Your Sunday Name

When I hear someone yell, “SIR!” my attention is not roused; they’re calling an older man.  Then I hear again: “SIR!”  To my surprise, he comes toward ME with my keys.  “Hey, sir, you left these,” he says.  I wonder when did I become “sir?”  I see myself as a “hey”; but not “sir”.  When did I say bye to my carefree days of being a “young stud.”  I don’t want to accept I have entered the “hey sir-hood” of my life.  My name has changed.  A name change speaks of a new stage marked by a new identity because of a change in our lives.  No matter how welcomed the change, it’s hard to let go of the old name that describes a previous reality.

Mary Magdalene was still holding onto Friday names of sorrow, despair, and death when she returned to the Jesus’ tomb to spread spices on the deceased body.  Mary knew the space separating her from Jesus was infinite; yet sitting a near Jesus’ familiar earthly form was comforting.  She came there to relive “good old memories” that didn’t hurt or “good old feelings” experienced with him.  Yet, she was stuck in that old reality.

The stone was rolled away and the body was gone when Mary arrived.  She interpreted this surreal scene using the old reality.  She assumed it was a mistake; someone moved the body; or it wasn’t a mistake and his body stolen.  Never mind Jesus clearly said he would be raised after three days.  Never mind the angels sitting in the tomb clued her that something marvelous had occurred.  Even Jesus could not break Mary out of that old reality. she thought he was the gardener.  Finally, she got it when Jesus said her name.  He said, “Mary,” and she understood.  Or did she?

The first thing she said was “Rabbouni!”; means “teacher.”  Jesus said in reply, “Do not hold on to me.”  It’s peculiar since there is no evidence Mary was holding him.  Perhaps Jesus wasn’t speaking of physical embrace.  Perhaps he was referring to her calling him, teacher; his Friday name.  Maybe he was saying let go of the way we were.  “Teacher” meant limited, fallible, and vulnerable.  Sunday had dawned; new life was possible.  Old categories no longer fit because Jesus Sunday name was “Risen Lord”.  The event of Jesus’ resurrection fundamentally transformed those limited, fallible, and vulnerable Friday names. 

I have trouble sleeping on the night before a big day; a lot stewing in my subconscious.  That often equals weird dreams.  Some dreams are so real we check to see if there is evidence they happened.  Dreams can become realities if we allow our limited Friday names to be changed to a Sunday name by a resurrection power that transcends it all and is real and available when any or everything needs to change.

Is this your story?  You knew Jesus; respected for his teachings; yet you had your arguments with the church.  There came a day when you realized something was missing.  So, you enrolled in a class, attended a Walk, participated in a spiritual activity and encountered the power in knowing the risen Christ.  You were transformed from being an agreement with a set of beliefs to being in a living relationship that brings daily strength, power, and joy that is visible in all you do.  Everything, including your name changed when you met the Christ of Easter.  Do you know that person?

The church equips people; providing tools needed for serving the world.  We offer classes, model ministry, and point to examples.  I fantasize about passing out a pill of theology or of waving a wand of biblical lessons so people can experience fully Jesus’ resurrection power.  However, if I led you to believe all is well if you are acquainted with the teachings of the Jesus; I would be do harm-misrepresenting the faith by reducing Jesus to his Friday name, ‘Rabbouni’.  The essential idea of the Christian faith is on that first Easter, Jesus the teacher, underwent a name change.  Jesus’ Sunday name became “Risen Lord” so our Friday lives might experience his Sunday resurrection power and our names may be changed.

The Stockholm Syndrome is when captives identifies with captors.  It’s the reason Patty Hearst assisted in robbing banks; Elizabeth Smart denied she was the missing and claimed to be a daughter of her captors.  Captives identify with their captors assuming they are less likely to be harmed if they fade into the background or mouth their ideology.  Citizens of liberated nations prefer previous despots rather than new-found freedom.  We want life to be predictable, and the older we get, the more predictable we want.  The spiritual version of the Stockholm Syndrome occurs when we can choose to remain in the tomb of an old predictable and safe life, rather than step toward new life because it seems unknown and risky.

Thanks be to our God who comes to us in surprising ways to disrupt when we are stuck in our same old ways.  God’s love never fails to call us from the tombs of our own making.  Our response to a God who surprises us with a persistent call is not to adopt or relearn teachings from a good teacher to get us to the next place in life.  Easter requires a vivid spiritual imagination to be in relationship with the risen Christ.  People with an Easter imagination walk with the living Risen Christ into all parts of their lives knowing in Christ they can experience the power to break loose from any grave entombing them in their old reality.  Resurrection changes everything; our name and our identity as we are reborn and remade.

This sermon was inspired by Methodist missionary, E. Stanley Jones, who told of a man who changed his middle name to “After.”  After experiencing Christ, he reasoned, everything was different; so he added this reality to his name.  After we encounter the risen Lord we move past our Friday names to something infinitely better as we are changed in the process.  We get Sunday names that describe a new power in our lives that defines us as a whole new person AFTER encountering the Risen Christ.

An operator whose job was to assist airline passengers in making calls began her day quite routinely.  At 9:45 a.m., she received a call from a passenger on United 93.  The passenger told her the plane had been hijacked.  He asked her to call his wife.  He said, “Promise you’ll do that for me and let her know how much I love her and the boys.”  Then he asked her to pray with him.  The operator was asked to recite the Lord’s Prayer with him.  After he was sure she would talk with his family, he told her they were going to try to stop the hijackers.  The phone dropped and she did not hear any more from the passenger.  In a matter of minutes, that woman’s name changed.  She went from “operator” to “minister.”  Her Friday name was “work as usual”; her Sunday name was “God’s instrument.”

Call Jesus by his Friday name, “Teacher”, and you can get by because he was a good person with good advice.  Call him by his Sunday name Risen Lord, and you will be changed.  Your Friday name may be “Business As Usual”, but your Sunday name can become “God’s Instrument”.  Your Friday name may “Sadness”, but your Sunday name can become “Joy”.  Your Friday name may “Prejudice”, but your Sunday name can become “Openness”.  Your Friday name may be “Weakness”, but your Sunday name can become “Strength in the Lord”.  Your Friday name may be “Despair”, but your Sunday name can become “Hope”.  Your Friday name may be “Fear”, but your Sunday name can become “Peace”.  Your Friday name may be “Death”, but your Sunday name can become “Resurrection”.  Friday is over.  Don’t hold on.  Let it go.  This is Sunday you have a Sunday name because Jesus Christ is Risen Indeed!

Christ the Lord is risen today!  He is Risen Indeed.

Happy Easter

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