Reflection for Easter Sunrise 2017

April 16, 2017: Easter Sunday
Preached at the sunrise service, Wainaku Executive Center, Hilo

John 20:1-20

Maybe the weather was bad the first Easter Sunday morning. Because everyone, pretty much, who saw the risen Jesus that day had trouble recognizing who he was.

The prize for Longest Time Spent With the Risen Jesus While Unaware of Who He Is does not go to Mary Magdalene. It goes to Cleopas and a friend of his, a friend who is probably grateful that his name has been forgotten. They walked near to seven miles with Jesus and didn’t recognize him (Luke 24:13-33). They didn’t recognize him even though he spent that time explaining what the crucifixion and the resurrection were about. They joined him for supper and they still didn’t recognize him – at least, not until he broke the bread.

Ah, ha! Now they knew!

They knew they were the winners of the Longest Time Spent with the Risen Jesus Unaware of Who He Is prize!

How embarrassing.

But maybe the weather was bad. It had been dark on Friday afternoon as Jesus died. Maybe that was a storm that lingered through the Sabbath day, and was still overhead on Sunday morning. It’s hard to see with rain in your eyes. It’s hard to see on a dark day.

And Mary was crying. It’s hard to see when you’re crying. Say, let’s give Cleopas and his friend the benefit of the doubt. I’m sure they couldn’t recognize Jesus because their eyes were filled with tears.

Or perhaps it is because we human beings have so much difficulty recognizing Christ at the best of times, let alone the worst.

Remember Jesus’ story about the Last Judgement, and the people being separated like sheep and goats? Remember how the “goats” had failed to recognize the Son of Man, and so they had not fed the hungry, or clothed the naked, or visited the prisoners? Remember how surprised they were to find that this meant they had not done those things for Christ?

The funny thing is that those who had given a drink to the thirsty, who had welcomed the stranger, who had visited the sick: they didn’t recognize Christ either. “When did we do these things for you?” they asked. They didn’t recognize Jesus in the members of his family, the human family, the ‘ohana of the world.

I guess I should be surprised that anyone ever recognizes Jesus at all.

Yet Mary did. Not as early as she’d have liked to, I’m sure, but much earlier than Cleopas and his friend, or even the souls of Jesus’ parable. She recognized the risen Christ:

When he called her name.

As he’d said earlier, “My sheep know my voice.”

At least, we know it when we’re called by name.

I wish I could tell you just what the voice of Jesus sounds like when it calls your name. I know that I’ve heard it in the whispering silence of a quiet room. I’ve heard it in the accents of theologians, songwriters, and poets. I’ve heard it in the words of an unkempt man suddenly speaking to me on a crowded city street. I’ve heard it in the Scriptures.

Like Mary, it has often taken me some time to realize whose voice I was hearing, even when it called my name. Mercifully, Jesus has always persisted with me, sometimes with some exasperation, I’m sure, and sometimes with a wry smile lurking behind the voice calling my name, the smile that says, “Who does he think I am? The gardener?”

What I think that means for you is that Jesus’ voice will be familiar and surprising. It would sound different to you each time, and yet absolutely familiar. It will come with a certain amount of amusement that you take so long to recognize it, and yet the smile behind it will be as wide as the ocean.

Listen, for the voice of Jesus has, does, and will call your name.

The message was concluded by singing “Call My Name,” a song by Eric Anderson.

Categories Sermons | Tags: , | Posted on April 16, 2017

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