Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"Who will roll it away?", Mark 16:1-8, Easter 2013

Who doesn't love easter egg hunts? We all have memories, either as a young child or as a parent of a young child, that involved easter egg hunting. Unfortunately now many communities and schools refuse to call it an "easter egg hunt" and prefer to us the more PC term "spring egg hunt." Theres even been some talk of canceling the traditional White House Easter Egg hunt, which has been in existence for 135 years!, because it is seen as the State sponsoring a religious event. Really....Easter Egg hunting is a religious event? I know finding as many eggs filled with candy and prizes one can possibly find can be a bit euphoric for little children, but as a religious experience I think it is lacking. 

You've got to admit the good ole easter egg hunt has transformed over the years. How many of you can remember hunting for or your children hunting for real eggs? How many of you remember dyeing those eggs and the count less stains in, on and around the kitchen, clothing and of course your hands? Now those real eggs have been replaced with a petroleum based plastic shell filled with candy and other surprises. I can't say I'm disappointed about this, other than the symbolic issues, science and medicine have shown us that consuming eggs, boiled or not, that have sat around at room temperature for several hours can be a detriment to our health.

Eggs have for centuries been symbolic of new birth and in the Christian tradition that new birth is the new birth provided thought the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Each egg we crack open reminds us of the tomb being "cracked open" the fait-filled and faith-filled morning and of course the new birth we have with that. In pagan traditions the egg is more about the new birth that takes place through pro-creation, both the pro-creation of live stock and humans....this is why lambs, bunnies, ducks and chicks are all "easter" symbols too. In fact the word easter comes from the Greek word "Estros" and the worship of  Estroth a pagan fertility goddess of which we get or modern english word Estrogen. All in all Easter is about newness, new birth and most important a new life for those who trust in Jesus.

Our passage this week opens with three ladies heading to the tomb were Jesus was laid just three day earlier. I'm sure it had been a whorl wind of a time for them. Things had gone from great to terrible in less than a week. They were headed to ceremonially anoint Jesus' corps, I'm sure thinking and talking about all that ha happened and what was ahead when the realized, or remembered that an enormous rock had been rolled in front of the tomb sealing it. They figured it would take several grown men to roll that stone away and so the question was posed, "who will roll away the stone?" Here we have a serious problem, three little women, one big rock and again more lost hope. Yet despite the realization that they would not be able to roll away the stone they continue anyway. Was it faith, was it persistence, was it a lack of anything better to do? I don't know, but for whatever reason they continue on their journey. When they arrived they were astonished to find that the stone had been rolled away. All that worry and despair and fret had all been for no avail because someone had rolled away the stone!! As they proceed into the tomb they found that the tomb was empty and were then told that Jesus was not there because he had risen and that they needed to go tell the others. Stone rolled away, tomb empty, lives changed the story of easter. But who rolled away the stone? The bible doesn't say in Mark who had done it, we assume it was the angel in the empty tomb, but Mark is silent on this fact. All we know is that they had their resurrection experience because someone rolled away the stone for them.

I've spent much of my adult life prior to full time ministry working with youth who had "gone the wrong way."In the professional social work field they are referred to as "at-risk." They are at risk for becoming non-productive and burdensome members of our society, they are also at-risk of losing their lives and souls. I've worked at three different residential treatment centers since graduating form college. Each one had similar but different kids, some where all boys homes others were co-ed homes, but one thing remained true...they needed help, they needed someone to roll away the stone! Truth is none of us ever get to the right place in life, none of us ever experience God in life, none of us ever meet the resurrected Jesus without the help of others...someone must be there in order to roll away the stone. Then and only then can we truly experience the risen Christ! Who has rolled away the stone for you so that you can have a resurrection experience? Who have you rolled the stone away for so that they can have a resurrection experience...new life in the spirit, new life in the flesh, radically changed hearts and minds...that is a resurrection experience...who have you helped to have that?!

In Serra Leon, a county in Eastern Africa, there is a strong United Methodist Presents. Last year we were fortunate enough to have a missionary to that country come and speak at one of our UMW meetings. She spoke of the miscarriage of justice that women face in that nation. They are totally and completely dependent on their husbands. If they are unmarried they have nothing, if their husband dies they have nothing, it's very sad. She spoke of one women who's husband died and his family took everything, even her children. She was left homeless and friendless and worst of all hopeless. She had no money, no family and no way of working (women are not allowed to work at most jobs). The United Methodist Church was able to step in and help her. They have a program in Serra Leon that provides micro loans to women so that they can start up cottage industries like sowing, cooking and cleaning. Within a year this women paid back her loan, expanded her business, got her home back and she got her children back too. The United Methodist church and it's missionary presents in Serra Leon rolled away the stone for that women and allowed her to have a resurrection moment...stone rolled away, empty tomb, changed lives. Resurrection moments do not have to be all the same, they do not have to be all spiritual, but one thing is true they all change lives. May you have a life changing resurrection moment this easter.

Resurrection Blessing,
Pastor Josh

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