Tag Archives: easter

Call them by name

“Abrazo de Jesus” by Felix Hernandez http://www.felixhernandezop.com/internet.php#

Scripture: John 20:11-19

11 “Mary stood outside near the tomb, crying. As she cried, she bent down to look into the tomb. 12 She saw two angels dressed in white, seated where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head and one at the foot. 13 The angels asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

She replied, “They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they’ve put him.” 14 As soon as she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she didn’t know it was Jesus.

15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him and I will get him.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabbouni” (which means Teacher).

17 Jesus said to her, “Don’t hold on to me, for I haven’t yet gone up to my Father. Go to my brothers and sisters and tell them, ‘I’m going up to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18Mary Magdalene left and announced to the disciples, “I’ve seen the Lord.” Then she told them what he said to her.


He called her by name, and everything changed.

Weeping, inconsolable, desperate for any information anyone could give, she was stopped in her tracks with one word. Her name.

She was unfazed by two angels standing in a tomb that she just saw was empty. When they were no help, she turned toward a gardener, and cried out, “I do not know where they have put my Lord.” She was searching frantically. She watched him suffer. She watched him die. She could still smell the scent of the oils she had poured over his feet (although this is ambiguous, there is a strong argument by Diana Butler Bass among others that claim that the Mary who anointed Jesus’ feet is this same woman known as Mary Magdalene). The feet she had washed with her tears and hair were pierced in front of her. He was dead.

And now he was gone. Adding insult to shameful injury, he was gone. She must have turned her head again after asking the gardener about him because when he spoke her name the Scripture says she had to turn again to face him.

“Mary,” he said, and everything changed.

Reading between the lines, I am pretty sure that she said “Teacher!” then threw her arms around him and they embraced (Why else would he say, “Do not hold onto me,” unless she was already holding onto him?).

Why didn’t she recognize him? Was he transformed in some way? Was his resurrected form intrinsically different? Was she just too frantic to notice? Was it just too improbable to believe? Whatever reason she did not recognize him, that all changed when he called her by name. He saw her, and she saw resurrection. In that moment she experienced the new life in Christ. She was the first person to experience Easter. She was the first person to witness Resurrection, and she knew it in one beautiful moment when he recognized her first. He called her by name and new life began.

Call her by her name. Call him by his name. Is it too much to ask? She might have transformed in ways you may not recognize. He may have cut his hair shorter than you’re used to. They might use awkward pronouns that you’re not used to using. Call them by name, and you might give them new life.

Call them by name, and they might recognize love that they feared was dead. Call him by name – maybe  not the name you are used to, maybe not the name you know. Call him by the name he has chosen, not the dead name he has left behind.

Call her by name – maybe in clothes you find odd, or after treatments you do not understand. Call her by name because she has earned that much. Call her by name because Christ calls her by name. She has agonized in a prison she was born in. She has hidden for so long. She is fearful every time she claims her name. She is fearful of the strange looks, the scornful whispers, the outright violence that is done to women and men like her every day.

Call him by name.

Call her by name.

Call them by name.

That they might know that they are beloved.

Call him by name.

Call her by name.

Call them by name.

And in that moment they may know eternal life.

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We are left to finish the story

easter

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April 20, 2014 · 7:44 am

An Easter Moment

I’m not sure why I have waited so long to tell this story, but on this Easter morning as my overwhelming joy is being converted to tears rolling down my cheek, I thought I’d share.  This is a brief story about my ordination last spring.  But I think you’ll see that it is really a story of Easter.

On that evening at Annual Conference I was ordained by Bishop Palmer.  I was given a Bible and a certificate and the authority to preach, teach and administer the sacraments.  On bended knee I accepted the responsibility, privilege, and humbling honor to be called an Elder in the United Methodist Church.  Bishop Palmer, along with Rev. Keith Zimmerman laid their hands on me and called upon the Holy Spirit.

I do not remember much that Bishop Palmer said to me in those moments.  I remember tears flowing down my face, and I remember the feel of his hands on me.  I felt the loving presence of my family – whom I knew to be standing behind me, in body and spirit, amongst the congregation of those gathered.  I knew that members of my church were there as well – beloved saints who had made the drive to be with me on that holy night.  But there were so many more.

As I bowed my head I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit.  It filled me with an unspeakable joy.  Then I saw something I wasn’t expecting.  It was a woman.  A beautiful woman smiling at me with a radiant glow.  She was so beautiful.  Her brown hair and brown eyes glowed.  Her face was youthful and filled with love and joy and I recognized her in an instant.  It was at the same time unexpected, completely real to me, and somehow no surprise.  It was my Aunt Jean.  Then she sort of nodded in a way that said to me, “Look who I brought.” She wasn’t alone.  Standing there with her were my Grandma Esther and my Grandpa Nick.  And with them were my other grandparents Eugene and Lucile.  The five of them stood there for a moment, looking at me with pride and joy.

When I was a boy, I remember going to the Communion rail with my Mom and Dad at Our Redeemer’s UMC.  We would kneel at the railing and take the bread and the cup and linger a little to pray.  I would always wait there, even if I was done praying, because I knew that if I waiting long enough, my Father’s hand would reach out and grip my shoulder.  Then his arm would wrap around me, and I would feel the power of his love and the love of my heavenly Father wrapping me up.  As I knelt at the railing at my ordination, I could feel the loving arms of my father and mother, my sister and brother, my wife and daughter and all of those that had lead me to that moment.

Then I saw my Uncle Larry and Aunt Janie and more and more saints – until I was completely surrounded.  I could hear them clearly saying, “We love you, Robby.”  There was a golden glow that surrounded them and fully embraced me.  I could feel again my father’s arms wrapping me up in unconditional love.  It was the single most powerful moment of my life because, you might have guessed, none of these people dwelled on earth any more.  I was surrounded by the great cloud of witnesses – the resurrected saints of God who were claiming me.

This was not a dream.  This was a holy vision and it was as real to me as holding my daughter at her birth.  It was an Easter moment.

Today we celebrate Easter and I am reminded of the power of the Holy Spirit to conquer sin and death.  I am reminded of the words that I have read at so many funeral services, “Where O death, is thy sting, where, o death, is your victory?”  I am reminded of the words of Charles Wesley, who wrote, “Lives again our glorious King. Alelulia! Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alelulia! Once he died our souls to save, Alelulia! Where’s thy victory boasting grave? Alelulia!”

I feel the sins of which I have been convicted.  I feel the sins of which I have been forgiven.  I feel the sin that remains in this world – the sins of war, poverty, hunger, racism, sexism, greed, corruption and the rape of the earth.  I know that the world threw everything it had at Jesus, and that on this day Jesus rose.  And just as Jesus defeated death, so too will God conquer all of these sins. On this day Jesus won the victory.  On this day life won. Grace won. Love won.

All of those that have died are alive again.  All of the battles I fight as a pastor, as a husband, as a father, as a son, and as a man – I fight surrounded by the great cloud of witnesses and by the power of the Holy Spirit.  I will surely fail.  I will fall and I will be beaten by temptation.  But I will rise; just as Aunt Jean rose.  Just as Eugene, Lucile, Esther and Nick rose.  Just as Jesus rose.

And so I invite you to rise as well.  Claim Jesus as your own.  Claim the victory that Jesus has won.  Be a part of the fight to redeem the world.  Rise and live in the Kingdom of God.  Rise because Christ is Risen.

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