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The power of a name
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Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her. “Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “And I don’t know where they have put him.” She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?” She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “If you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.” “Mary!” Jesus said. She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).
John 20:11-16

What’s in a name? A person’s name is very important.

If you want to connect with someone, really connect with them, you learn and use their name when talking to them.

I have a friend who uses the server’s name frequently when in restaurants.

Using a person’s name tells them you care enough about the person to learn their personal name.

Names can carry great significance as pieces of genealogical history.

For example, one tradition is to have the dad’s first name become the son’s middle name.

Then, you have the examples of naming successive generations the same name followed by a number, such as John Dillard Smith IV.

Sometimes people reach back over many generations to revive some older names to remind them of who they are and from whence they came.

Whatever the tradition, having someone call you by your own name makes you feel special and important to that person.

Imagine someone very special calling you by your name (spouse, significant other, very close friend). How do you feel when you hear your name used lovingly?

Now remember the different feelings you had when a teacher or parent said your name in anger, using all of the parts of your name. Use of our names can make us happy or sad.

When people make fun of our names, it can make us feel hurt or angry. There is power in a name and how it is used.

Mary had a different experience altogether. She was heartbroken and devastated.

She had to watch her friend die a criminal’s death on a cross, suffering excruciatingly for crimes he didn’t commit.
His body was quickly put in a tomb that was nearby — not his own or one owned by his family — so preparations could be made for the Jewish Sabbath.

Then came the impossible hours of waiting as the Sabbath passed.

Finally, the first day was here and Mary couldn’t wait any longer. Setting out before day, she hurried to the tomb, only to find the body was gone.

She rushed to tell the disciples the news that Jesus’ body had been stolen.

Later, the exchange with two “mysterious” men in the tomb was not at all comforting, as she undoubtedly gazed at the empty placeholder — the stone that should have held a body.

She could control her grief no longer.

Through tears and sobs, she absently answered the questions asked to her by the two men.

Finally, the one person who might know where the body had been moved came in — the gardener.

Perhaps he was the one who moved the body from the grave.

Then something impossible happened. This man simply said her name: “Mary.”

Never had her name sounded sweeter than this moment! Never had her heart felt more love!

Her teacher, her friend, now her Lord had sweetly said her name.

In an instant, her heart burned within her, in much the same way that John Wesley felt his heart “strangely warmed.”

How wonderful to hear her name spoken by her friend and Lord.

What a miracle of God to see her friend alive and well, but somehow different. She couldn’t hold the excitement.
She ran to tell the disciples all she had seen and heard. Jesus had said her name.

Jesus calls each of us by name. Can you hear him? Sometimes in disaster, we hear the sweet voice of peace calling our name. Sometimes in darkness and loneliness, we hear Jesus call our name.

Mary turned and was glad to hear and see her Lord, and her heart exploded with love and joy for her resurrected friend.

How will you respond to Jesus when he calls your name?

Rev. Jan McCoy is the associate pastor of Covington First United Methodist Church in downtown Covington. She may be reached at or at