"ROLL THE STONE AWAY!" - SERMON ON MARK 16:1-8 - REV. JOSEPH C. ALSAY, ST. AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Late Friday night, I had a poignant discussion with one of our beloved members about the number of liturgical services that have emotionally impacted him, and the way he now looks at life itself.
He mentioned it was the first time he attended our evening Good Friday service, and what happen at the end of that solemn liturgy took him by utter surprise. “Do you know what it was?” It was the “Sealing of the Doors of the Church.” More specifically, the great boom or thud that occur when the sepulcher stone is slammed against those wooden doors.
It marks the end of our evening service and symbolizes the finality of death.
The scriptures tell us the women go to the tomb early in the morning. They walk together as the crimson hues of sunrise line the sky, Salome with a jar of spices in her hands, the smell wafting around them. They are not silent. How can we accomplish our mission to anoint the body of Jesus, they ask one another, if a stone is in the way?
It is not an ordinary stone. Rather it is megas in Greek — very large — and far too heavy for even the three of them to push together. The stone, in its concreteness, conceals a particular death, the death of the one with whom they have walked and talked, with whom they have seen both miracles and suffering. It is the symbol of the finality of a closed door, the end of a great hope, and the place behind which flesh and bone have breath no more.
The women therefore come with the expectation that they must “do something,” only to find it has already been done. God has not asked the impossible from them. On the contrary, God has made the impossible…. Possible.
Theologian N.T. Wright notes, “The resurrection completes the inauguration of God’s kingdom…it is the decisive event demonstrating that God’s kingdom really has been launched on earth as it is in heaven.”
Easter, is therefore a time for each of us to ask God to remove the stony places of our hearts and replace them with tablets of flesh onto which God can write his law.
Easter, is a time to dismantle pervasive barriers we erect that keep us unresponsive to God’s love can be removed.
Easter, is a time to destroying the large stones of sickness and sin.
Easter, is a time to remove the hard stones of injustice and bigotry.
Easter, is a time to abolish the insipid stones of war and violence.
For God has already rolled the stone away; accomplished it and opened up the way.
~Rev. Joseph C. Alsay, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
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