“Who will roll away the stone?!” they ask; half asleep, tired, filled with grief, fear and doubt, hurt, anger, and disappointment. “Who will roll away the stone?!” Last week’s triumphal entry is little more than a memory. Joyful cries of “Hosanna!” lost amid the betrayal and humiliation, denial and pain. Most disciples and would-be followers have scattered, gathered safely behind locked doors and in darkened rooms, or fallen away. They worry “Who will Roll Away the Stone?”
And isn’t this where we find ourselves? Somewhere between Thursday’s betrayal and Friday’s trials in hope of life renewed and resurrected? Fear, sorrow, anger, anxiety and worry can so fill our minds that we resign ourselves to the way things are and let hopes and dreams die.
The amazing part of this story at the end of the gospel of Mark is that rise – as Jesus rises - while it is still dark out, while the way is unclear, while there appear to be insurmountable obstacles that lie in their way – compelled by love, duty or a force that is greater than all understanding, they rise, worry about that stone that is in their way, and go anyway.
This is the Easter’s hope filled promise of life resurrected, not only that of Jesus 2,000 years ago, or for us and loved ones in the hereafter, but also of our lives today and everyday resurrected, transformed and renewed despite fear, worry, mistakes, missteps, or seemingly insurmountable obstacles weighing us down and holding life back.
Here is what I’m talking about. One day several years ago, I’m in the office trying to get things ready for Sunday worship. The heat and humidity are taking their toll. The photocopier is not cooperating: every 5, or 6, maybe 10 copies a hiccup. Open a draw, throw a few levers, remove some paper - repeat.
Volunteers are working in the building; patching, painting and brightening things up. A knock on my door, I turn from my task and am greeted by the bright eyes of a 6 or 7 year old visitor:
“Pastor Kevin Grammy said I should come and see if I can help you…”
Now you know what I’m thinking “Oh, Great!!”
I don’t get a chance to respond… “OK, I’ll read to you.”
Pulling her favorite picture book from her backpack, she jumps into a chair and begins reading. I feign attention and focus on the task at hand. A few sentences and she readies to turn the page, “LOOOOOK….” She commands holding the book high and opened wide; and then slowly and patiently she pans right to left – “LOOK….” turns the page; 1 or 2 sentences; and “LOOOOK…”
After 15 or so minutes, she finishes, collects her belongings and is off to check up on Grammy.
I return to my task when -
“Pastor Kevin! Pastor Kevin!” - loud shriek of fear and excitement beckons– “COME QUICKLY!! “
I follow her voice down the hall. She’s 10 steps ahead rounding the corner. She cuts across the vacant social hall with great urgency. I make rapid strides and almost catch up to her.
“LOOK OUT! BE CAREFUL!” Which I would if I could, only I don’t know where I’m looking or What I’m even looking out for!
“WHAT IS IT?! Is it poisonous? Will it bite?” rapid fire eeeeeewwwwww kinds-of-questions confront me…
I follow her gaze through the darkness to the baseboards and meet the biggest, baddest, fiercest and most fabulously colored Texas sized BUG I’d ever seen! Back and forth it crawls. Makes progress scaling the well-oiled 1970’s wood paneled veneer, and then loses its grip.
“It’s a Caterpillar, it won’t harm you – unless you eat it”
“EWWWWW!!!” she shrieks and giggles – and is gone. “Don’t go anywhere!” she yells. Cupboards open in the kitchen behind me, “what are you doing.” In response the outside door slams shut; and slams again a few moments later. She is by my side, cup in one hand and a fistful of leaves in the other.
You see, the Easter promise is this: Even as we wander half-asleep; filled with doubt; feeling incapable, overwhelmed or even paralyzed by worry God in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit is already at work in and through our lives and the lives of others rolling the stones away and freeing us to live life fully for who we are.
As the Mary’s arrive, they find the stone rolled away. They are filled with excitement and fear, awe and anxiety, wonder and a whole new kind of worry – how can this be? What does this mean? Where have they taken his body?
They are greeted by a young man, a messenger, perhaps an angel. “Do not be alarmed or afraid!” Go on, see for yourselves. Look all you want God, Christ, Spirit, love and authentic life is not found in walled up places, scary closets, dead ends, empty rooms, emotional tombs, busyness, worry, anger, regret, anxiety or fear.
And so there I find myself; face pressed against the cold dusty floor. Leaves and cup lovingly placed near the little critter.
We wait. “I know you feel lost, with nowhere to belong and just want to hide. I bet you are hungry.” She shares its story; her story; their story woven together with each little breath. Hungry, afraid, alone; poor, brave little caterpillar; “You were abandoned by mommy; separated from daddy who wants to be with you but is stuck in prison.” Go on little caterpillar. Take your time. Break my heart.
Whether by accident or instinct – the caterpillar moves beyond the dark shadows, artificial barriers, man-made lifeless places of false security; it moves nearer, and around and on the periphery and finally into the fragile little cup. “YEAH! You’d never be strong enough to fly if you stayed down here my little butterfly!!” I’m right there, and still have not fully caught up with her. Ever so gently and lovingly she raises it up and carries it out to be free where it truly belongs.
Like vibrant leaves placed against well-oiled, lifeless artifices; Easter’s power is found as God’s grace interrupts our futile paths and invites us to experience this eternal hope of life resurrected once more.
Easter’s power is found in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the promise extended in, through and with him to everyone.
Easter’s power is found in God’s love, hope and light being resurrected in us, through us and with us as we rise and go not knowing who will roll away the stone!
“Who will roll away the stone?” God will! Who will lead? Christ is! Who will guide the way? I pray - the Holy Spirit who lifts us up, breathes new life into us and drives us further on this journey than we could ever hope or imagine! We are the resurrection as we embrace and live in the light and make a way for others to do so.
I end this morning with the words of Marianne Williamson who eloquently encapsulates Easter’s promise and resurrection’s power: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world… as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”