Wednesday, March 31, 2010

When He Speaks Our Name

This is my latest FaithWriter's entry. It got "Highly Commended," which, honestly, was a surprise to me. I did not expect to do that well. I really struggled with the last paragraph and ended up not being completely happy with it. I turned it in about 11:30 at night on Mar. 17 and then with my birthday the next day and my unplanned trip the day after that - I forgot about it! Then I got home, checked my email on Sun, and discovered all these nice comments on it! So, evidently, it wasn't that awful!

This was a stretch for me. My "comfort zone" in writing, I am finding, is in the devotional arena. I wanted to step out of that a bit so I did some fictionalized Scripture in the beginning. That is not easy, because I found not only was I attempting to do some fiction writing, I couldn't let my imagination run away with me because I needed to stick with what the Bible said actually happened and was said!

So, I began to feel pretty good about this piece during the first half of last week after I'd read the nice comments I had gotten. Then I got one from my nemesis, c. clements. She is a highly negative critic on the list and never has anything nice to say to me about my writing. She demanded to know from me just where in the Scripture it says that Mary Magdalene was a former harlot and went on to inform me that she is a "stickler" for Biblical accuracy. What a charmer! So I immediately began to do some research and was chagrined to find out that c. clements was right. I'd heard that Mary M. was a former prostitute, but in reality, there is nothing in the Bible that supports that. I suspect that mis-information has come from Luke 7, where an unnamed woman washes Jesus' feet with her hair and the host of the house where this happens is upset and thinks, "If only Jesus knew what kind of woman this is!" Special thanks to my sister-in-law, Kirsti, and my mom who jumped right on this and started looking up passages for me. I really found it intriguing. So, while reading this, ignore the part of my story that refers to Mary M. as a former prostitute - she wasn't. Or if she was, we aren't told that, specifically.

You might especially enjoy this piece this week, since it is Holy Week and the subject of the Crucifixion and Resurrection are more on the minds of Christians this time of year. Our assigned topic was "wow!"

When He Speaks our Name
Mary wept. It wasn’t fair and it wasn’t right. First, the Roman officials had arrested her beloved friend, Jesus. Then, after a mock trial, they’d tortured him for hours, and then finally killed him.

Her hurt burned with the memory, the images seared into her mind. And now, as if all that weren’t horrible enough, someone had come along and stolen Jesus’ body! She peeked into the tomb once more to assure herself that Jesus was, indeed, gone. He was, but oddly, enough, there were two men dressed in white, just sitting there. Mary blinked in surprise. Could her grief have affected her mental processes? Was she imagining what she saw? And then one of the men spoke. “Woman,” he addressed her, “Why are you crying?” Without thinking, Mary exclaimed, “They’ve taken my Lord away!” And then, sadly, shaking her head, she added “I don’t know where they have put Him.” Covering her face with her hands, she began to weep again, silent sobs shaking her body.

Spent, Mary turned to go home. There was no point to staying here, at Jesus’ tomb. He was dead and now even His body was gone. She may as well as get used to life without Jesus in it. Beginning to walk away, Mary nearly stumbled into a man standing right behind her. To her surprise, the man spoke to her. “Woman,” He said, “Why are you crying? Who are you looking for?” Mary blinked in surprise at the man’s tender tone. Thinking he must be the gardener, and thus, perhaps responsible for Jesus’ disappearance, she replied, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, please tell me where you have put Him, and I will get Him.”

And then Jesus said just one word, “Mary.”

I have always loved this tender story of Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the risen Christ. Can you imagine the thoughts that must have tumbled through her mind in that instant that Jesus said her name and she knew it was Him, alive and risen from the dead? I don’t know if there is an Aramaic word for “wow” but I’m sure Mary was thinking it! I think, too, in that moment, Mary must have felt an all-consuming love from her Lord just wash over her entire being. Not only had Jesus miraculously come back to life, but He had shown himself to her, a lowly ex-prostitute saved out of that lifestyle by Jesus’ great love. All Jesus had to do was to simply say her name and suddenly Mary’s grief was gone, replaced by certainty that Jesus was here and - He loved her.

What about us? When Jesus speaks our name, are we listening? Do we feel the excitement - that “wow” factor? Does it cause us to remember just how much we are loved by Him? I think that it is very easy to miss hearing Jesus’ voice. We get so wrapped up in the daily concerns of life and so very, very busy - even in doing things that are supposedly the “Lord’s” work. But Jesus is calling to us, speaking gently and lovingly, saying our name. He’s asking us to put aside the things that distract us from Him - and just listen. And in those moments that we finally do, we’ll remember the love that drew us to Christ in the first place. We will desire to love him more, to do His bidding, and to seek His will. We will begin to crave those times of silence, waiting to hear our Savior speak to us…waiting to hear Him speak our name.

The account of Mary and Jesus is taken from John 20.

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