“Roll Away the Stone”
Rev. Tina Walker-Morin
Pilgrim Congregational Church, UCC
Easter Sunday • March 27, 2016
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you O God, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
This Easter morning I have a message for you about what else, but resurrection.
Now I do not mean resuscitation like they tried to do to my father once. My father, who is a physician and father of four girls made it over to the hospital to do rounds one day earlier than expected. Since he had some spare time he reclined his driver’s seat in the big ole family van to take a quick cat nap.
All was fine and well until one of the nurses he worked with walked by and saw him in the van. She rushed into the ER and said “quick, get a crash cart Dr. Walker needs resuscitation!” They rushed outside and my father was suddenly startled awake. A miracle he’s been resurrected! Well not exactly, just napping.
Unlike my father’s incident, Jesus Christ’s resurrection has been debated over the centuries: did this man really die and come back to life? Maybe he did not really die, or maybe it is all just a made up story and did not even really happen.
These questions are valid; after all, earlier in our Gospel of Luke the twelve disciples, the ones who were closest with Jesus, who listened, learned, walked and talked with him did not even understand Jesus’ prophecies of death and resurrection. Listen to the words from the 18th chapter for telling Jesus’ death:
“Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. 33 After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.” 34 But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.”
Today we encounter Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary mother of James and the other women who have gotten up early in the morning after having rested on the Sabbath to bring spices expecting the stone to be in front of the tomb. Since the women come with spices to anoint the body, it might be safe to say they came ready to roll away the stone. After all, the stone would probably have been in the shape of a large wheel that rolled in a channel to seal the door of the tomb. When the women arrive, the stone has already been rolled away but upon entering they do not find Jesus. Then, like all revelations in Luke’s gospels, two angels appear and ask “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has been risen.”
“Why do you look for the living among the dead?” I love when the angels say this to the women. Because it reminds me that our God is an active God, a God who was not killed, does not let death have the final word, who is actively living. Our God lives through Jesus and the Holy Spirit and is among us, and living within each of us.
Once the angels spoke, the women remembered the words of Christ and went back to tell the eleven apostles, (now there were only eleven remember because Judas was gone). What joy and excitement these women must have felt, like a child on their first Easter egg hunt finding their first bright and colorful egg, all overcome with joy and excitement all the while not knowing the real treasure was still to come -- that the real finding is in cracking the egg open -- in rolling that stone away.
Once the women get back to the men, their words “seemed to the men an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” (v. 11) Yet Peter jumps up and runs up to see for himself; he is wondering did the resurrection happen?
Well I am here today to tell you my friends that the resurrection happened and continues to happen.
I believe in the resurrection because I have experienced resurrection in my own life and in the lives of others. The key is we have to be able to roll away the stone to be able to see the resurrection.
It was a stone which closed Jesus’ tomb. Stones not only block our entry but also our vision. Stones are hard and unyielding yet can be rolled away. Stones are what are blocking us from witnessing resurrections.
Resurrections are happening all around us, we just have to roll away the stone to enter in and be a part of and/or see them. Several years ago when I was working in Boston and commuting from the North Shore I was struggling with severe depression. I remember one night in the dead of winter taking the commuter train home. I had on my long black wool coat, a grey knit cap and those gloves that have the finger open with a mitten piece on top. I remember sitting in the first bench on the train bent over bawling my eyes out. Tears were streaming down my face and I just kept my head hung hoping no one would see, but also not really caring if anyone saw. When the train pulled into the station I ran to my truck and meet Tracy at her job. That night was one of the darkest. Yet out of the darkness came a light, a light which helped pull me out of despair and back into life anew. Through love, support, and help I moved the stone and arose out of the darkness into the light.
That resurrection reminds me that we can overcome the dark, that as Jesus showed us death and darkness does not have the final word. This Easter, join Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary mother of James, and the other women ready to roll away the stones which are preventing you from witnessing the resurrection. A divine resurrection which comes in the form of a person in recovery, or in the renewal or repair of a broken relationship, and in life after a cancer diagnosis. Take notice of the even the smallest of divine resurrections like the rebirth of tulips, daffodils and lilies.
Perhaps this Eastertide you need the angels to cry out “why are you looking for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen”, exclaiming and illuminating a resurrection. Or maybe you are the angels helping your friend or family member see their own resurrection. We all at times need help seeing the risen Christ. And maybe, just maybe, you too have been resurrected.
Let us not fall asleep after this Easter in our vans waiting to go to work, rather come roll away the stone and take part in the resurrections which are occurring all around us.
Alleluia Christ is risen. Now it is our duty to come like the women who were prepared to roll away the stone, and be open to witnessing and being part of the resurrection.
Alleluia Christ is risen indeed.
A Harper Collins Study Bible, 1811