Easter in Plain Sight: Stones

The Sunday Sermon: April 4, 2021 – Easter Sunday

Scripture: Luke 24:1-9

Easter in Plain Sight:  Stones

Why do we look for the living among the dead?  We’ve asked this question for many years together, you and I.  And we’ve asked the question of others long before we met.  How many Easters has it been for you?  Fifty-six for me.  I don’t remember them all.  And, if I’m more honest, I don’t remember many of them.  I mean, I remember they happened, but I don’t really remember them.  And even with the few that stick out in my mind because of family visits, worldly events, or some other anomaly, every year I quickly forget to stop looking for the living among the dead, and I start doing it all over again. 

Seeking a better life from a bigger house. 

Seeking a richer life through more money. 

Seeking a more meaningful life by becoming more “woke”. 

None of which are bad pursuits in and of themselves, but they’re not the way to Life, to living.  Life and living is what happens while we’re busy trying to make Life and living happen. 

Maybe this year will be an Easter we remember.  Not one we just remember happening, but one where we remember what happened and how we touched something more holy, more sacred, more alive.  The pandemic continues to keep us apart.  Last year Easter was our second drive-in service.  This year it’s our 2nd Annual one.  Maybe this year we’ll remember Easter for that.  Or maybe we’ll remember it because this year we’ve discovered it … in plain sight.

Pray with me.  And listen for the Word of God.  Read Luke 24:1-9.  The Word of the Lord.  Thanks be to God.

Why do we keep looking for the living among the dead?  This year during Lent, anticipating this Easter question, we attempted to do something different.

For forty days and six Sundays, forty-six total days, we have been looking for and finding God and heaven on earth in plain sight.  This year during Lent we engaged a thin devotional book entitled Lent in Plain Sight .  The author of our book, Jill Duffield, explains in her introduction that “God works through (and so, is found in) the ordinary.”  Ordinary people, everyday objects, things we bump up against moment by moment.  She chose every day, ordinary objects for us to explore and we did so with six, one on each Sunday and in the week that followed:  Bread, the cross, coins, shoes, oil, and coats.

The questions we asked in our Sunday school Zoom meetings and in our time of recorded and drive-in worship were:  Do we have the eyes to see God’s near presence?  Do we have the ears to hear the word of the Lord spoken in and through the ordinary everyday?  Will we open ourselves to the holy not only in heaven but also on earth and right in front of us?  Can everyday objects remind us to stay awake and pay attention?  In other words, Can we, will we, do we have the courage, and would we find the time, to actually look for the living … among the living?

I’ll answer that question for us, too.  We did, we do.  We are.

Jill Duffield didn’t end the discoveries she implored us make as Lent ended.  She offered one more … for this day, Easter day.  Stones … I am to preach and you are to hear a sermon about stones!

Now, in my 21 years of ordained ministry, I have preached Easter sermons from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  I have preached about, or from the perspective of, Mary Magdalene, the other Mary, and Salome; Peter, the disciples, and even “the” other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, but who is unnamed.  I’ve spoken words through the mouths of angels in dazzling clothes, a “young man in a white robe”, frightened guards, a gardener, and of course, Jesus himself … Greetings!

But I’ve never preached an Easter sermon on a stone.

I’ve preached from so many different perspectives and about so many different circumstances because nowhere are the four Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life more famously different than in their accounts of the discovery of the empty tomb on what became Easter morning.  These accounts don’t agree on the number of women, the number of angels, the timing of the tomb’s opening, the appearance or absence of Jesus, the message entrusted to those who were “first to arrive,” and more. 

Stalwart Christians have forsaken their faith, and would-be Christians have never claimed it, because they came to believe that the discrepancies among the Gospel accounts constituted “disproof” of the church’s claim of a risen Lord.  We continue to teach preach that the “particular form in which the news of Resurrection arrives” is not the news itself.  We continue to preach that Resurrection is the object of our faith, not the way it first arrived.  Still … there is an incredible difference in the Gospel accounts.

But … and I wonder if any of you know where I’ve been heading for the last two or three minutes …

Do you know at least one thing that all four gospels include?  One thing that all four Gospel accounts agree on?  That the stone that blocked the entrance to the tomb had been, or was, “rolled away”, “rolled back”, or “removed.”  All four.

(You’re gonna look it up, I know.  You should.  Margaret Hill is looking it up right now!  It’s there …) 

The presence of this “ordinary object,” large as it must have been, is found in all four gospel accounts of the discovery of the empty tomb.  Now, I know … I’ve preached, and I still believe that the empty tomb, itself, is no proof of Resurrection.  The experience of Resurrection happens after this discovery.  But in order for resurrection to happen at all in our lives, the tombs – the “holders of the death” in our lives must be emptied.  And in order for the tombs to be emptied, the stones that seal them must be rolled away … rolled back … removed.

I’ve never preached an Easter sermon about a rock.  Until now.  (Maybe that’s why we’ll remember Easter this year!)  Easter in plain sight … stones.  So …

What are the stones in your life that keep you from emptying the tombs of your life that would you to experience the living among the living?

Anger, greed, suspicion, fear, prejudice, hate, ignorance, grief (that’s a big one), worry, anxiety, sadness, jealously, envy, depression, despair, shame.

We could pave a road with the stones that seal life away from itself.

Disgust, rage, loneliness, annoyance, indifference, boredom, discomfort, laziness, helplessness, hopelessness, resentment, sickness.

These are the stones that seal Resurrection Life away.  Identify them in your life and … roll them away …  roll them back … remove them from the Easter promise of God for new life, eternal life, Resurrection life. 

Imagine as you see stones today, and because of today as you see them from now on, that you have the promise of God and the power of the Risen Christ, of Love Incarnate, so you may roll back those things that are sealing your own heart off to abundant Life and wasteful Love.  Move those stones, surround yourself with others who will help you remove them, and be reminded of today – Easter Day.  Know that the tomb is empty and Resurrection is coming.

All of us experience seemingly immovable stones in our lives.  Today, we discover them rolled away, rolled back, and removed.  In all four gospels and in our own lives.  Death does not have the last word.  Christ is alive!

Let us pray …

Living God, today we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and the new life that is ours in Christ.  The stones that block the entrances to your Promise have been removed, forever.  Open our eyes to see new life and our hearts to share new love.  Morning has Broken.  Your re-creation of the new day.  Amen.

And amen.

Reverend Joel Weible, Pastor

Pewee Valley Presbyterian Church / Easter Sunday – April 4, 2021