Alleluia! The Lord is risen! (The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!).
Last night at our Great Vigil service we instituted a new tradition. Two children were baptized, as is our custom during the Vigil. But we added something new — a new banner which you can see at the back of the church before you leave today, a special banner for baptisms with words from the prophet Isaiah: “I have called you by name, you are mine.” And to the banner we added streamers with the children’s names: Beatrice and Ophelia and the date of their baptism: April 15, 2017. They, along with all the others we baptize during the the upcoming year, will received their streamers at a special service on the Sunday after Easter next year.
The full quote of the passage from Isaiah is this:
But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
I have called you by name.
St. John’s account of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is perhaps my very favorite. Because of this: he called her by name. “Mary.” Mary Magdalene had come to the tomb, presumably to complete the anointing of his body and when she looked inside Jesus’ body was not there. She ran to tell two of his disciples and they came, looked inside also, and when they saw that his body was gone they left — returned to their homes, we are told.
But Mary remained. We are not told why — but something held her there. And she looked inside the tomb again, and this time saw two angels, one where his head had been and one where his feet had been. Maybe they could tell her something — “why are you weeping?” they asked. And she told them — “they have taken away my Lord. Where is he?” And instead of the angels answering her question, a man outside the tomb asked her “why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”
Of course that man was not the gardener as she supposed — rather it was Jesus. But she did not recognize him until–
— until he called her by her name. “Mary.” Reestablished the relationship, the friendship, the love, the mutual respect they had had while he had been with her and the others in his earthly life. But now he was far more than that — now he was the Risen One who still knew her, who still called her by name. And then she recognized him, “Rabbouni! (teacher!). And all that he had promised — all that the law and the prophets before him had promised came to pass. Fear not, for I have redeemed you! I have called you by name.
The prophet Jeremiah (as we heard in our first reading today) had said “The people who survived the sword
found grace in the wilderness;
when Israel sought for rest,
the Lord appeared to him from far away.”
But now, no longer was the Lord far away. But now, no longer is the Lord far away. He appeared to Mary on that first Easter morning, appeared to her and called her by name, just as he continues to be very present with each and every one of us, calling each and every one of us by our names. Not a far away, distant, removed, and on high God, but ever present, ever with us. Ever so much the name we first heard him called at Christmas — “Immanuel,” God-with-us. There with Mary at the empty tomb on the day of his resurrection, and here every single day since with every single human being who has ever walked this earth. Down to and including you, down to and including me.
But being known — and loved — so personally by God, so personally that he calls us each by name, does come with some expectations. Expectations that we will live our lives knowing that God’s love is real, that resurrection is real, and that no matter what befalls us during this lifetime it is not the end of the story. Because of that empty tomb, because Christ continues to be in relationship with each and every one of us, we know how the story really ends. And the expectation is that we will live our lives accordingly. Christ’s resurrection does not wash away the slings and arrows of our earthly lives but it does make it possible for us to see joy no matter what befalls us. Because we know how the story ends. Christ’s resurrection and the promise it gives us of our own resurrection carries the expectation that we will live our lives in hope and that we will live to bring that same joy and same hope to our neighbors both near and far away. Easter changed everything, and continues to change everything every day of our lives.
Fear not, for he has redeemed us. He has called us by name. He has called us by name; we are his.
Alleluia! The Lord is risen! (The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!). AMEN.