Thursday, April 5, 2018

All in a Word

Acts 10:34-43
John 20:1-18

“Mary”.  That’s all he said to turn her world completely around. 
         “Mary”.         
          One word.
          THE one word that would get her to stop her angst, to stop her grief, to stop her despair - to stop all those things that blocked her ability to see, to hear, to grasp that all was not left in darkness, all was not done, all was not over, all was not to end in pain… and loss… and despair…  and grief. 
C.S. Lewis said, in his book A Grief Observed, “The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just that time when God can't give it: you are like the drowning man who can't be helped because he clutches and grabs. Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear.”…“You can’t see anything properly when your eyes are blurred with tears.”
          But Jesus broke through that with one word:
         “Mary.”
          And in that word, her world was made new.  Everything she had known, all that she understood, all the rules that life laid before her were undone. 
         Death, the only thing that one can absolutely count on – death itself had been overcome. 
        “Mary”. 
        Can you imagine?  It’s like the song “Rainbow Connection” – “Have you been half asleep, and have you heard voices?  I’ve heard them calling my name.”  It is that voice that calls your name.  That calls you by name.  It is that voice that sees you for exactly who you are, and names you, calling you out of whatever illusions, visions, and blocks you have about life, about your life, about your experiences, about your path, your journey, and instead sees right through you, to you, to what you are most really, deeply, most truly about.  It is that voice that when it says your name makes everything okay, makes everything different.  And unlike us, Mary didn’t hear it when she was half asleep. She heard it fully awake, fully in the midst of her angst and pain and torture and despair.
           “Mary”.
         Have you ever had those moments occasionally between sleep and waking in which you’ve heard your name being called?  I have, and it usually has been in those times of despair, times of doubt, times of dry lifelessness.  My name being called in those moments has felt like the voice of God – Barbara, I call you by name.  I see you.  I love you.  I call YOU because I love you.  But again, for Mary, she heard it so much more fully.  So much more tangibly.  Jesus, her Lord, speaking her name.
        “Mary.”
        I saw this quote a while back that said something like, “the best hugs are the ones that make all the stress in the world just melt away.”  Jesus’ word to Mary was like that.  A single word that made it all okay.  No, darkness had not won.  No, Death had not had the final word.  No, the body had not been taken, evil had not extended so far as to take everything that she valued, that she trusted, that she loved from her.  It sometimes felt that it had, and Jesus owned that with the single word, too.  With that word, he recognized her grief for what it was and had compassion for it.  With that word, he let her know that he knew her suffering.  With that word, he proclaimed that she need suffer no longer, that he was there, no longer dead, but there. Beside her.  With her.  With that word, he reminded her that she was LOVED by a God who would not take away her Lord from her, but would ALWAYS be with her, in her grief, in her pain, and in her joy.
       “Mary”.
        With a word he offered new life.  Not just the vision of Jesus raised, but new life for Mary as well.  With his resurrection, he offered her new life as well. 
        Today we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.  We celebrate that death has been overcome.  And that Jesus, God, Emmanuel, Christ with us, is with us even beyond death, even after death.  We celebrate that Jesus lives.  And we celebrate that we are given that same resurrection through him. 
        How does that manifest for you today?  This day?  How does Jesus’ resurrection come for you today? 
         As I prepared for today, I found myself remembering so many resurrection moments, so many times when I have been able to glimpse the promise of the final resurrection through the day to day fulfillment of the promise of new life after death.  For me, each one, each and every one of those moments, those glimpses into eternity, into new life, into resurrection has been a gift, a profound, amazing gift. 
          I was talking recently to a good friend of mine who was sharing with me that after years of struggling in her marriage, she and her husband, for the last few months have really been doing well.  With counseling and hard work, they have been able to start again in some deeply healed and resurrected ways.  Two years ago she was planning the end of her marriage.  Today she is excited to be able to tell me that she is truly married to her best friend, and they are happy together after a long time of disappointment and angst.
         An acquaintance shared with me that after several years of being out of work and looking hard for a job, he had finally found not only a job, but had been offered his dream job.  He is not just working, but working in a job he loves, for people he likes to be around, doing work that he feels good about. The job he had lost had not been a happy place for him, and while being out of work was hard, he also owned that it allowed him time with his family and time to really do a lot of soul searching and training to be in a job that he is now so happy with.
        More personally, a few years ago I attended a national stewardship conference where I ran into a person I had not seen in 20 years.  We had been close, we had dated, all those years ago, and the relationship had ended badly, painfully.  But seeing him in this place, so far away from our pasts and our present lives, we were able to talk and to create healing and reconciliation that many might have said was long overdue.  I don’t know that it could have happened any sooner.  I don’t know that either of us had grown enough or learned enough before to heal those rifts. But I was deeply grateful for the gift of being able to work that through with him, finally finding closure and healing.  Resurrection moment.  Healing moment after a painful loss, a painful death.
        Coming here to this church was a resurrection for me: after having gone through such a difficult time in my life, to be able to come back to beautiful, sunny, Ca: to be near my mountain, and in a church that is open and inclusive and loving…  To be here in this place is a resurrection for me!
         And finally - David, my David, is another resurrection for me.  I didn’t think there would be someone to be close to me again. I thought that was done. That too much trust had been broken.  Too many hurts for me and my kids. But he sits here, in this place, a man who is good with my kids, a man who is calm and grounded, a man who is loyal and deeply loving - a sign of God’s love that goes beyond any of the challenging and difficult things that have been a part of my life.  A resurrection for me that I know was a gift from God.  Not sought, not expected.  But here, grace, a gift given, none the less.
        When Jesus called Mary’s name, her world was resurrected.  And while he then went on to say to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” None the less, she knew then that she would never again be without him.  And she knew that she would see him again and be with him again.  That he WAS alive and IS alive.
        All of that was communicated in one Word. 
        “Mary”.
         God calls your name too.  Jesus calls your name too.  By Jesus life, death and resurrection we experience the reality of new life.  But our relationship with God, with the divine is personal.  Very, very personal. And our experience of life, of resurrection, is all encompassed in that one word.  We are called by name.  We are loved into being by name.
         “Mary”, he said, and she, and we, came to know resurrection.  Amen.