Title: “COME TO HEAR YOUR NAME” Text: Acts 10: 34-36; John 20: 16
According to the disciple who became the after-Easter spokesperson and leader of Jesus’ handpicked twelve disciples, twelve to be the new 12 tribes of Israel, God’s intention is to be the God of all peoples, God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. It was, as Peter said, the announcement (God) sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ, he is Lord of all.” And, in the Gospel according to John, Jesus is quoted as saying what pulpit He would use to preach that peace: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (12:32)
That all seemed to become a dashed hope, an empty promise on Good Friday, when Jesus’ body was lowered from the cross, hurriedly wrapped in grave clothes before the Sabbath began, and – through the kindness of Joseph of Arimathea, a silent follower for fear of losing his honor and position among Jews and Gentiles, who stepped up to show his allegiance by giving his brand-new tomb, so Jesus would have a place to be buried.
But then there was the after-Sabbath dawn of a new day, when, as John’s Gospel describes the morning: “Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.” (20:1) As the story unfolds and goes on to tell of Jesus appearing that Easter night to the disciples and many others huddled together in fear, in that upper room, they heard Him say, “Peace be with you.” (20:19) His Peace given to them so they would have that message to preach – to give – to every nation.
But notice, to be able to preach the peace of Christ, it must first be received and believed as Christ’s Easter gift given to each person; it must be for each as it was for Mary Magdalene; when: Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher).
Jesus’s Easter blessing of peace is meant to be a personally received blessing, which Jesus gives after offering Himself as the Peace offering for our sins and all the sins of the world, as John the Baptist announced, and Jews who heard him knew what he was saying, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (1:29)
Come to this Easter morning, for the first time or a renewed time. Come to hear your name as Mary Magdalene heard hers, Come, like her to let the graveyard setting of our world become your Easter garden of life, as you let Jesus give His gift of peace from nail-pierced hands; the confirming sign of Peter’s message: “…preaching peace by Jesus Christ, he is Lord of all.”
Samuel Wells, vicar of St. Martin-in-the-Field in London received a phone call after giving British radio’s “Thought for the Day.” The voice on the other end of the line reminded him that 25 years ago when he was in his first year as a priest, he gave everyone three nails and asked them to bring them back on Easter Sunday. The man confessed that he didn’t. Instead, he sewed them inside the vest he wore as a firefighter and gave each one a name: the large one – Faith, the rusty one – Courage, the bent one – Hope. Every time the crew was called out, he passed his hand over the nails and prayed: “Be close to me, I need you with me. Give me the strength to do what I need to do today. Help me to make it through to live another day.” Then he said, “I kept those nails in my overalls till six years ago when I retired. And when I heard your voice on the radio, I thought it was time to tell you why I never brought them back that Easter Day.” Hearing that, Samuel Wells thought he had wanted to preach the Passion of Christ through those nails, and the man who kept them, was letting them preach the Easter Christ to him, truly the risen Christ, the peace-giving Christ which, with that call he was preaching to Samuel Wells, “That Jesus donned the overalls of our flesh and, though we were hard as nails, painstakingly sewed us into his heart that we might be close to him, be safe around him, and dwell with him forever.” “A confession about three nails,” Samuel Wells, February 16, 2018
The blessing of the Easter Christ given and received by a firefighter, the blessing of the Easter Christ given and received by Mary Magdalene, the blessing that is waiting for each of us when we come to this Easter morning to hear our name, which Jesus knows. AMEN.
The news channel you use to get caught up on what’s happening on the local and world scenes, tells us more that we want to hear or see: -who has tweeted whom, -what prominent personality has just been charged with an immoral or criminal act, -what place in the world has just been devasted by another natural disaster in this year of unpredictable weather patterns, -what terrorists have just shot or blown up more innocent people, -what new impasse, contrived by those who refuse to negotiate, is paralyzing our legislators from acting on critic issues? Nighttime news that sends us to another sleepless night; morning reports that turn the sunniest morning into a gloomy, foreboding day. Flip from one channel to another and find each has the same effect on us.
Come to this Easter morning and tune in to the headline news first spread by word of mouth, and later aired in four varying written accounts with production credit given to: Mathew, Mark, Luke, and Johns, and aired on GCN – God’s Channel News.
This morning we are viewing the story of Easter in its plainest, no frills production from the Gospel according to Mark that has us hearing: As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him.” That’s it! That’s the Easter story we have just heard on GCN’s airing of the original version scripted by the Gospel writer Mark.
When it was first shown, the reviews were so harsh, a second ending was added: “But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” Sadly, the newsperson had to say, … they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
That’s the way the Easter story is broadcast on what could be called GCN—God’s Channel News, based on the Gospel according to Mark, making it the gloomiest of the four Gospel newscasts of Easter. “They were alarmed…they fled, terrified, afraid to tell anyone that Jesus’ tomb was empty, that they were told by a witness on the scene, “He has been raised; he is not here.” That’s how Easter is reported on GCN – God’s Channel News - that relies on the Gospel according to Mark.
Not the best channel to listen to on this April 1st morning, when we want to hear an upbeat account of the empty tomb story, and not the one as told by Mark that has us saying, “Are you kidding? There’s got to be more!” and hear, “No. April fools!”
That’s what all the other news channels are doing to us, on April 1 and all the other days, giving us gloomy, depressing reports and interpretations and predictions that stir up controversies and polarizing issues we don’t need, we are already too divided.
So, where’s the good news in the Gospel according to Mark’s Easter program?
In her Easter sermon for today, Pastor Diane Roth tells of leading a Confirmation retreat that had the class acting out Holy Week as reported in the Gospels; what struck them was Peter’s early Good Friday morning protest that he was not one of Jesus’ disciples, made not once but three times.
Suddenly Pastor Roth and the others realized Peter had cut himself off from Jesus and the others; he wasn’t a disciple anymore.
But this time, when reading and acting out the drama’s line: But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” Peter is called by name, Peter is being resurrected from his disgrace. Peter is being restored to the community of Jesus’ family. Peter is being invited to take his place at Jesus’ table.
So, listen again to the seemingly too brief, too sparsely told, too down-beat a telling of the Easter story according to Mark’s Gospel aired on GCN – God’s News Channel; let these two words “and Peter” pull you and me into the drama as we insert our own name: “Go tell his disciples and ____________, that he is going ahead of you.” *
He is going ahead of YOU, ahead of ME, so that no place is or will be untouched by the presence of Christ, the Easter Christ! AMEN.
*Story adapted from: “Sunday is Coming” Christian Century for April 1, 2018, “The Disciples and Peter,” Diane Roth
Rev. Dr. Martha B. Kriebel is the pastor of Trinity Reformed United Church of Christ in Collegeville, PA