Called by Name

For Easter Sunday, the final day that we’ll be posting the 2016 UCCDM Lenten Devotional series, our devotional reflection was written by Rev. Jeanne Tyler who is a former UCCDM Board Member.  Her bio can be found on the former Board of Directors webpage.

“Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.  So she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple; the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them.  ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’  Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb.  They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first; and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in.  Then Simon Peter came, following him, and he went into the tomb; he saw the linen cloths lying, and the napkin, which had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself.  Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not know the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.  Then the disciples went back to their homes.”

“But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet.  They said to her, ‘woman, why are you weeping?’  She said to them, ‘Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’  Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?  Whom do you seek?’  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.’  Jesus said to her, ‘Mary’.  She turned  and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabboni!’  Jesus said to her , “do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’  Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord.'”  (John 20:1-18)

In the early, early morning even before dawn, we discover Mary Magdalene up and walking toward the tomb.  We suspect a new reality is gaining favor, is emerging, is coming to light.  So, it begins in the desolation of death.  Death is the reality we expect.  And so it was with Mary Magdalene. She came alone in the dark barely able to see.  She expected to find the tomb with the stone firmly in place.  I mean that is what dead is.  She came to the tomb in the dark and discovered the stone had been removed from the tomb.  The stone was not where it was supposed to be.  She cannot imagine an open tomb.  She worried that someone had taken the dead body of Jesus and disposed of it; making even more of a mockery of Jesus.  This would end even more the promises of Jesus.  There would be no comfort and life would continue in its dreary dark never changing way.  The present dead would remain as the past.  And, the future was unchangeable.

Someone calls her name.  Someone she does not recognize.  “Mary” is spoken and heard and recognized.  As a person with a hearing loss even with two hearing aids I can hear a sound and not recognize the word spoken.  Someone knows her.  I do not think Mary was hearing impaired but I do believe she was in shock or amazement that anyone in that tomb knew her name.  Someone calls her name, “Mary”, and at this moment she recognizes by the voice, her friend Jesus, the Crucified and Risen Lord!

The past becomes sweet, the present secure and the future hopeful.  It is Easter Sunday.  Hallelujah!!!   Christ is Risen!  He is risen indeed!  The horrific experiences and fears of death are vanquished by the voice of the one who calls Mary from fear to joy, from resignation to recognition, from silence to courage, from alone in the tomb to community with brothers and sisters in Jerusalem.  She went and told the others “I have seen the Lord”

This Easter story gives me courage.  It begins with Mary stumbling in the dark toward death not her own death but toward the dead body of Jesus who gave her and the others hope and meaning and fulfillment.  It includes tears and bewilderment and helplessness.  In the midst of this is a voice that calls her name and she recognizes his voice.  It gives her all the courage she needs,  all the hope she needs, all the love she needs, all the authorization she needs to proclaim, “I have seen the Lord”.  May it also be so with you!

Prayer:  Though we stumble and don’t always hear your first call to us yet you call us again and we recognize the voice of one who loves us.  Filled with gratitude we respond with courage and hope and perseverance for a church that is inclusive.  Amen.