The first garden I planted was in the corner of a church parking lot.
It hadn’t been landscaped yet, and so, with permission, I got out my shovel to turn the earth.
It was decent soil, having grass and leaves and other composting material on it for years.
But like so much of New England, it was full of rocks.
I dug them out, one after one, and piled them up on the back side of the plot.
But in one section of the garden, my spade kept hitting stone.
I’d move my shovel a foot, and still strike stone.
The hard material covered several square feet, and I started to wonder if I’d hit concrete.
But with further digging, I realized I uncovered a tombstone –sized rock,
six inches thick, three feet wide, and two feet tall.
I struggled to get underneath it—digging, digging— but it was incredibly heavy.
In the end all I could do was force one end of the ground, planting it like a monument,
and garden around it.
The stones in my garden remind me of the obstacles that we encounter in life.
Many of them are surmountable—
challenges that may require perseverance and learning, but that we can work with.
Other things in life, however, seem like the tombstone rock—
so big and heavy that we cannot move it.
That was the situation that early morning when the women went to Jesus’ tomb.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, Mary the mother of James, and Salome
were part of the wider group of disciples who had followed Jesus and supported his ministry over the years.
They had stayed at the cross for hours, witnessing Jesus’ gruesome death.
If the horror of seeing their beloved Teacher in pain and dying wasn’t bad enough,
they had also been deserted by all the other disciples who had run away, fearing for their lives.
All was lost—the community, the ministry, the hope of a new way to live.
It was like a huge rock had crushed them, blocking any way forward.
But the women needed to anoint Jesus’ body.
A large stone had been rolled in front of the opening of the tomb where Jesus had been laid.
Rounded on the edges, it would have weighed hundreds of pounds.
It would take several strong men to move it.
There was no way three women could do it.
“Who will roll the stone away?” They asked one another.
Who will roll the stone away?
It’s a question we ask ourselves when we come up against obstacles too great to bear.
Who will remove the rock hard resentments that block the human heart?
Who will remove the stones of indifference that cut off compassion and care?
Who will remove the rubble that blocks the entry to opportunity or the fear that turns everything to stone?
The obstacles are so huge, we can’t see over them.
I wonder why the women went to the tomb when they wouldn’t be able to get in.
Perhaps they hoped they would see someone who could help them.
Perhaps they just needed to try to do this one last thing for Jesus, even if they couldn’t complete the act.
Whatever their reason, the women went anyway.
And this is where I think we can find some clues for the times when we are up against a rock and a hard place,
when we do not know where to turn,
when sadness and hopelessness threaten to overwhelm us.
Even though the women didn’t have a way forward, it didn’t stop them from showing up.
Even though their hearts were broken, their feet still knew the way to the tomb.
Their instinct was to try to carry on, and their question was a cry for help.
In our hardest times, this is all that is required of us.
We are not expected to have all the answers, or to live a tidy life.
We not required to be perfect or to please others.
All that is expected of us is to show up.
All we need to do is to honestly be ourselves, with our gifts and limitations,
and trust in whatever God will do.
Who will roll the stone away?
God intervened that day at the tomb, not only to roll away the stone,
but to roll away death itself.
Jesus was alive! Hope was alive!
And the same is true for us.
For our hope is with the God who breaks into our lives
and gives us eyes to see the small miracles of new life that surround us every day.
So if you are looking at a big stone in your way, do not despair.
Do not run and hide.
Instead, bring your questions and doubts with you, and show up at the foot of that stone.
And while you are on your way, don’t forget to call for help.
For God will make a way through your stone
God will roll away the obstacles
and open up new possibilities for hope, healing, and a world restored.
Children’s Sermon “Looking for Life”
I am on a quest today to look for new life. I have a few treasures here with me, and I want you to help me decide if the item is a sign of new life, or if it’s just empty. Ready?
Horseshoe Crab Shell
Today we are going to hear the story of what happened three days after Jesus died. His mom and two close friends came to the tomb where he was buried to put perfume on his body. but when they got there, the tomb was empty. New Life, or empty?
Like the examples above, you need more information. The disciples got that later when Jesus appeared to them, alive!
The message for today: God turns emptiness into something new—New Life!