Saturday, April 11, 2009

"Who Will Roll Away the Stone For Us?"

The Great Vigil of Easter – Year B (RCL)
Romans 6:3-11; Psalm 114; Mark 16:1-8
Saturday, April 11, 2009 – Trinity, Redlands

“Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”

As they were walking to the tomb to anoint the dead body of their teacher and master, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome idly speculated how they would be able to get into the tomb. After all, a large stone would be blocking the entrance, inhibiting their passage to accomplish their task. This would have been of great concern to them. “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”

Little did the women who went to Jesus’ tomb know the profundity of their question. Little did they know that this seemingly innocuous question would actually be one of the most significant theological questions of all time.

Throughout human history, we have sought to be in relationship with the God that created us. As we heard in the Vigil, in the stories of salvation history, throughout human history, God has sought to be in relationship with us, to have us be His children, and Him to be our God. But in our limited human capacities, we were blocked from entering into relationship, at least on a permanent basis. While God continually sought us, and we continually entered into covenant with him, we were not able to maintain the relationship. Ultimately, the problem was sin. As the biblical writers saw, sin is “an ever-present reality that enslaves the human race and has corrupted God’s created order” (Harper Collins Bible Dictionary). Sin is separation from God, because sin is ultimately any action that goes against God, God’s laws, God’s creation, God’s covenant, and God’s purposes.

In order to permanently establish and maintain the covenant relationship between God and humanity, something had to be done about sin. Get rid of sin and the rest takes care of itself. So God sent His Son, Jesus, to take care of the problem of sin. God sent His Son to break the bonds of sin that had enslaved humanity, and thereby created a barrier between God and His beloved creation. That’s what this past week has been about. During this Holy Week, we have witnessed the systematic process of the destruction of sin, of the breaking of the bond that sin has held on humanity since the beginning of creation. We witnessed as Jesus, Son of God who was without sin, was betrayed by one of his friends, was put on trial that could only be considered a perversion of justice, was beaten, was sentenced to death, was crucified, and was buried. And tonight, we witness the culmination of this process. We witness the fulfillment of God’s plan for the destruction of sin and the resulting salvation for all humanity. We witness Christ, risen from the dead, thereby defeating sin and death. And in so doing, we witness Christ paving the way for us to enter into eternal life, into permanent, unbroken relationship with God for all time.

So how do we receive this gift of new and eternal life, freed from the bonds of sin? We do it by entering the tomb – the tomb where the dead body of Jesus has been lain, the tomb where Christ has risen from death. But how? “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”

The Good News is that we don’t need to worry about that. The stone has already been rolled away. Jesus saw to that with his death and resurrection. All we have to do is walk in and be received by the Risen One. We do that when we enter into the waters of baptism. Through baptism, we enter into the tomb. By going down into the waters of baptism, we die to our old, sinful way of life. In so doing, we share in Christ’s death. By rising up from the waters of baptism, we are born to new and eternal life, cleansed from the stain of sin. In so doing, we share in Christ’s resurrection.

In our Gospel lesson, a group of women made their way to Christ’s tomb, wondering “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” Tonight, another group of women approaches the tomb. Tonight, four members of our community – Terry, Aeriel, Brianna, and Amanda – approach the tomb, seeking to enter, to see their Lord and Master, to be welcomed by the Risen Christ. But these four women do not need to worry about who will roll away the stone from the entrance of the tomb. The previous occupant has already done that, in anticipation of their arrival. The risen Christ has rolled away the stone just for them. In a few moments, these women will step into that tomb. They will enter the waters of baptism, willingly choosing to die to self and to rise to new life with Christ and in Christ. In so doing, they will emerge from the tomb, full members of the Body of Christ. They will become the newest members of the Christian community, of this community of faith. They will share in the promise of eternal life given to us all at the time of our own baptisms.

In this life of faith, we are beset by many questions, many uncertainties. But unlike Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, one question we need not worry about is “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” That has been accomplished this night. That has been accomplished by Christ, resurrected for our sake, breaking the bonds of sin and death, providing for us the precious gift of new and eternal life in him. And to that we joyfully respond:

Alleluia, Christ is Risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

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