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Who Knows Your Name?

by The Rev Beth Knowlton on April 26, 2023

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 
—Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

I’ve had the interesting experience lately of reconnecting with some important people from my life from several decades ago. I’m newly aware that when I move geographically or otherwise into a new season of my life, I tend not to look back. It makes the few friends who have weathered those transitions all the more precious to me. They can help me remember the thread of my life in a way others cannot. They honor the growth and changes and celebrate our common journey.

Reconnecting with people you’ve lost touch with brings another perspective. Those people can offer a snapshot in time of who you were in a very particular way. They hold up a mirror to your own memory and give you the chance to remember anew through their eyes. Then you have the opportunity to reflect on whether your memory or theirs still holds up. Neuroscientists have done a pretty good job of convincing us that our memories are quite malleable. We imagine a level of recall that simply isn’t factual. I’m not terribly worried about that; it actually lets me know that memory has a different purpose from factual accounting. Its very pliability lets me know that how I remember is a function of who I am in this time and place. My memories serve an important function as they provide snapshots of how I understand my life and purpose.

What does this have to do with Good Shepherd Sunday, which we always celebrate the fourth Sunday of Easter? I think we see in Jesus a reminder that we are known in deep and mysterious ways that we cannot fully apprehend. Jesus calls us by name, and when we are listening, we recognize the holiness of that calling. Much like Mary Magdalene recognizing Jesus as her teacher when he calls her by name that early Easter morning, we come to recognize the Christ in relationship.

The people in our life—past, present, and those we have not yet met—are helping us see ourselves. Who I am in relationship to others very much reflects who I am in relationship to God. When I am tending to my relationship with God through prayer and spiritual practices, my relationships with others are also transformed. That cruciform pattern of life, love of God and love of neighbor, is at the heart of our Christian walk. When we nurture it, we are becoming Easter people. I pray that your life is full of people who help you know and understand the goodness of who you are—a beloved child of God.

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