Stones Roll Away

Acts 10: 34-44Rev. Dr. Galen E. Russell III

John 20: 1-18   April 16, 2017

 “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.”

Prayer:  O risen Christ!   Please let your love and your life find a way into our hearts and our very lives, like you did in so many before us.  In the Spirit of the risen Christ we pray, Amen.

 Barb and I were at Texas Roadhouse recently, and some of the servers wore T-shirts that said, “I “heart”  Ymy job!”  And, I can unequivocally say that that is true for me, I “heart” my job! Especially on Easter Sunday!  Not only do I “heart” my job, I also Y our church!  I am so blessed and fortunate to be among you, a congregation filled with lots of “heart!”  You share and carry the Easter spirit, the gospel’s good news, in so many ways, and I, for one, am very grateful for you making it easy for me to “heart”  Ymy job!” Thank you!

Some pastors don’t enjoy certain parts of their job so much—some don’t like weddings—I love ‘em!  Most pastors don’t like doing funerals. Neither do I. But,  there’s no better time to share the Good News of Easter to people that are often unchurched.  I think that’s true.  Another pastor said he likes funerals because they last longer.  When asked to clarify he said, “The first person I brought to Christ, fell out of faith.  The first couple I married divorced.  But, the first person I buried has stayed there”, retrieved April 14, 2017).

I guess that’s true… someone dies, we bury ‘em.  We put the tombstone over the top of the grave, and that’s that.  We expect the body to stay there; and it does.  Nothing to see here, move along.  Life is done.  Death is final.  We expect nothing else.

 Mary comes to the tomb, grieving and distraught, totally in a daze, expecting nothing but a sealed tomb and a dead body inside it.  She expects nothing else.  What she finds is totally unexpected.  What she thought was dead and buried was anything but.  The sealed tomb was unsealed.  The stone was rolled away already.

Now grieving, distraught, and confused, she runs away at first, but comes back, and soon discovers that God is in the business of rolling stones away… stones that try to keep goodness and love out of our lives.  Stones that try to squelch life out of us.  Stones that make us think that life is like a cemetery filled with dead ends.  Divorce, job loss, failing grades, debilitating illness, the painful death of a loved one, or even an awareness of our own mortality—these can all be stones that give us the message that nothing can get past them, not even life itself.  But, none of it is true.

Because God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, those stones roll away.  Because God carried Jesus through the very worst of life’s horrors, because the stone was rolled away, because Jesus is alive, God can work with us bringing to our consciousness opportunities to encounter the risen Christ who will help us roll the stones in our lives away.

Recently, Barb and I saw the movie “Hacksaw Ridge.”  It depicts WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss, who served during the Battle of Okinawa, refused to kill people, and became the first man in American history to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a shot.  He clung to his belief that the 6th of the 10 commandments, “Thou shall not kill” was an imperative to be followed.  He could never hold a rifle, let alone fire it to kill a human being.  In fact, the only time he touched a rifle in the whole movie was to help make a stretcherso that he could drag a fellow soldier to safety.  One of most powerful lines in the movie was when Private Doss said, “While everyone else is taking life, I’m gonna be saving it.  And that’s gonna be my way to serve” ( retrieved April 14, 2017).  Several tried to bury Private Doss’ belief in the 6th commandment, several tried to stuff that belief in a grave and put a stone on top of that grave, but, God, and love, and life helped to roll that stone away.

When stones are rolled away, they open up our tombs, release new life, restore love, and let life move forward in healthy ways.  Easter gives us hope!

Stones, when rolled away, let forgiveness and reconciliation come forward, yielding positive results, and life can move forward in healthy ways.  Easter gives us hope!

In our information crazy society with dash cam videos, cell phone coverage of any event in the world, reality TV, social media, we’ve seen what appears to be a disturbing trend.  Life, love, morality, humanity’s basic goodness seem to be getting buried.  It’s like stones are being rolled over these basic God-given gifts, trying to entomb them.

I believe God will not let our love, our life, our goodness, be completely buried, dead and gone, that’s that.  Instead, I believe those powerful characteristics of God’s life in us cannot ever be dead and gone.  Easter’s victory in the risen Christ is our victory, too!  Easter gives us hope!

I ask for all of us to pray for the world’s leaders and its people to not let God’s gifts to us be entombed.  Please pray that we can grow into and keep a global society featuring the best gifts humanity has.  Pray that the power of love will rise above the love of power.  Pray that life’s circumstancesneed not bury us, but help us grow into people of goodness, love, and grace, more so than ever before.

If your life right now has things going on that are trying to bury you, things that are like a stone preventing your life from flourishing, come to God.  Come to the risen Christ.  Stones roll away with God.  Come to the table where life, love, spirit, relationship are all restored.  Come to share in the Good News of God’s tremendous gifts, and life can move forward in healthy ways.

Come to this table, not because you must, but because you may.  Come and find thatthis table is where holy nourishment happens, where the risen Christ is encountered.  Come.  Every stifling circumstance of life, every impeding stone are all rolled away as we come to experience the life of the risen Christ.  It is in you.  It is in me.

Thanks be to God.  Amen.