Praise the Lord on this Easter morning when we celebrate another anniversary of an empty tomb. He is not here was the cry, He is risen Hallelujah. My brothers and sisters in Christ this is a day to glorify and praise the Lord. Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord.
Obviously, somebody did say something to someone eventually, for if they had not, there would be no Christian church and no celebration of Easter over these past two thousand years. But don’t you imagine, had you been those women — standing in an empty tomb, spices in hand, ready to care for a dead body — if you had been one of those women on that morning, don’t you think you also might have fled in terror and amazement, saying nothing?
These women had come to the tomb prepared to care for a dead body. They wanted only to be of service, to apply ointment to the wounds after the damage of violence and fear had already been done. They had come thinking that their leader had died for a good cause. He was a good man, a great teacher, a charismatic leader and now, like so many of his kind who give hope to the poor and the despairing, he had been killed by those in power. To them who were with Him, He was their Lord and Saviour and so today we go back in time and journey with these women to the tomb.
He was a good man and now he was dead. But they wanted to honour Him. To pay homage to Him, by giving Him some dignity in death. The question on their lips that morning was nothing profoundly theological or philosophical. It was not about the meaning of his life or what they should do to carry out his mission. The question on their lips was a practical one.Who will roll away the stone for us? The women wanted to anoint the body, but the stone in front of the tomb was very large.
Who will roll away the stone for us?
Perhaps this is our question as well on this Easter morning. We, too, have come to pay homage to a great teacher, a charismatic leader, a good man. We come to give honour to Jesus, but we also come with questions on our lips.
Who will roll away the stone for us?
Who will roll away the stone of sorrow from the dark tomb of our losses? Who?
Who will roll away the stone of bitterness from the dark tomb of our failures? Who?
Who will roll away the stone of cynicism from the dark tomb of our jaded vision of the world? Who?
Who will roll away the stone of indifference from the dark tomb of the world’s suffering? Who?
Who will roll away the stone of grief from the dark tomb of our broken hearts and broken relationships? Who?
Who will roll away the stone of hatred, jealousy and bitterness from the dark tomb of our selfishness? Who?
When we arrive in church this morning we are still part of a Good Friday world. A world where terrorists feel no regret for massive loss of life as in Brussels this week; and military leaders argue about strategies for war while our sons and daughters put their lives on the line and children are dying in the Africa under the hands of wicked regime at alarming rates. A Good Friday world where our own lives know the heartache of death, the agony of failure, the misery of broken spirits, and the shame of our own worst capacities.
Maybe we have lost jobs or loved ones; or maybe we have hurt and been hurt; or maybe we have grown cynical about the future or joyless in the present.
How can we open the large, dark tombs of our lives that hold all our sorrow and anxiety and brokenness and loss? How can we open the large, dark tombs of the world that hold humanity’s lowest moments and worst cruelties?
Who among us doesn’t know how heavy the stone is that seals in the anguish of our lives? Who? Are we so caught up in our own actions and fail to see the blockade of our deliverance this Easter morning? Who will roll away the stone for us?
So, like the women, we come with this question on our breath, Who will roll away the stone for us? You are at a place where your decision matters and what will be the results. We are weak this morning and we need help. All of us are in the same position this morning and we need the help of someone. Who will roll away the stone for us?
And yet, if we come asking, Who will roll away the stone for us? Then don’t we also come with a glimmer of hope? Underneath the question there lurks a desire to dare to trust; to trust that there is an Easter morning power that can roll away the biggest stone and empty the darkest tomb and let in the light shine inside.
When the women looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back.
My brothers and sisters, friends and well-wishers, believe the good news of the gospel: God can roll away the stones that have sealed our world and our souls in sin and grief and loss. The sins of fornication, adultery, cheating, lying, accusers of the brethren, homosexuality, drunkenness, are some of the thing in our lives that have been rolled away. Now we can see the light shinning and the faith that gave us the answer this morning is powerful. We can see the shinning hope, beauty and grace that covers every believer.
The tomb is empty! Love is stronger than death! Forgiveness is deeper than sin! The truth of God is more powerful than the lies of the world! Evil does not have the last word! Christ is risen. And we are invited into the astonishing mystery of the Spirit of God. Alleluia!
When the women arrived at the tomb, the stone was already gone. They didn’t have to do anything except show up to witness it. God had already done the work of rolling back the stone. God had already made a way where there was no way. Oh, believers all I am asking you this morning is to show up and testify. The stone is rolled away.
Are we ready to show up? Are we ready to bear witness to God’s power to roll away the stones guarding the hurts and pains of our lives? Oh the trust is broken and it left us “sour”, but there is hope today. The stone is rolled away.
Or maybe we are also like the women in that we are really here today to pay homage to a dead man. A good man, but one long gone. We can continue to honour Him, to worship in His Name and try to live as He taught. We can ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” and we can teach our children stories about His love. We can serve Him well, this dead man, just as those first women came to serve Him one last time on that first Easter morning.
