Lent is over and today the party begins.
For fifty days of unremitting joy we are in party mode.
Unremitting joy! Do you remember how to do that?
Oh, it will come back to you, I’m sure.
Today I want us to think about our names.
I never used to like my name Ruth.
When I was young the nasty women on radio or TV were always called Ruth – never the nice ones.
And then there was that mad nun in the Black Narcissus – she was a Ruth, I seem to remember.
The one that swung from the bell rope with a crazy look in her eyes.
No, I never liked being a Ruth.
I wasn’t named after anyone in the family – my parents both had that delight and didn’t want to inflict it on anyone else.
And I was told that my name was chosen so that it couldn’t be shortened.
There were to be no nicknames for me.
Of course, my best friends over the years have called me Ruthie so so much for that idea.
But as the years have gone on I’ve become accustomed to my name.
I don’t hate it like I used to.
I’ve accepted that I’m a Ruth and there’s not much I can do about it.
So, what about you?
Hands up if you were named after someone – family or otherwise.
Hands up if you were named after a special event or occasion – you know, like the Beckhams named their children after the place they were conceived.
Hands up if you were just given a name because that’s who you look like.
Any other reasons?
Our names are special.
And we do feel better when someone calls us by name.
I am hopeless at remembering names.
I never forget a face but names always escape me.
I blame it on my thyroid – it plays havoc with your memory.
I’ve told you the story about Helen Brown, haven’t I?
Well it is always worth repeating…
There was a preacher who took pride in knowing everyone’s name. (not me)
One Sunday a woman sat near the front who hadn’t been to church in a long time.
The preacher couldn’t remember her name.
Just before the Blessing, his memory returned.
At the door, the preacher smiled and said, “You look like Helen Brown!”
The woman looked startled, then shot back,
“You don’t look so good in black yourself!”
Names are important.
So in our gospel story this morning we hear that familiar story about Mary Magdalene in the garden early in the morning.
She has come very early when it was still dark and got the surprise of her life to find the stone rolled back and the body of her beloved Jesus gone.
She runs as fast as her legs will carry her to tell the others and two of them return with her.
But when they find him gone they go off home but she stays.
She stays and weeps.
Weeps for the loss of her loved one.
Then it gets more and more crazy.
Talking angels too.
‘Where have they taken him?’ she asks.
But before they answer a man appears who she takes to be the gardener.
Why didn’t she recognise him?
Too many tears?
Was her vision too blurry?
Or did he look different?
Did he have a different body after he rose from the dead?
And we are told it is only when he says ‘Mary’ – when he calls her by name, by her own name, that she recognises him.
Because only our friends know our names.
And maybe he had a way of saying it.
A certain tone.
A certain warmth.
But why didn’t she recognise him before he said her name?
What was it about him saying her name that made her recognise him as her friend and teacher?
I don’t know the answer to that one.
But a gardener wouldn’t know her name.
So what is it about the Easter Jesus that makes it so difficult for him to be recognised?
Well, perhaps the answer is that his body has been transformed.
Last week, anyone could have spotted him easily as his six-foot body walked around in Jerusalem.
We may not know what he looked like, but we can rest assured that Mary and the others all did.
They knew him well.
But today, this very special day, that body has been transformed.
That body has been transformed and lives on.
Lives on and continues to be active over two thousand years later in the community of Christians.
He is embodied in them.
We are the body of Christ.
There is no other.
Perhaps that’s why his body is different because now his body is us!
Over four hundred years ago the great St Teresa of Avila put it this way:
Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
no hands but yours. No feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which Christ
looks out in compassion for the world.
Yours the feet with which he goes about doing good.
Yours the hands with which he continues to give this world God’s blessing.
When Jesus’ friends first proclaimed this Good news, that is – that in spite of being strung up on a cross, and dying, and being buried in a tomb – Jesus still lives on, they preached this with such enthusiasm that the crowds thought they were drunk.
One doesn’t hear of many of our clergy being accused of that these days!
So today, you’re allowed at least to smile, to show that Lent is over, and its Easter!
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
And now we continue with the name thing for at Easter it is tradition to renew our baptismal vows.