O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
EASTER Sunday 2012 - Called by Name
"EASTER Sunday 2012 - Called by Name"
Based on John 20:1-18
Preached on EASTER Sunday - April 08, 2012
Fellow baptized saints, why are we here this morning? Oh Pastor, don't be silly - it is Easter! Yes, but why do we come here - to a place with an altar, with a large group of people, some of whom we know better than others? What do we hope to find here? What need do we hope to have filled here? The truth is we don't know exactly what we need - but we sure know we need something - we have come here for something. Dear Lord, give us something.
It sounds a lot like Mary, from our Gospel reading this morning, doesn't it? Why was Mary the first to return to the tomb that Sunday morning? She didn't know why. She needed to go. She had to go. For there was something missing. And poor Mary, when she arrived at the tomb, she was crushed by the fact that there was something else missing. The body of her Lord. She didn't know what to do, so she ran to tell Peter and John. Then she ran back with them to the empty tomb, tired, dismayed and afraid. But they left her alone there, weeping outside the tomb.
It is difficult to understand just how distressed Mary was. Mary was so distraught that she didn't react to the appearance of angels. All she could say was, "They have taken my Lord away, and I don't know where they have laid Him." Her mind was full of terrible thoughts about what His enemies were doing to His body, how they might be desecrating the Lord she loved. She was so upset that she could not even be comforted by angels.
And that is why our Lord Jesus appeared to her first. Mary had been at the foot of the cross watching in horror. She had grieved at the tomb while it was sealed with Jesus' body. And here she was grieving at the tomb the morning of the resurrection. This poor woman, who had followed Him to the end, had the greatest need.
Mary was at the tomb of her Lord because of her great need. And that is why you are here this morning. For Jesus' tomb is represented here. At the altar. It is the place they laid Him, where the burial cloth for His face lay folded neatly. When you come to the Divine Service, to His tomb, you know that Jesus comes to you - For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." Certainly He is with you always - but you know that at this altar He gives you His resurrected body. Like Mary, He knows that those who come to His tomb, have the greatest need.
But what happens next is a little puzzling, isn't it? There was Jesus alive and with Mary - but she did not recognize Him. She turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. How could that happen? Why didn't she recognize Him? The very body she was looking for was standing right there. His very lips were speaking to her. And she thought He was someone else, the "gardener" perhaps. In her grief she started talking nonsense, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have taken him, and I will take him away." She could never have carried Jesus' body, but she was so upset that she was begging this "gardener" to let her do something to make things right. She still didn't know what she needed, but she knew she needed something.
Oh how similar we are, even today, to poor Mary! Here we are at the tomb of our Lord, at His altar, and He is here too, alive and speaking to us, and we have so much trouble recognizing Him. We tell ourselves nonsense, just like Mary, that we can somehow carry the great weight of our guilt and sin. We say, "I can't. I can't. I can't let go. I can't move on." But in reality we could never carry the weight of these things that have happened. These things we have done. And so we come begging that we might be able to make things right. We still don't know what we need, but we know we need something.
So, what is that missing something? What do we really need? What does Mary really need? Faith. Faith that recognizes Jesus. Faith that understands what He has done in His death and resurrection. That He has carried these heavy things for us. That He has already made them right. Faith clings to the Risen Savior. It trusts that this man, this God has conquered sin and death. That He has made all things new. Fresh. Forgiven. Clean. Christ forgives you, for that horrible thing you are carrying around. You don't have to make things right, because Christ already has. That is the power of His resurrection. He is alive, though once He was dead. And He wants everyone, even you, to be perfectly restored with Him and live in peace forever. That is the gift of Easter.
But perhaps the most beautiful part of this gift of faith is how our Lord gives it to us. He doesn't make us work to get it. He doesn't require anything at all. Jesus said to her, "Mary." He called her by name. He showed that He knew her, that He knew her very well, and this caused her to trust Him. She was overcome by His closeness and cried out "Teacher!"
Christ has given you faith in the same beautiful way. Much like Mary, you didn't know what you needed at the time, but He called you by name in Holy Baptism. He spoke your first name, and added, "I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." And you will hear Him call you by name like this again. You will hear Jesus' voice speak your very name as you lie in your grave. For just as Christ has risen from the dead, He will call you from your grave by name on the Last Day. He will speak your name with His lips, and you, overcome by His closeness, will answer in your resurrected body with your resurrected lips, "Teacher!"
When Mary heard her name, she believed. And this newfound faith changed Mary. All of her fear and pain and despair was turned to joy and peace and love. They turned into a bear hug. One she would never let go. Now she would hold onto her Lord forever. She would never let Him leave her again. Even if she must die with Him she would cling to Him and squeeze Him and hold Him. For his cold dead body was not warm and full of blood within her grasp. And by faith Christ calls us all to do the same.
But even during this moment that will never end, Jesus has an unbelievable thing to say to her... "Don't cling to me," that is, you're going to have to let me go Mary, "for I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God." Yes, I have risen from the dead, and so shall you, which is incredible - but the journey doesn't end here on earth - I will be exalted even more - There is more for me - and there is more for you - for I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.
Christ has made all things new, even your relationship with your heavenly Father. And by this faith which He has given you, you now have a rightful place in His heavenly kingdom of which there will be no end. God has given you that something. He has given you faith. And by it, all the joys of Easter are yours. Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr