The angels asked Mary, "Woman, Why are you crying?" "They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I donít know where they have put him." At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
A name says so much about a person. When a child is named parents consider the influence the name will have over that personís life. With a last name like Wright, my mother was afraid of giving us names that would be made fun of, like Kenny Wright, or Willie B. Wright.
Today we remember Mary Magdalene. The name Mary means bitter or sorrowful, and Magdalene most likely means the village she was from, Magdala. We donít know much about her except that Jesus once freed her form seven demons, and she followed Jesus as a disciple.
There at the tomb on Easter morning Mary came to worship the wrong God. True Gods do not lie dead in graves as she comes looking for. The real God was alive. But she had seen Jesus die just days before. She came that day to remember a God who was dead, a false God.
We must beware the false Gods. They arenít always idols made of stone. They can be as common as the wrong expectations we ascribe to them. If we expect that having God in our life will always leave us happy and ahead of the other guy, we have the wrong God. Peace in our soul, yes, but happiness in a world such as this that is full of sin and hardship? Never. We can not be truly happy in this world. The Bible says that as long as we are in this body, we are away from the Lord.
So like Mary we should not come to God and reach the conclusion that God must be dead or he would do something about our pain.
God already has done something about it. Jesus showed Mary what he had done. He showed her his body. It was the same body that hung on the cross and was laid in the tomb. Then it was dead, but now it was alive, just as he said it would be.
When seeing the body was not enough, for in her grief she still did not recognize him, Jesus took it to the next level with one word. The stranger Mary thought was the gardener revealed himself to her as the true God when he called her by name. "Mary."
It is not a dead god who calls us together today. No, it is the true and living God who reached out to us in the darkness and calls us by our names. Jesus said the Good Shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them. They follow him because they know his voice.
Jesus is the true God who knows us personally. That is witnessed in the fact that when we are baptized, he calls our name--"Jim, John, Mary, whatever name is ours, I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
Jesus reaches out into our darkness and calls out our name, washes us clean from our doubting and fear, and makes us his. He puts his name over us so that all the approval he earned by his obedience, death and resurrection he now shares with us. We do not worship a dead God, but one who is alive, knows our names, and calls into the darkness to lead us out to live with Him in eternal light.
In this story of Mary of Magdala we see ourselves very easily. We cannot allow the darkness and worry of this world to overcome us. We have been called by name to the true God, Jesus Christ. Mary was then sent by Jesus from there to share the news that Jesus was returning to the Father. Not His Father only, but now because of the forgiveness he earned for us, to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.
That is our mission too. We have the opportunity to testify to the God who calls us by name. Because of Jesus, His Father is our Father. We shall pass through the darkness of the graveyard, the hard times, the uncertainty, the pain of living in this broken world.
When they ask you how you are doing, you can say with Mary, "I will be all right. I have seen the Lord, and He has called my name."
May the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Copyright © 1998-2011 James F. Wright. All rights reserved.
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