Rolling Away the Stone – Together
For my Easter children’s sermon I asked the construction workers on our tower to place one of the heavy stones from our building in a child’s red wagon. I then rolled the wagon before the children and asked them to try and lift it – assuming they couldn’t, since I hadn’t been able to, even though I lift weights at Fitlife. I wanted to point out that the stone in front of Jesus’ tomb was very heavy. The first one or two children who tried indeed couldn’t budge it, but once they moved in as a group they began lifting it from the wagon. I quickly stopped them – I had a children’s sermon to save- amending my message to say it was hard to lift the stone, but not impossible!
In remembering the Easter story, it’s easy to think of the rolling away of the stone as one of the “proofs” of the resurrection, as something that only could have been done by an angel or the risen Christ. But none of the gospel writers understood it that way. In Mark and Luke, the women come to the tomb with spices to anoint the body, trusting that someone will help them roll away the stone. In John, Mary assumes “they” have rolled it away and laid the body elsewhere. In Matthew, Pilate sends soldiers to seal the stone and guard the tomb because he knows the disciples could easily move it. The rolling away of the stone is not the miracle: it’s the empty tomb and the appearance among them of the risen Christ. But still, removing the stone was important. Then the women could they see that “he is gone”; then they could speak with the angels; then they were able to recognize the risen Christ when he appeared among them. Rolling away the stone opened the way for faith.
What heavy stones do we have in our lives that keep us from seeing the empty tomb and the risen Christ? We may be so weighed down with grief, anxiety, or depression that we lose touch with the Spirit and no longer feel God’s comfort. Or perhaps we’re so overwhelmed with problems in our lives – with family, money, or work – that we see no way out and lose hope in the risen Lord. Or perhaps the problems facing humankind seem so big and intractable we no longer have faith in the possibility of God’s justice or peace, and retreat into inaction or cynicism.
Sometimes, those stones suddenly lift, as though an angel came down and moved them. But more often, we need to help each other move them away. Through prayer, worship and study; caring for one another; and working together in mission. When we come together as a church – as the children came together to lift that stone – we can move those burdens away, and help each other see the empty tomb and experience the joy of the resurrection. And we can proclaim together: Christ is risen, indeed!
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Cheryl Pyrch