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04.05.15 The One Word that Matters John 20.1-18 Sermon Summary

by on April 6, 2015

Understanding the Scriptures is hard, but we make it so much harder by not knowing the one word that matters most.

Summary Points

  • Five words that matter a lot
  • The one word that matters most
  • That our greatest objections to the one word actually hold the greatest potential

If you polled theologians, pastors, and people in the church, asking “Which word of Scripture matters most,” you’d likely get a list that includes the following.

“Love,” for after all, the Scriptures say that God is love. Plus the most famous verse of Scripture says that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.”

But some will say that you can’t understand God’s love until you understand sin. Sin keeps us from receiving God’s love. It refers at once to our human weakness and frailty, and our self-centered decisions, and our rejection of God in our lives. So “sin” is the word that matters most.

But what about grace, referring to God’s persistent pursuit of our redemption? Grace describes God’s coming to us even before we ask him. Grace refers to God’s remaining with us through our rebellion. Surely “grace” is the word that matters more than even our sin.

Others will say that “faith” is the word, that ever evolving relationship between us and God. Faith makes it possible for us to believe things to be true despite evidence to the contrary. Faith is trusting God even when don’t understand. Faith is hoping God’s vision will come to pass when we can’t see it for ourselves. Faith is being patient even through times of doubt. Faith must be the word that matters most.

Others will point out that the Scriptures refer to Jesus as God’s Word incarnate. Paul says that all of God’s promises find fulfilment in Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:20) So “Jesus” or “Christ” must be the word that matters most in all of Scripture.

The truth is that all these words are important. They are all inter-related—whichever one you begin with it will lead you to the others. But the importance of these words depend on the one word that each of us has the capacity to hear. This is the word that we are programmed to hear, that we were created to hear, the one word that, when spoken, fulfills our lives. This is the word that, once we hear it, we listen for more words—words like love and sin, grace and faith and Jesus. This is the word that is spoken in love, despite our sin, out of God’s grace, regardless of our faith—the word spoken by Jesus.

Jesus told Mary Magdalene to tell his disciples that he was ascending to, “My Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” This points us in the direction of the one word that matters most, for God is pleased, like a Father, like a Mother, to utter the one word, the word first uttered by our father, by our mother. In John 20 the one word is “Mary.” The one word that matters most is our name—your name.

Contained in this one word is the mystery of God’s having every hair on your head numbered, the mystery of Jesus’ going ahead to prepare a room for you in his Father’s house. In this one word is the mystery of the Spirit’s answering your prayers before you utter them.

Here is the mystery of Jesus’ knocking at the door of your life, waiting to be let in to dine with you as with he did with Zacchaeus the Tax Collector, Simon the Leper, Martha the Anxious, and You, whatever you are.

“I can’t believe God is speaking my name,” you might say. We’ve come to understanding ourselves as just a number, a statistic, a cog in the machine, a role we have to play, essentially expendable. The media gives us a steady stream of massacres, of scores of souls lost in catastrophes and hundreds killed in disasters. We witness entire nations dying of starvation or disease. So how can I believe God speaks my name?

Jesus spoke Mary’s name in the location of her greatest disappointment, in the darkness of her deepest grief, in the whirlwind of her most profound confusion. In such places Jesus speaks your name, too.

When we do hear it, our name, the one word that matters, it is important to remember what else Jesus said to Mary: “Do not hold me, for I have not ascended to the Father.” Jesus is always calling us to a deeper faith, to new ventures, to follow his ascent to his Father and our Father, to his God and our God.

Throughout our lives of faith we will find ourselves returning to the tomb, where we think God is dead, where we believe God is no longer talking to us. We will find there what meets our expectations—just a gardener. But then we will hear our name, and realize Jesus is inviting to ascend to another level of faith.

All this, when we come back, like Mary did, on the first day of the weak, even when it is still dark, looking for Jesus, and listening for the one word that matters.

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