. No matter your answer, God is behind it. God invited you here. For God knows you and desires you. God loves you as you are, today. God has brought you to life before, and will bring you to life again. God will provide for you.
Look back to remember. Look up to give thanks. Look forward in hope. Resurrection power is here for you today.Jesus stands beside, calling you by name.