“Who Will Roll Away the Stone?” 4/8/12

Mark 16:1-8 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might go and anoint Jesus. And very early on the first day of the week they went to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they were saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?’ And looking up, they saw that the stone was rolled back –it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a youth sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe; and they were amazed. And the youth said to them, ‘Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. Jesus has risen and is not here; see the place where they laid the body. But go, tell the disciples and Peter that Jesus is going before you to Galilee; there you will see Jesus, as he told you.’ And they went out and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them; and they said nothing to any one, for they were afraid.

This sermon uses a sermon by Sam Wells – The Rolling Stones, preached at Duke University Chapel, as a basis for a poem.  The sermon was published as part of an article in Journal for Preachers, Easter edition, 2012, p. 26.

April 8, 2012

Easter Sermon – “Who Will Roll Away the Stone?”

The earth moves, shakes, rolls under our feet.
An earthquake shakes loose our fears
People stream into the streets
One building collapses, and you are trapped inside.
Chunks of concrete block your escape
Who will roll away the stone?
Look at the stone at Jesus tomb.
Consider the stone, the massive rock, 
that blocks the way
          for the women, for the Romans, for Jesus
Consider the stone that blocks the way.
The women rise early on Easter 
and the stone looms large
“Who will roll away the stone for us?”
The stone is their grief.  The stone is their loss.
They had dared to hope.  They had dared to dream
The stone blocked their way, 
to their joy, their hope, their life.
They had dared to hope, but their hope had died.
Spices and oil would preserve the memory.
Memories of joy, memories of hope, memories of love.
Who will roll away the stone so we can preserve our memories?
The stone for the Romans was power and might.
They knew their rule was based upon a lie.
Compromise kept Judean puppets in power.
The stone kept their privilege in place.
The stone kept the peace that was their power.
Jesus had threatened that power and that peace.
          healing on the Sabbath
          forgiving sins of the people
          turning over tables in the Temple
          — being called a king
Jesus exposed the compromises.
Jesus exposed the power games and the pretense.
He had to be killed to preserve their power 
for a few more days.
The massive stone showed what would happen 
to anyone who got in their way.
When Jesus came to Jerusalem God and humanity 
came together in him and in the world
The people turn away their back just days later
On Good Friday even God seems to turn away
The stone for Jesus is separation 
from the people and from Creator God.
The stone, part of God’s good creation, severs Jesus 
   from humanity and from God
Yet nothing, neither death, nor life, nor angels, 
nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation – certainly not a massive chunk of stone – can separate God from God, or God from the Human One. 
The stone must roll, the stone must be rolled away.
For the women the stone was the past – 
the cherished memory of a dead dream
For the Romans the stone was the present-
their fleeting control of an empire
For Jesus the stone meant the future - 
the final joining of earth and heaven
humanity and divinity together at last
And what about our stone? What is the stone for you?
What stands in your way?
What heavy, immovable, obstacle stands
between you and life
between you and love, 
between you and healing,
between you and God?
What earthquake in your life left that stone to block your way?
What earthquake left you paralyzed, buried behind grief, or guilt?
What unyielding stone leaves you hopeless, helpless, and alone?
Who will roll away this stone from your heart?
Who will roll away this stone from your soul?
Like the women, we ache for the stone to be moved.
Like the women, we ache for a taste of joy, 
Like the women, we ache for a vision of hope.
Like the soldiers we cling to control.
Like the Romans we strive for certainty & security
Like them we settle for the stone, 
rather than trust God’s promise, 
rather than trust in new possibilities, 
rather than entrust our future to Christ.
Who will roll away the stone? What would it be like 
to have that stone rolled away in your life?
Welcome to Easter morning, 
when the stones that block our way start to roll
Easter, if you let it, will unravel your habits of grief
Easter will dismantle our grubby compromises.
Easter will roll away the stone of broken relationships, shattered dreams and broken hearts.
At Easter heaven and earth meet in resurrecting power
That power, stronger than death, can move any stone.
That power can roll away the stones of your past – 
The stones of bitterness and resentment;
The stones of hurts you can’t forget and blessings you can’t remember
The stones of missed opportunities and failed hope.
That power can roll away the stones of your present –
The stones of a busy and programmed life that leaves no room for the Spirit and spontaneous joy.
The stones of fears about money, doubt about our worthiness, 
The stone that keeps us from each other and from our God.
This day the stone is rolled away from the tomb of Jesus the Christ.
This morning the stones are rolling away from our fears and our failures.
All that separates us from the Spirit, every stone of sickness, despair, blindness, addiction, loneliness; every stone is rolled by the resurrecting power of Christ Jesus. 
      Love is alive through Christ in our deadened hearts.
     Love is alive in our numb souls.
     Love is alive in our Good Friday world.
     Love is alive. Christ is risen indeed.
No. 3088     Easter Alleluia