Sermon Easter Sunrise – Fully Known, Fully Loved

Easter Sunday April 1, 2018
Scripture Lesson: John 20:1-18
Pastor: Rev. Kim P. Wells

It is painted, sung about, and immortalized. That moment in the Easter story from the Gospel of John when Mary meets Jesus in the graveyard. She does not recognize him until he says her name. Mary. In the name is the knowing. It just takes the name and we know that this is a reference to the identity of the person, the history, the experiences, the inner feelings, the relationships, the habits, the quirks, the foibles, the full sense of Mary’s being. In that moment, Mary is made aware that she is fully known.

Jesus is known for fully knowing. He is known for knowing people as they truly are, not as they may perceive themselves nor as they may be perceived by others. His is a true knowing. A knowing in full not in part.

We see this in story after story in the New Testament. In the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well, he mentions that she has had five husbands. That is not something that she would have been advertising about herself. Yet he knew. Probably everyone else in her town was spreading the word. And we are shown a Jesus who knows this. And he still asks her for water. And he still gives her living water. And she goes to offer this saving gift to the people of her town who have doubtless tormented her. Fully known.

The gospels share a story of Jesus finding a group of men ready to stone a woman for adultery. She makes no plea of innocence. Fully known. But in the story, Jesus turns to those with the rocks at the ready, arms drawn back, and says, “Let the one without sin cast the first stone.” They, too, are fully known.

In another story, Zacchaeus, a notorious hated upper crust financial functionary, climbs a tree to get a glimpse of Jesus. And Jesus stops and invites himself to Zacchaeus’ house. Jesus knows all about Zacchaeus and his cheating and his greed. Zacchaeus is fully known.

And there is the story of a rich young ruler. He comes to Jesus desperately seeking life in God. Jesus knows this man. He knows there is just one thing. And the rich young man cannot accept Jesus’ offer. And Jesus is sad, so sad, for he knows this man.

We are told that Jesus knows those who initiate his execution. He knows those who adjudicate his trial. He knows the governor who can stay his execution, but does not. He knows the thieves that are crucified with him. Jesus knows them all. They are fully know.

Just that one word, in the cemetery, “Mary.” She is fully known. As are so many others. Nothing is hidden.

And what of these people who are fully known? With their past. With the evil intentions of their hearts. With their cheating and stealing. With their self absorption and greed. With their lust for power. With their self protectionist proclivities. What of this sorry lot? We are shown a Jesus who knows it all. They are fully known. Not in a clairvoyant, woo woo, supernatural way. But in a sincere, insightful, honest way that comes from paying attention and listening and caring.

We are also shown something else about Jesus. All of these people, all of the people healed and forgiven. The crowds. The women. The townspeople. The corrupt leaders. The hypocritical priests. The executioners. The disciples. All of them are fully known. And they are also fully loved. Loved for their full humanity and all of its imperfections. Loved for all of their misguided schemes. Loved for all of their hopes and dreams. Loved for all of their pain, grief, and guilt. Loved because of who they are. Loved in spite of who
they are. Fully known. Fully loved.

We may not know all about Jesus. We may hardly know his story. But all we really need to know is about the love. For each and every person. Because at the core, each and every one of us is holy and sacred. And because of that, we are worthy to be loved. Before anything we do or say, we are beloved. Because of everything we do and say, we are beloved. In spite what we do and say, we are beloved. And there’s nothing we can do about it. We are fully known and fully loved in the reality of God.

In the book, The Song of the Bird, Anthony De Mello shares this story:

I was a neurotic for years. I was anxious and depressed and selfish. And everyone kept telling me to change. And everyone kept telling me how neurotic I was. And I resented them, and I agreed with them, and I wanted to change, but I just couldn’t bring myself to change, no matter how hard I tried.
What hurt the most was that my best friend also kept telling me how neurotic I was. He too kept insisting that I change. And I agreed with him too, though I couldn’t bring myself to resent him. And I felt so powerless and so trapped.
Then one day he said to me, “Don’t change. Stay as you are. It really doesn’t matter whether you change or not. I love you just as you are; I cannot help loving you.”
These words sounded like music to my ears: “Don’t change. Don’t change. Don’t change. I love you.”
And I relaxed. And I came alive. And, oh wondrous marvel, I changed.

[Quoted in 25 Windows into the Soul: Praying with the Psalms, from the writings of Joan Chittister, p. 78]

Yes, the story of the encounter between Jesus and Mary in the garden is famous for that one word, “Mary,” showing us that we are fully known and fully loved. But there is another phrase in that story that is also well-remembered. Jesus asks Mary, “Why are you weeping?” Why are you weeping?

Do we weep because of this great love? We are fully known and fully loved. Does the enormity of it bring us to tears? Why are we weeping? Are we weeping in repentance? Seeking the healing of forgiving love? Why are we weeping? Are we weeping because the awareness that we are fully known and fully loved makes our compassion for ourselves, others and the world well up? Why are we weeping? Is it because in spite of this love, we will continue to hurt ourselves and others? Why are we weeping? Is it because we have not been able to say yes to this belovedness?

Why are we weeping? This Easter, may we know that we are fully known and fully loved and may we weep tears of joy. Amen.

A reasonable effort has been made to appropriately cite materials referenced in this sermon. For additional information, please contact Lakewood United Church of Christ.

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