Called by Name by Trevor Stubbs
It was Maundy Thursday afternoon. The children were at home from school for their Easter holidays, and the church secretary was in a hurry to finish her work. The trouble with working for the church, was that holidays – especially Christmas and Easter – were some of the busiest periods. She had just two tasks to complete – a booklet for a wedding on Easter Monday, and a sheet for the readers at the Easter sunrise service; she would use her computing skills to do them quickly. She linked the two; they would print off one after the other with one instruction. On her computer, she selected the file of a previous wedding booklet. All that was needed was to change the names, and draught in the new hymns. She was so used to this, and with two strokes, all the references to “John”, the former groom, became “Wayne”, and all those to “Mary”, the former bride, became “Louise”. Se checked it had worked: “I, Wayne, take you, Louise…” perfect. She sent them to the copier, which rattled them off, putting them into two separate piles. The secretary pigeon-holed them, and then rushed home to her children.
Being thirteen can be a trying thing – especially being the daughter of enthusiastic Christian parents. Louise was as tall as her mother, but her body was outstripping her energy. She didn’t mind going to church – well mostly – but she resented having to get up at five a.m. to go to this Easter sunrise service, which meant walking to an exposed cliff-top at six. Even if it wasn’t cloudy, you never saw the sun itself – it just got light. Most years, it was just about braving the cold wind and the rain.
The minister caught sight of Louise’s disdainful body-language. He thought he could make her feel wanted by asking her to read the lesson. Her parents were delighted – Louise was trapped. Her younger brother snickered. He knew exactly how well this was going down with his sister. She shot him a withering glance that was not in the spirit of Easter. Louise took the paper she was given in her gloved hand. It was still dark, and she could barely read it. But she thought she had better look through the reading if she was going to do it. There was no point in making a fool of herself. She got it close to her face. It was the story of Mary Magdalene in the garden when she found the tomb empty, and then met the risen Jesus. Louise knew it well, but she ran through it anyway.
When she got to the bit where Jesus makes himself known, Louise couldn’t believe what she was seeing:
“Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Louise!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher).”
She read it again. Were her eyes playing tricks on her? The name should be ‘Mary’, but the more she stared, the more she read, ‘Louise’. Was God trying to tell her something? She had a vision of Jesus standing there on this exposed cliff-top, looking straight into her eyes, and saying, “Louise!”
Louise felt small and embarrassed. This is definitely, like, my mind playing tricks on me, she told herself. But, even if it was, if you believed in Jesus, and that he died on the cross and was raised for you, he did call you by name. She remembered the words of the bishop at her confirmation service six months before: “I have called you by name, you are mine.” (It was a quote from the Old Testament somewhere.) And now, here was Jesus, calling her by name just as he had Mary Magdalene.
Mary hadn’t wanted to be there in the graveyard that morning, any more than Louise wanted to be at this service. She was there because she had to be – because she loved Jesus so much. And Mary had been called by her name! Amazing – Jesus was alive. It had made the whole world a different place for her. And, now, here was the same Jesus making the world a different place for Louise. He knew her, and was calling her by her name. Wow! That’s, like, cool, she thought. And then, Thanks, Jesus. I love you too – honestly – even on this grotty morning.
The service began. Louise read the passage, substituting the name, “Mary”, although the paper still read, “Louise”. No-one else seemed to have noticed.
The service was followed by breakfast in the chapel on the beach – the best part of the whole thing. It was here that she noticed the reference to the reading. In small letters underneath, it read: “The Gospel according to Wayne, 20:1-18”.
Copyright © 2016 Trevor Stubbs