“Mary.” She hears her name. She hears his voice. He has risen. In the calling of her name the voice reaches out to touch her heart, and it is explodes with joy. Where she had asked for the smallest of mercies she has received the greatest of gifts: an encounter with her friend, her hope, her Messiah, her “Rabbouni!” In the voice of the good shepherd, who in this moment vindicates his teaching, showing her his power to lay down his life for others and take it up again, she hears the truth of her own life: It is the Lord’s. Her life, her name, her self, her past and future is claimed by Christ and entrusted to the heralding of his kingdom and glory. No other voice is able to define or limit who she is – no other voice is able to name her anything but “Mary”, one whom the Shepherd led into life.
There’s a lot of post-resurrection excitement in our lectionary readings this week, and yet, buried in all the huzzahs is the not-to-be-overlooked detail in the Gospel of John that the one who has conquered death is the one whose body still bears the scars. The risen Christ is the crucified Jesus. It should never be never be underplayed how strange it is that the crucifixion remained so central to Christian imagery and proclamation. I mean, they had the resurrection, why focus on the humiliating death? Yet, even when proclaiming resurrection the the disciples never did so in a way that unshackled it from the cross. The ascended Lord is the crucified Messiah; the risen Christ bears the scars. We cannot help but be excited post-Easter (and we should be excited, Christ is risen he is risen indeed, God has vindicated the life and ministry of Jesus Christ and in so doing conquered Sin and Death and shown the way to abundant life) – but we cannot forget that the resurrection and the life comes through the suffering and humiliation of Jesus who stood in solidarity with all who suffer, all who are degraded and dehumanised by the violence of our worldly systems, all who suffer the desolation and dereliction of feeling abandoned by God, all those vulnerable and victimised by those they thought were friends. And because we cannot forget that Jesus is with those huddled masses living lives of quiet desperation, we cannot forget them. In our excitement for the glorious victory of the resurrection we must not establish a movement at the expense of those crucified today. As the resurrected body is not true resurrected body without the scars, so the church is not the body of Christ without those crucified by the world and its ways today.
We are children of God. Beloved, hear again, we are God’s children. Now. Already. We may not know the fullness of what that means or what we will look like in the age to come, but we know this: we will be like the Son; imbedded in the life of God. There’s no way to dwell too long on this most remarkable of truths - we are children of God. In this truth the entire life of our faith is reframed. When we seek to worship we come to a loving parent who out of generous love has adopted us and made us a co-heir with Christ. When we confess we do so to a nurturing parent who seeks only to help us correct our path so that we might be found again on the side of life and love. In reading Scripture we come as those seeking to be formed further into the image and likeness of our God, an image and likeness which (in its perfection) is our end. We are children of God, beloveds, rejoice and take heart.
We are children of God, beloveds, now act like it. This is the powerful and necessary extension of last week’s reading. Having been adopted into the family of God, a child of God set on a path to become the likeness of the Son, our lives and love should now, already, be in the likeness of the Son. Last week gave comforting truths, these week hard truth: “Whoever does not love abides in death. All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them… How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?” There’s almost no commentary needed, just conviction, repentance, and commitment to love in truth and action. Of course, there is a comforting truth and the climax of this teaching. A rather helpful reminder when this charge seems too onerous to achieve the Spirit has been given to us. We are not alone, dear beloved children, we can love, we can live, because the Spirit abides - call on the Spirit who will not fail you.
Rev Liam Miller is currently serving as Supply Minister at Forest Kirk Uniting Church.