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Easter Sermon 2016 "Stones" 03/27/2016

Posted 1:16 PM by

“Jesus is not in there!  Oh, wait…he’s just changed his Facebook status to ‘risen.’”

So how about you?  What’s your status today?  Buried? Trapped?  Sleepy? Happy?  Fearful?  Worried? Distracted?  Stoned?  Weighed down by some heavy stone that keeps us from the light?  How many of us today claim the status, risen[JM1]  to new life?

This Easter my thoughts have turned to stones: the stone that sealed Jesus tomb, the stone wall I sometimes feel that I have hit in life, the stone that can harden my heart against vulnerability and hurt….  (Sometimes I feel like the characters in fairy tales who have been turned to stone by the wicked witch….)   Stones can be stumbling blocks.  Stones can be barriers that trap us and divide us…from each other, and from God. 

What’s the stone that blocks your way right now?  That you need to ask God to roll back, to move aside? 

·       The smooth, hard stone of not enough, not enough: not being good enough, smart enough, successful enough, beautiful enough, thin enough, dazzling enough

·       The heavy stone of guilt over past words and deeds, that sits in the pit of the stomach

·       The corrosive stone of bitterness, of being unable to forgive, of holding a grudge

·       The deadly, sharp-pointed stone of irritability and anger

·       And then there is the dark stone of sorrow, of sadness over losses we cannot control and cannot reverse.  That sadness can become an abyss….

I don’t know about you, but I’ve tried for years – decades – to cure myself of these afflictions, to fix myself into the person I think I ought to be (or others think I ought to be).  The other day, I was thinking I really had a handle on this thing called living; then, I said the wrong thing to someone I love, and realized I had caused hurt and damage.  Ugh.   It’s sort of like lugging heavy rocks up a hillside, only to have the rain come and bring them back down in a rockslide…and I’m back where I started.  I just can’t fix this on my own. 

So what’s the solution to this human condition of being trapped under the stone of “not enough”?  It’s a human problem, but there is no human solution.  We cannot heal ourselves.  But Easter tells us there is a divine solution; that God has declared that we are enough, we are sufficient, we are acceptable in God’s eyes,  even in our fickle affections, our gross imperfection, our sin.  How can God do this?  Through forgiveness, through love.  God’s love makes us enough, acceptable…delightful, even!  We are a joy to God, and maybe even a joy to ourselves.  That stone that God moved from Jesus’ tomb frees not just Jesus from his bondage, but frees us all from our bondage – whatever that may be in this moment.  Let yourself enter into the story

After Jesus took his final breath, around three on that Friday afternoon, the scene begins to change…there is transformation, from the horror of torture and death, the worst that we humans could do, to a quiet, gentle wind of love and caring.  A kind Jewish man named Joseph of Arimathea went and asked if he could care for Jesus’ body.  He gently wrapped it in a linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, a cave carved out of the soft rock outside Jerusalem.  He rolled a large, disk-like stone across the entrance to seal it. 

The women who traveled with Jesus and supported him – Joanna, Mary Magdalene, and another Mary the mother of James – saw his hasty burial before the Sabbath began, and they went to gather the spices and ointments required to prepare Jesus’ body for a proper burial on Sunday morning, the first day. 

Then, interestingly, the action stops.  There is a long pause.  A “grand pause,” it is called in music.  “On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.”  It’s as if all creation needed a moment to rest, to absorb what just happened, to regroup. 

Then, on the first day of the week – of course it is the first day: a new beginning of a new creation! – these brave women went to the tomb, carrying the heavy spices for burial.  And you know what they found.  The stone was rolled back, and the tomb was empty.  There was no body to anoint and prepare for burial.  This morning marks a new creation, where death no longer rules; where fear no longer holds us hostage.  God has acted. 

The Good News is that God has transformed us in Christ, forgiven us, and declared that we are beloved – it’s done, complete!  We don’t have to try to fix ourselves.  We have only to live into our God-given identity as children of the one loving God who made us.  It’s as if God is saying to us:

“You are a new creation in Christ.  You are mystery.  Let the mystery unfold.  Let the secret be told.  Be bold, be daring!  Be reconciled.  Be glad. Be thankful.  Be compassionate.  Be forgiving.  Be who you are.  Be that new creation in Christ!”

Without being transformed by God, I have no chance of rising above our lower, baser natures – our selfishness, irritability, narrow-mindedness, rigidity.  I’m stuck in an endless loop-tape of screwing up, of not-enough.

It is because God has first loved us, and called us, and transformed us…raised us to the new life of Christ…that it is even possible to live a new way.    We are able to love – truly, deeply love and forgive – because God first loved us.  The huge stone that stands in our way has been rolled back.  We were not meant to live in dark caves.  We are meant for the light, the air.  Jesus created the path; he blazed the trail from the dark land of sin and selfishness, to the sunny warm land where love, joy, mercy, and forgiveness prevail.  We have only to take a step into the light, to walk in love as Christ loves us. 

So what is your status today? Peaceful?  Energized?  Or weary and regretful?  If it’s not what you’d like, are you willing to let God reset it for you?  Can you accept the free gift of Jesus’ love, and let God reset your status as “forgiven, loved, and free”?

Step aside and let God work in your life.  Stop clinging to the stone that traps you, and let God roll it away.  Let the light of God’s love – unconditional love – shine into the darkness, shine upon you on this Easter morning.  In the words of a song by our own Bob Tupper:

(Give Eb chord)

   Eb                  Ab              Eb             Bb

Roll back the stone in my heart, dear Lord Jesus.

Eb                  Ab                      Eb                   Bb

Roll back the stone that keeps love trapped inside.

Eb                  Ab                  Eb                 Bb

Roll back the stone. Let me walk as your servant

          Cm                     Fm                  Bb7sus4     Eb

In the world, knowing always you’re here by my side.


(Refrain of song by Bob Tupper, 2003)




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