Easter 2018, The Naming
The texts can be found here (I used the option for John)
What’s in a Name?
In the beginning, there was light from dark. Sun and moon. Earth and stars. Oceans and land.
And then, from Genesis, “The Lord God formed from the fertile land all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky and brought them to the human to see what he would name them. The human gave each living being its name.” (Gen 2:19)
Creation was incomplete without the naming.
The book of Exodus begins with a list of names, and would have been known to Jesus not as the book of Exodus, but as Shemot—the Hebrew word for names.
“She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I pulled him out of the water.” (Exodus 1:10)
She pulled him out of the water and into a new life. Moses too would draw life out of the water as he led his people through the Red Sea waters.
His name encapsulates the entirety of his story.
Moses’ name points towards liberation.
Naming in scripture is an essential part of the biblical narrative—in fact it is such an important matter that the Gospel of Matthew begins with naming
“A record of the ancestors of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac. Isaac was the father of Jacob…”
So on and so forth.
Rahab, Ruth, Josiah, and Zerubbabel…until
“Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary—of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.”
Jesus who is called Christ.
Jesus is the transliteration of the Hebrew name Jeshua or Joshua.
Jeshua, which means “deliverer”.
The name matters.
It encapsulates the story—from beginning to end. The garden, the exile, the liberation, a new creation.
All in the names.
So, is it any wonder that amongst the first words Jesus spoke in this new life is a name?
It is this, it is this moment in which Jesus speaks her name, that she recognizes him for who he is—
Teacher. Deliverer. Gardener. Sower of Seeds. Shepherd of all.
Death could not claim him, and in love she would name him.
And, in that naming, is the recognition that no, her love is not gone.
The recognition that all that had been lost had been restored beyond all hope.
That all that had been taken from her had been returned in abundance.
On this morning, the good news began with a name—the good news that the powers of evil in this world had not, could not, and will not EVER defeat the love of the God who first loved us.
In the quiet of a garden, to a weeping and devastated woman, God reveals that death has been destroyed.
It is the custom in some churches to place a large wooden cross in the church on Good Friday—and then on Easter morning to cover it with flowers. This symbolic action is a powerful reminder that the violence of the cross has become the means by which death itself has been overthrown. Rome has no power in the face of the power from above and the instruments of death have been reclaimed as a means of new life.
What we would use to inflict pain, God would use to comfort the afflicted.
And, on this day we celebrate that death has been destroyed--not through any act of violence, but through an act of restoration.
All revealed in the speaking of a name.
Think on this—think on this…
God knows your name.
Mary, Bob, Jon, Holly, Nick…
God knows your name.
And, God loves you, with a steadfast love. A steadfast love that cannot be taken away. Nothing and no one can take this love away from us. No matter what, no matter who, no matter, we are loved.
Because, it is a love grounded in the ineffable mercy of a God who knows the depth of human suffering and the breadth of human love and has transformed all of it through God’s own experience of us, with us, and alongside us.
He loved her and she loved him and in their naming of each other they proclaim a truth that the world so often cannot see—the truth that love is more powerful than death. That love ventures even into the grave and out of that love comes life eternal.
This is a day when we declare Christ risen and a love more powerful than anything the world can imagine.
And those who hate are met with love.
And those who rage are met with love.
And those who weep are met with love.
And those who suffer are met with love.
And those who die will live in love.
From a name. From a garden. From all that is holy.
She knows him because he knows her.
God has named her.
She has named God.
And, out of this comes a new life for us all—a new creation taking place in a garden where love has the final word.
Just for fun--here's a link to "Baby Name Wizard" for all of your naming purposes!