But what if we are asked to do more than give honour to a great teacher? What if we are challenged to do more than pass on an ethic of love and justice which He showed us? What if we are called to believe that, in Christ, God was turning the world upside-down and inside-out? What if we are asked to believe that, through Him, God has given us the power to overcome every form of death we know, in this world and the next?
What Easter asks us to accept is that Christ did not leave the world, but continues to be present in it, through a death-defying power that can overcome every kind of tomb we encounter in our lives. The resurrection of Jesus from the grave on Easter morning defies our logic. It offends our intelligence. It refuses to make sense. Now I don’t know about you — maybe your faith is more pure and simple than mine and doesn’t get hung up on a desire for intelligible details — but I find this kind of hard to swallow.
And you know what? I think that is the point.
God is not anti-intellectual or we would not have been created with these marvelous machines inside our heads, nor would we be instructed to love God with all our mind and heart and strength.
But I do think that God understands that just as we can get misled by the confusing emotions of our hearts, we can also be misled by the logical leanings of our minds. That, in fact, if left to our own devices, we would be pretty darn (to mend a hole) sure that we could figure out just about any problem in the world, given enough information and enough time to think. The problem is, we have plenty of signs of human intelligence around — from space ships to computer chips — but not many signs that we’ve figured out how to function really well in the world. Our brains have yet to save us.
Nothing possible can save us. If there were something reasonable and natural and logical that could heal our broken hearts and restore our broken world, we would have come up with it. But it wasn’t possible. It took an impossibility to do that. An impossibly incredible event that breaks into our everyday world and breaks through our best attempts at self-sovereignty and breaks through our aspirations after truth that makes sense and stakes its claim.
Nothing possible can save us.
Nothing possible can roll away the stone.
Nothing possible can bring light into darkness and life into death.
So something impossible had to happen.
He has been raised. He is not here.
That is the impossible message the women heard when they dared to look past the rolled back stone. They looked in the tomb and saw a young man where the dead Jesus had been and he shared a startling message with them: He has been raised. He is not here. … He is going ahead of you to Galilee. There you will see him.
He is going ahead of you to Galilee. There you will see him.
This is the key to our Easter morning promise. Your mystery is unfolded this morning. This is your Mystical key to your service for Him. The women did not hear that Jesus was raised to sit at the right hand of God on some throne in some far away heaven. What they heard was much more radical. He is going ahead of you to Galilee. There you will see him.
Where is Galilee? Galilee is where these disciples came from. It was their home. It was the place where they had families and jobs and ordinary routines. It was not Jerusalem — the Holy City, the center of power — but Galilee, the place of everyday life.
Go back to your ordinary, every day lives. Go back to where your jobs and your families are. That’s where Jesus will meet you. That’s where you’ll find Him and be empowered by Him. Go back and continue this story. This is not the end; God’s business is not finished. This is the beginning. This is where your work begins. This is where your life begins. My brothers and sisters you began with The Mystical Order and here is your Galilee. Go back and there you will meet Him and be witnesses of Him.
This is the message of Easter to us. Don’t stand at a tomb, paying homage to a dead teacher. Don’t set your sights on simply putting ointment on wounds already taken care of. Go back to the place where you live your life and meeting the Living Saviour there. Go to meet the God who chooses to walk among us with a power greater than all the powers that can ravage us and ruin us and lead us to despair. Go to meet the Christ who cannot be stopped by the world’s intolerance or fear or violence or greed. Go to Galilee, go home, to the place where God has planted you and find Christ there, continuing to rise above the wrecks of human injustice, day after day.
Christ is alive and my brothers and sisters, that means that we can also live. We don’t need to just exist in a dog-eat-dog world; we don’t need to just get by. We don’t need to be fighting one another for the same cause of Christ. We can live; because when we have the courage to go to Galilee and meet the Living Lord, then we are given the power to live a life that will not be stopped by meaninglessness or loneliness or hatred or injustice or disease or poverty or anything else in all creation.
We can enter the reality of the empty tomb. A reality that overturns the fears of this world; a truth which overrides everything, everything that goes against the love of God. We have to stop the swearing, fighting, backbiting, hatred and take God at His promise.
The Easter promise is that God’s business was not finished in a tomb long ago. The Easter promise is that the same Jesus who could not be held back by torture, by death, by stones rolled in front of tombs, is the Jesus who is alive today and here today and available today to live in you, to rescue you and heal you and empower you and set you free from any tomb you’ve ever known.
Who will roll away the stone for us?
God has already done it.
Christ is alive in our world and waiting to meet us. Alleluia!
Father we thank you for hearing us this morning and rolling away the stone for us. We are nothing but filthy rags and dead men boned. God have mercy on us and hear our cry. The stone is rolled away and we are free to look inside the tomb. Free us from all fears and things that weigh us down. Show us the way and lead us to the rock that is higher that I. Amen
Your servant and brother,
+ Sir Godfrey Gregg
Archbishop and Presiding Prelate
Administrator and Apostolic Head
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