The pastor Nadia Bolz Weber calls Mary Magdalene the Patron Saint of Showing Up.
On that dark Friday, when Jesus was hung up on a cross on a hill outside of Jerusalem, his body broken and bloody, the life seeping out of him, Mary Magdalene showed up, when most of his followers had scattered. She stayed through to the bitter end and even beyond. Together with the other women, she watched him die, she accompanied his body as it was taken down from the cross and placed in a borrowed tomb. She saw the stone rolled across the entrance.
In the time of greatest loss and despair, when it seems that there is no hope left, Mary Magdalene shows up. She rises before dawn and makes her way back to the tomb, to do what needs to be done.
I wonder, how might you need to show up to today?
“Mary”, Jesus said. And she turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!”
It was when he spoke her name that she recognised him.
“The sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out… he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” John 10: 3-4
She knows him, she recognises him. And he knows her.
We recognise the risen Jesus when we hear our names called, when he speaks them to us.
The beautiful thing about this moment though is not just that she recognises Jesus, but I believe she also in that moment is able to recognise herself. Her true self. The way she was created to be. The way she can now be.
Resurrection is so entirely confusing and bewildering. The church is still today trying to figure out exactly how and why and what happened that Easter Sunday morning. It is unprecedented, astonishing.
But even while we stand there in the garden with Mary, our eyes wide in surprise and confusion, we sense that something has shifted, something has changed eternally, in the world, and in me.
“God simply keeps reaching down into the dirt of our humanity and resurrecting us from the graves we dig for ourselves through our violence, our lies, our selfishness, our arrogance, and our addictions. And God keeps loving us back to life over and over.” – Nadia Bolz Weber
Resurrection is not just something that happened to Jesus one Sunday two thousand years ago. It’s not just a hope we have for some day in the future when we might live again after our deaths. It’s also something that is happening in us every single day of our lives when we hear our names called and turn and recognise the risen Jesus.
Where do you need to experience resurrection in your life today? Where has death entered and made its home? What do you need to leave in the tomb today so that you may rise to new life?
We experience resurrection in a hundred small and powerful ways every day. And it all begins when we stop to listen, and hear our name being called by the risen Lord.
Jesus’ continued presence in the world became his Spirit working through us to bring healing and resurrection to the world. It starts with us. In us. Bringing life to the places in our hearts and minds where there is death and rotting.
But it goes beyond us, overflowing into the world around us.
“This resurrection life you have received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike, “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we are: Father and children.” Romans 8, The Message
Is your life adventurously expectant? Do you recognise the risen Jesus when he stands and calls your name? Are you regularly asking him, What’s next Papa?
This is an extract from my sermon on 12 April, on John 20, when the risen Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene. You can listen below to a podcast of the whole talk, given at All Nations Church of Luxembourg (or listen on the church website or on soundcloud).
Interested to hear more of my sermons? I’ve gathered the links to available podcasts on my Speaking page.
I’ve recently finished reading Nadia Bolz Weber’s brilliant book “Pastrix”, which is why she snuck in to my sermon this week. I highly recommend the book. (In the UK it’s published under the title “Cranky Beautiful Faith”).