Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold me…” - John 20:16 (NRSV)
There’s a difference between resurrection as a doctrine, and resurrection as word addressed to us, with our name on it.
We may sing the Easter hymns dutifully, even enthusiastically. But it is more often in the dark nights and the lonely places, like a deserted garden early the morning, amid grief and confusion, that it becomes personal. When we hear our name called.
The disciples (two of them) had come and gone. But Mary lingered. Mary stayed, seeing everything and seeing nothing. Then he (the one she thought was a gardener) spoke her name, “Mary!” And then she turned, which doesn’t only mean she turned around to see who was talking. It means she turned from death to life, from doubt and confusion to faith.
She had heard him call her name. He was a gardener, after all, a gardener of souls, and it was time for hers to bloom.
Perhaps you too have heard your name called, by One who spoke so powerfully to you that you too knew yourself summoned from death to life. It might have happened in church. It might have been on a hike. It might have been as you looked into the eyes of someone you loved. It might have been at the birth of a child or as thunder and lightning heaved the heavens. And it might have been in the depths of a pandemic.
Note this: called by name changes everything. But you don’t stay there. “Don’t cling to me,” he told Mary. Let me go, and you too must go. With every call comes a commission, a task. That’s the way it is with this God. Every turning moment turns us outward, toward the journey, toward others who need us, toward the world that needs us.
In this hard time, speak to us O Lord, call us by name. Break us open and make us new. Amen.
Tony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher, and writer. His newest book, Useful Wisdom: Letter to Young (and Not So Young) Ministers is available from Wipf and Stock. You can read and sign up for his blog at www.anthonybrobinson.com.