Name | John 20:1-18

Hearing our name can change things.

It did for Mary Magdalene.

We find her beside Jesus’ empty tomb. She is crying. The lack of a body has thrown her over the edge. Already she was mourning the loss of her Messiah and friend; but now, to add insult to injury, someone has stolen his body. Could things get any worse than this?

She runs into a man she presumes to be the gardener. She begs him to tell her what has happened. This is the only hope she has: simply to locate Jesus’ dead body.

But then, the gardener says her name: “Mary.”

With one word, Jesus changes Mary’s whole worldview. She recognizes him. She knows that he lives. She understands that he is the Messiah. She sees that in Christ there is hope, and hope abundant.

All because he said her name.

An act of self-sacrifice can change our names.

It did for Brennan Manning.

Manning was an author whose books I really enjoy. He’s best known for The Ragamuffin Gospel, but my favorite is Ruthless Trust. Having read several of these, I thought I knew Manning’s story pretty well; but I didn’t know until last month that Brennan Manning wasn’t his given name.*

He was born Richard Francis Xavier Manning in 1934. He served in the Korean War with his childhood friend, Ray. One day they were sitting in a foxhole, sharing a bar of chocolate. Ray was finishing the last bite and still holding the empty wrapper when a grenade dropped in with them. As Manning describes it, Ray tossed the wrapper aside and dropped onto the grenade, which detonated almost instantaneously. His stomach absorbed the blast, leaving Manning unharmed but delivering Ray a fatal blow. Ray had only enough life in him to look up at Manning, smile, and wink before he died.

Eight years later, as he entered the Franciscan priesthood, Manning is required to take on a saint’s name as a sign of his new identity. And so Manning chooses the name “Brennan,” for the one who saved his life: his childhood friend, Ray Brennan.

Some might hear this story and think, “No one would ever do something like that for me.”

Someone would. Someone did.

On Easter we remember that Christ died for all of us – and for each of us.

Christ gave his life for you.

Once we begin to really understand and believe the sacrifice that Christ made for us, it begins to change us.

We might even change our names.

What would your new name be?
“Child of God”?
“Unconditionally Loved”?
“One Who Loves Unconditionally”?
Or something else?

Hearing our name can change things.
May you hear Christ say your name.

An act of self-sacrifice can change our names.
May you believe in Christ’s sacrifice for you, and be changed.


* I learned this wonderful story from a sermon by Adam Hamilton ( You, too, could listen to his podcasts and hear his sermons each week. Thank you, Rev. Hamilton!


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