Roll Away the Stone

Randall Tremba
April 8, 2012
Easter Sunday
Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church

Mark 16:1-8
And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?"

* * *

Forty days ago, just as the Lenten season began, the world Paula and I had known for nearly 35 years, fell apart. An early morning phone call announcing our son’s arrest for criminal activity shattered our world like a massive earthquake. A stone rolled over our hearts. We felt as good as dead—not unlike the women trudging to anoint the dead body of Jesus and to mourn the loss of their once bright world.

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene and other women bought spices to anoint Jesus. And so very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. On the way they said to one another, "Who will roll away the stone?"

And then they looked up and saw that the large stone had already been rolled away. They entered the tomb and saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were frightened.

"Do not be frightened,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth. He is not here. He has been raised. Look, there is the place they laid him. Go now and tell his disciples that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see him there, just as he told you."

So the women went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them. They said nothing to any one for they were afraid.

There ends not only the gospel lesson for today but there ends the entire Gospel according to Mark. It ends with three words: They were afraid. And why not? An empty tomb by itself doesn’t tell you much.

Forty days ago, the world Paula and I had known was shattered. I’ll never forget that day. It was the last day of February. It was cold, dark and rainy. It felt like the end of the world. And it was. The world we had known for 35 years was over.

Little did we know that it was also the beginning of a new world. Little did we know that morning would break—again—like the first morning born of the sunlight Eden saw play—God’s re-creation of a new day.

No, it wasn’t the world we wanted—not in a million years. But, then, none of us get the world we want. We do, however, often get the world we need.

At the moment our son’s future is foreboding but not without hope. In case you hadn’t heard, you have to go through Good Friday to get to Easter. And neither, by the way, is over and done on a single day with only one day in between. Our own “Good Fridays” and “Easters” may take a while.

Resurrection, as it turns out, is not much different than Creation. Resurrection like Creation is a gift of the mothering Spirit, a gift not of our own making. She broods over chaos and calls forth beauty, light of darkness, life out of death—time and time again. Why? Because God is love and love never ends.

It true: love never ends.

But faith does.

When the night is long and fears arise to haunt us, it’s easy to forget that love never ends. At times it’s hard to believe. It just is. It was getting hard for me to believe that love never ends.

And then, this past Wednesday afternoon, right in the middle of Holy Week, three ordinary but practical things came forth—surprises really—but each made the present far more bearable and the future far less grim. An empty tomb doesn’t tell you much; but those three things given in love were saying something I couldn’t quite hear.

And then that night out of the blue I heard a song.

When the rain is blowing in your face

And the whole world is on your case

I will offer you a warm embrace

To make you feel my love

That song was written long ago for someone else but this week it was meant for us—and perhaps someone else sitting here this morning. Life is hard, sometimes very, very hard. But something else is true: grace abounds—sometimes in a Bob Dylan song sung by Adele on a television show.

If you’ve lived more than 12 years on this planet, you know there are times when all you want to do is crawl in a hole, curl up and die. I know many of you have been in that hole; some more than once.

Sometimes it feels like the only safe place to be after you or your world has been crucified. I for one would understand if you never ever wanted to leave that hole.

But let me tell you this: sooner or later the Beloved Christ will find you. Love will roll the stone away.

When the evening shadows and the stars appear

And there is no one there to dry your tears

I could hold you for a million years

To make you feel my love

I know you haven’t made your mind up yet

But I would never do you wrong

I’ve known it from the moment that we met

No doubt in my mind where you belong

Stay in there, if you must, says the Beloved. I know you haven’t made your mind up yet. But I just want you to know where you belong. So if you can, come take my hand and walk this road with me.

I know, says the Beloved. I know it’s not the world we wanted. It’s thirsty, it’s hungry, it’s broken, it’s hurting, it’s lost, scared and guilty but it’s the only world we have and it needs to be loved. It’s felt enough condemnation. It needs to feel our love.

I’d go hungry, I’d go black and blue

I’d go crawling down the avenue

There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do

To make you feel my love

The storms are raging on the rollin’ sea

And on the highway of regret

The winds of change are blowing wild and free

You ain’t seen nothing like me yet

I could make you happy,
make your dreams come true

Nothing that I wouldn’t do

Go to the ends of the earth for you

To make you feel my love

And that’s what we felt out of the blue this past Wednesday night just a few days before Easter. I’m pretty sure there’s a lot more to the Resurrection of Jesus than that but there’s at least that much. And for now I’m taking it. And you’re welcome to take it, too.