When the Risen Christ Calls Your Name 4-3-16

4/3/16- “When the Risen Jesus Calls Your Name”  Pr. 18:13; Jn. 10:1-8; 20:15,16  4/3/16
Communion Homily LMPC  Ben Sloan

To watch a video of this sermon, click here:

Our identity is important to us.  Some have called us “The Identity Generation” because we are so consumed with who we are.  We have so many different IDs, Passwords, names.  One of the things that’s heard a lot is- “Find out who you are, and then live according to yourself.”  We don’t want someone getting credit for what we have done.   We don’t want anyone to steal our identity.  $6 billion will be stolen in tax time alone.  Someone once said, “All you really have is your name.  If that is ruined you are in trouble.”
For Christians, we know that our identity is wrapped up in the One who gives us life- and thus an identity.  Apart from Him we are nothing- but with Him all things are possible.   Christ calls us by name to find ourselves in Him.
Yet for many- out of fear of scams and liars- we withdraw our identity around ourselves.  So Shakespeare has Polonius say to his leaving son in Hamlet “To thine own self be true.” This statement has become immensely popular- to the point that it keeps us from listening to the advice of others- or even God’s advice.  The good thing about being true to yourself is that it values sincerity and integrity.  The bad thing about being true to yourself is that it tends to become naval gazing, mirror watching, narcissistic, lazy, and a little selfish.  We can easily blind ourselves to our own faults.  I do not doubt that a lot of these politicians who are quite publicly calling each other liars think they are all right and all deceive themselves into thinking they are more right than they really are.  I can see Kim Jong Un saying, “To thine ownself be true.”  I think some terrorists are being true to themselves.  Christians are to find their truth not within, but in God.   It is “remember who you are” but also “whose you are.”  We become the people we are meant to be as we fall in love with the One who made us, who showed His love for us by coming down and dying on the cross for us, and who lives to give us life and hope.  We grow in our identity as we grow in the knowledge that we are His and He is ours.   We are to be true to our Maker and the Lover of our soul- Jesus.   He calls us by name- to love Him and to find the truth of our identity in Him.
Mary Magdalene was sad.  Jesus, who had healed her of seven demons- a plethora of mental and physical illnesses, had been killed.  The Romans, the leaders of the Jews and the mob had all become complicit in His death.  The most righteous one she had ever known was crucified.  Then she went to the tomb and His body was gone.  All she could think of was someone had stolen His body.  She talked to angels at the tomb but still was not comforted.  Jesus came to her- right in front of her- and through her sobs and tears she still was not comforted.  He was asking her to look up- He said, “Why are you crying, who are you looking for?”  She refused to look up- she stayed in her sadness.  No doubt she was being true to herself at this point.  But then things changed.  What changed is Jesus called her name: “Mary.”  It was then that she quit looking within and started looking toward Him.  Then she recognized Him and grabbed His feet.   It is interesting to see how many times the risen Jesus calls people by name.  He did it here- “Mary”; he called Peter by name 3x- “Simon son of John do you love me?” (Jn. 21:15-17); He called Saul by name, “Saul, Saul why do you persecute me?”   Each time the risen Christ calls their name- it was in a deep, dark, doubting time.  Mary was sobbing and couldn’t see Jesus right in front of her.  Peter had gone back to fishing and wondered if he could ever be used by God again.  Saul was actively persecuting believers in Jesus.  Jesus called them by name- and everything changed.  They all left the darkness and were excited to tell others what Jesus had done.  You may be in a dark spot.  But the risen Christ can give hope even in death.  There is not power greater than His.
The Good News is that Jesus is still alive, and still at work in us today through the Holy Spirit.   He still calls us.  Jesus said it like this, “He calls his sheep by name and leads them.  His sheep follow Him for they know His voice.”
Each year there is an American and then a global Young Shepherding Contest.  It tests the ability of young men 18-25 who know the sheep, know how to take care of them, and who the sheep listen to.  The first requirement is that the sheep have learned to answer the shepherd’s call, and a youtube video is sent in showing how the young shepherd can herd the sheep.  One of the first requirements to being a part of Jesus’ flock is to hear His voice and then respond to the call.   A good shepherd knows his sheep by name and cares for them.  Jesus came to tell us that God cares for us, and He cares for us by name      When you feel lost- like a lost sheep- far from the care of the Great Shepherd, then listen.  Listen for your name being called.  Respond not with doubt, anger or tears- but with love and worship.
There are lots of people who think they do not matter.  They think no one knows about them and no one cares.  People can be mean and uncaring.  But the Maker of the Universe cares- He knows you by name.  If Google and the IRS knows you by name, do you not think God would?  A week and a half ago I opened up an IRS account.  To do that, the IRS almost immediately asked me questions about my identity- my last couple of residences, my social security number.  They asked me a question I could not remember.  They asked me, “What credit card did you start in 1980.  That was 36 years ago!  The IRS knows more about me than I do.  How much more does God know about me?  Zacchaeus was a small man who had messed up publicly. Jesus stopped the parade he was in to call Zacchaeus by name and say he was going to his house.  He says (Isa. 49:15-16)- “Can a mother forget her nursing child?  Can she feel no love for a child she has borne?  Even if that were possible, I would never forget you!  See I have engraved your name on the palms of my hands.”  Did you know your name is on God’s hands?  He engraved them there.  Jesus engraved them there forever on the cross.  When He rose from the dead- those nail marks did not disappear. He asked Thomas to stop doubting and touch those marks.   God knows you by name- and He calls you beyond yourself to be true to Him- find yourself in Him.

 

Ex. 33:12- You say, “I know you by name.”  But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. (Isa. 43;1); To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. (Jn. 10:3); And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Rev. 20:15); “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. (Ps. 91:14); “Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for a  child she has borne? Even if that were possible, I would never forget you! See, I have engraved your name on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:15-16 NLT). Jesus called Zaccheus by name.  Do not be afraid to get close to Jesus- He already knows you by name and wants to come to your house.  Behold I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and lets me in I will come to him and sup with him and he with me” (Rev. 3:20)