Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A New World: A Stone of Hope

Written for the Washtucna Community Church Newsletter, March 20, 2013
Scripture reading: Mark 16:1-8

Photos Taken Near the Palouse and Snake Rivers, Washington
The Stone of Impossibility: one of the main characters in the gospel stories of Easter is the Stone Door. It was the stone that covered the doorway of the tomb, where the body of Jesus had been laid after the crucifixion. The first people to arrive at the tomb of Jesus on Easter morning saw this stone as a stone of impossibility. It was something they had to handle, yet it was too much for them. At least they could never handle it alone. It was much too big and heavy.

These first Easter people came to the tomb of Jesus with two jobs to do. One was the job that was too big for them. This was the nearly impossible job. The other job was completely unexpected though not unpredicted. It was possible because all things are possible with God. The job was a miracle.

The impossible job was difficult, in part, because it was totally sad. There was this tiny group of disciples, who were women, who took it in hand to complete the burial of Jesus. The death on the cross had taken place on the verge of the Sabbath, which began at sunset of Friday (that Good Friday). Jewish law required burial on the day of the death. There had been no time, that day, to finish the arrangements at the borrowed tomb. Herbs and ointments were needed to sweeten the body, because the tomb was built to hold more than one, others might need to enter before Jesus had turned to bones.

So Saturday sunset (the end of the Sabbath rest) saw the women going out to buy the "dressings" to properly take care of Jesus the next day. Sunday, almost before dawn, saw these disciples approach the stone of impossibility.

We all have stones of impossibility. The impossibility of Easter was the reality of death, loss, grief, unavoidable and unmerciful change, and the termination of dreams, expectations, and hopes: heavy stuff; heavy as a stone much too big for us.

For the disciples, arriving at the tomb, the days they spent between Good Friday and Easter were like a cup that contained this loss. What turned out to be the saving work of God, in Christ, did not take this away. The experience of those days of loss would always be with them. Remembering those days would always be part of their job, their special work.

But there was that unexpected job, in which all things are possible. In his death, God, in Christ, did something to death. God identified with us, in our death, in order to change death and defeat it. This is what it means to say that Jesus arose from the dead. The body would be gone and Jesus would be up and around, meeting them where they were, and pointing to future rendezvous.

Jesus is both heaven and the resurrection. The soul not only survives but waits for greater and greater changes. Jesus made it possible for us to change from hopeless rebels to children of God; from the sinful dying to the incorruptible immortal. Heaven, itself, is a waiting place for something more: a resurrection, and all things being made new. This was not the stone door of a tomb, but a stone of hope.

The first Easter people could not hope to roll this stone of the resurrection. Jesus came to them. They did prepare for this, though, by preparing to do what they could. They didn’t so much come with faith, as they came with its equivalent. They remembered who Jesus was and held onto that, they came to their stone with love, tenderness, courage, commitment and faithful devotion. This put them in the right place to meet the risen and living Jesus. This love and faithfulness gave them the eyes to see Jesus.

Jesus himself had already told them that this is what would happen. Let us come to our stones with love, tenderness, courage, commitment, and faithful devotion, a faith that seeks more faith. Our love does not move the stone. Jesus has risen because nothing can kill him and he gives himself to us. Jesus will move that stone and give you life.

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