The Creation, The Flood, The Red Sea,
God Satisfies all Things, The Dry Bones,
The Fiery Furnace
I wonder what it felt like when Jesus said, “Mary.” Mary Magdalene was a disciple of Jesus, one of the most faithful, who accompanied him even to the cross. That’s something Peter never could say. She was once possessed by seven demons at the same time, which Jesus cast out of her. She was tortured, then set free by Jesus, followed him, then watched him die. She came to honor his body, to embalm it, to say goodbye to the one who freed her, who helped her become a person again. It’s hard to imagine a deeper connection to a person than the one Mary Magdalene had with Jesus—until he sees her weeping in the garden and says her name.
We Christians believe that no one speaks your name like God does. Not your lover, not your spouse, not your siblings, not your friends, not your parents. Only God speaks your name in the way that tells you someone loves you completely, wholly, eternally. Only God can speak to you in way that makes you completely alive, the new life we have in Christ Jesus, the life that passes over to us from beyond the grave. “Mary,” Jesus says. He says your own name the same way—Gillian. Hanna. Jake. Terance. Kelly. Kris. Lysanne. With that same fullness, that same care, that same love—Christ says your name. He has spoken to you tonight. When we receive you into the fellowship of this community, we receive you to a place you already are—the body of Christ, the body made alive in the death and resurrection of Jesus, the body drowned and raised in Baptism. When you hear your name, you hear the fullness of all that you are, the goodness of God’s creation, God’s own beloved.
This love that loves us is ours, but not to possess. “Do not hold on to me,” Jesus says. The love of God sends us to rediscover it over and over again, in every place and with every person. So Mary goes to the disciples and says, “I have seen the Lord,” and she tells them everything. I imagine she told them how she cried, what Jesus said. I wonder if they believed her. They had not yet seen Jesus. They had not yet heard the risen Christ call their names. They weren’t quite like we are here. Still, I hope the news of the resurrection is still shocking, that the love of God is still surprising, that you feel there is more, lots more to come for you as God continues to call you by your name.
Earlier in our time of wayfaring, we read the Small Catechism on baptism, and the passage on the meaning of baptism, which goes like this: “[Baptism] signifies that the old person in us with all sins and evil desires is to be drowned and die through daily sorrow for sin and through repentance, and on the other hand that daily a new person is to come forth and rise up to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.” Another way to think of this is to consider that in the morning, God calls your name, and at night, and throughout the day we continually turn at the sound of our name.
When Jesus calls Mary’s name, she turns. I feel like there’s a whole lifetime in that turn, her whole life before she realized that it was the risen Christ that speaks to her. The turn to Jesus, our turn to Jesus, is a lifetime every time we turn, and it happens every day of our lives. We are here tonight in celebration—in the drama of darkness and fire, song and story. We will feast on delightful food and on Jesus, who comes to us in the bread and the wine. This is our turn to Jesus, the turn that happens every day.
All of us on the way together say—welcome. Welcome to you, our own fellow pilgrims and wayfarers. Welcome to our fellowship. And more than we, Christ says to you—welcome. Amen.
The Reverend John Zachary Flack