The Stone Was Rolled Away

Posted by on Oct 3, 2013 in Faith Words |

Words of Faith

Rev. Rita S. Platt

Easter, March 31, 2013

“The Stone Was Rolled Away”

 John 20:1-9

Easter is a four letter word.  Now when I said that at the informal service, persons looked at me a little strangely.  When you spell the word “Easter” you quickly go beyond the four letters; what is she talking about?  Easter is a four letter word and Christians are full of it, or at least we’re supposed to be. By now your mind may be going in a number of directions; there are many four letter words. Some can be said in polite company, others not.     

 

Can you guess the 4 letter word?  Easter is about LIFE …New life…  Abundant Life… Redeemed life… Resurrected life.

The last time some of us were in this sanctuary was Good Friday.  Do you remember Jesus’ final words on the cross? “It is finished.”

On Easter morning the great surprise is that sacrifice was not the end of Jesus’ mission. 

On Easter “It is finished” becomes “Now it begins.”

Our reading from John’s gospel began with these words:

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb. John 20:1

Have you ever considered why the stone was rolled away?  The obvious answer: it was so Jesus could come out of the tomb.  After the crucifixion the religious leaders were very afraid Jesus’ followers would come and steal the body.  So they go to Pilate and ask that the tomb can be made secure.  Pilate says make it as secure as you are able.  So not only is the stone rolled in place, but the tomb is sealed. Maybe that seal had to be broken and the stone rolled away so Jesus can come through.  But somehow that doesn’t seem to fit because a little later when the resurrected Jesus meets his followers, he walks through a door to greet them. If Jesus could walk through a door he could certainly walk through a stone. The stone wasn’t rolled away for Jesus to come out of the tomb. So why was the stone rolled away?  The stone was rolled away for us to experience LIFE.

I want each of you to have a stone . . . (stones were distributed)

As you take one of those stones, hold it in your hand for a while.  It will fit very comfortably in the palm of your hand; they aren’t very large.  But as you hold that stone I want you to use your imagination. Imagine it becoming much larger…much heavier. Imagine it requires both of your hands to hold.  Imagine your hands are beginning to drop under the weight of that stone.  Imagine the stone you are holding is the size of the stone that sealed the tomb.  Feel your arms get weaker and weaker.  As you hold that stone and you are about ready to break under the weight of it, I want you to think about some of the things that are blocking the way from the life God has for you.  As you hold that stone, think about those obstacles that are in your way, the things in your life that are weighing you down . . . the grief you have endured…the physical struggle that is yours or belongs to someone you love.  Perhaps the weight of that stone is your concern for the world – as you look at the economy, as you see other situations in the world – and you say “Where is peace?” And perhaps as you sit comfortably in this magnificent sanctuary, the weight of the stone is this community of Wilkinsburg because you are remembering another season, a time when the balcony was filled. The community was different. And as you have read in the paper about the Wilkinsburg schools you are remembering another day.  Or perhaps the weight of the stone is a relationship in your family.  Regardless of what it is, and there are many possibilities I didn’t mention, that stone represents the things that block us from experiencing the resurrected life, the message of Easter.

 I want to keep holding that stone because Easter is about another four letter word and it’s HOPE. It’s the hope that Jesus is still rolling those stones away. Nothing can stand in the way from experiencing that power. I want you to take that stone home with you; don’t leave it in your seat.  

 Put it where you pray, maybe on your bible or near your favorite chair, because there will always be obstacles in our way; recognizing today’s obstacles will not stop tomorrow’s.  And when that happens we need to remember the stone has been rolled away; nothing can block us unless we allow our path to remain blocked. We are Easter people. Hold on to that stone.  Use it when you feel overwhelmed.  Use it when you feel hopeless.  And when you just can’t see the way through, hold onto that stone because   Easter people can’t let stones block our way. We know the power that raised Jesus from the dead and rolled the stone away lives in us!

 

Another reason is we can’t let those stones block our way is because we are called to be rock-rollers.  Don’t be confused; I don’t mean rock and rollers, even though many of us remember that style of music fondly.  I mean we are called to be rock rollers, to use our spiritual muscles to offer ways out to all sorts of people, trapped in all kinds of tombs.

We can roll away despair, and reveal a path to hope.

We can roll away delusions — delusions like “If I only had more money I’d be happy;” delusions like “If I could only find the right person, my life would be full . . .;” delusions like “If I just had the right job I would have everything I want.”  We can roll away those “ifs” because the grace is always greener on the other side. WE can roll those rocks away and help people experience genuine fulfillment.

We can roll away fear — and entice tomb-dwellers to step out into the light.

As you entered you received an index card and you have probably been wondering what you are supposed to do with it. We are going to spend a few moments in prayer.  Ask God to bring to your mind people who need you to bring HOPE, people who need you to roll the stone away.

 

“Gracious God, we ask that you might reveal to each person the face of that individual whom they know who desperately needs them to be a rock roller. Help them to feel the struggle of that individual. Help them to enter that place of frustration. That place of confusion. Help them to feel the hopelessness that is there. Make that person’s face clearer and clearer.

Perhaps Lord, it is a concern for a larger group…our world. Maybe it is that area where we feel completely inadequate to do anything.

Lord, we really want to be rock rollers. Help us. We ask all this in Jesus’ precious name. Amen

 

For some of you that person easily jumped into your mind.  For others, as we prayed the focus became a little clearer.  And for some, you don’t have the foggiest idea what is going on and that is okay because we need to pray that prayer every day.  Each one of us has someone.  Sometimes the problem is we don’t know where to start.   In James it says “if we lack wisdom we should ask and God will give it to us.”  If our earnest desire is to be a rock roller in someone’s life, God will show us how.

Write those names down and put them beside that rock and pray to be a rock roller every day.

 

And it is important that we all commit to doing this because rock-rolling isn’t a one-person job.  It takes a community of Easter people to get those rocks rolling the right direction – a community that knows

the work will not be easy because we have rocks that block our way – a community who   depend upon the  one who  has called us… the one who can do more through us than we can even imagine…Jesus Christ our Risen Lord….

That community is the CHURCH.

Will you pray with me …

We are so grateful that you love us so much that you sent your Son to die for us, but you didn’t stop there; you raised Jesus from the dead that we might have life. Don’t let us take that for granted.

Help the good news to permeate our being. Help us to not let obstacles stand in our way, but remember that you have rolled them away.

Help us look for opportunities to help roll the rocks out of the way of those persons who so desperately need us.

Help us to commit to be a church that brings life and hope in every situation. We ask this in Jesus’ name. AMEN