The Word This Weekend – April 16, 2017
“Easter: Behind the Stone”
The Rev. Dr. William L. Hurst
FLCS Senior Pastor
On the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. (Luke 24:1-3)
Easter begins with death. Let’s just say it.
Before we can enter into the joy and liberty of the resurrection, we have to contend with the many forces and failures that led to the Cross. Erstwhile friends and ensconced enemies, Pagan crucifiers and weak-kneed supporters, miscarriages of justice and failures of nerve – all conspire to form the event we call the Passion. And in the midst of it all, hanging there against the darkening sky, the Lamb of God who willingly submits to a lonely, redemptive and salvific death.
Yes, death. Death and burial, sealed away in a stone cold tomb. As Friday’s Sabbath dawns, and Christ’s faulty followers trudge home in obedience to the laws of Torah, the lifeless remains of the Lord of Life lay still behind the Stone.
“Who will roll the stone?” So say the women. Religious duty compels them, as does the grief that often needs to cling to the departed, to hold the deathly cold hand, to kiss the stony cheek. To know it was real. Such is what they imagine and anticipate on that dark pre-dawn Sunday, lugging their ointments and cloths, a Sabbath late and a shekel short.
And, as we now well know, what awaits them behind the stone is the last thing they would ever have expected, in spite of the repeated predictions of the now slain Messiah. “On the third day the Son of Man will rise,” is the last thing on their hearts, lips or minds. Yet there it is, behind the stone – new life from old, new hope from grief, new possibilities and a brand new mission in his name.
What’s behind the stone for you this Paschal Season? What deaths lie there, pleading to be bandaged, bound or anointed? What are the regrets, the missed opportunities, the “I love you’s” left unspoken or unlived? What cherished hatreds, convictions left untested, judgments unexamined? Too many foreheads kissed, in my book, too many cold hands grasped, too many friends lost beyond the pale, lying there behind the stone.
And that’s my hope for you and me this Eastertide – that we’ll begin as they did, by acknowledging all that has fallen and grown fallow, all the ways we’ve failed and all the ones we’ve lost. All that haunts us behind the stone.
Because that’s where Easter begins, and that’s where the resurrected life finds both its genesis and its deathless power. As the great old hymn says:
Early hasten to the tomb,
where they laid his lifeless clay
All is solitude and gloom –
“who will bear the stone away?”
Christ is risen! He meets our eyes
Savior, teach us so to rise!
I look forward to joining with you at worship throughout these sacred days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the celebrations of Easter, as we follow along the oh-so-shrouded events of the Passion that lead to the joy that awaits behind (and beyond) the stone. May the grace of the Son of God, inscribed in cruciform on our heads and our hearts, inspire and lead us to draw strength for the work of the kingdom in our own day, resting in the gifts of Water, Word and Table. May the Paschal walk be productive in our lives and our witness, that we might come to resolutely trust in his saving hope, as we emerge with Him from behind the stone!
With You in God’s Good Work,