Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
Information info@potsdamumc.org

Rolling Stones

Listen to the Sermon or the Entire Service

April 5:

April 5, 2015   (Easter)
Call:       Acts 10: 37-43
Reading:    W&S #33
Text:       Mark 16: 1-9
Closing:    1 Corinthians 15: 1, 3b-11

            Rolling Stones

Today is a day of celebration
    Of great, enthusiastic celebration
It is a day of excitement and hope
    Of great, invigorating, and joyous excitement
    Of remarkable and wonderful hope.

This is Easter!

And therefore it is a bit risky for me to begin my message
    With an apology.
    For apologies tend to be somber moments
And thus, the risk I take is of converting the joy of the day
    Into a somber experience.

But I have to take that risk
For I owe an apology
to those of you who came
because of the words in front of the [Potsdam] church

and [Potsdam only]  who keep moving your heads back and forth
        as if looking for someone.

To you, I say I am sorry
    But I never meant to mislead you into thinking
        That Mick Jagger was  going to preach
and     Keith Richards was going to accompany our singing.

I intended the words, "Rolling Stones"
    To describe what God can do
And To use "rolling" as a verb and not an adjective
    As in       "I am rolling stones down the hill."

For those of you who thought otherwise
I can just imagine your disappointment at finding me in the pulpit
And not Jagger.

You who anticipated him
Must have had quite an image in your mind.

But this is Easter.

Even those of you who know
 that as a child Mick sang in his church choir
Should have known better.

Today, Jesus is the only rock star with us
    And the only stone that was rolled
    Was the one blocking the entrance to his tomb.

As exciting as it is
And as great as the hope that it provides is,
    Easter, like Christmas, presents a problem for a preacher.

It is a problem that was pointed out to me years ago
    By a pastor I met during a brief interview

I interviewed him to fulfill a requirement
of a lay speaking class that I was taking at the time.

He was the pastor of the Norwich UMC.

I do not remember his name.
I could walk right by him on the street.
I can only remember one question that I asked
    And I remember that because of his answer.

I asked him what was the most difficult part of being a preacher.
His answer was
    "Coming up with an original and meaningful way to talk about scriptures that I have talked about several times before."

That has stuck with me ever since.

And it came to my mind this week
    For this is my 20th Easter as a United Methodist pastor
    And on 17 of them I have led sunrise services
        In addition to services at the regular worship time.

So this is my 37th Easter message
    And they have all been about the same story:
        The empty tomb and the resurrected Christ.

This,   I believe,  is the 7th  based on Mark's version

And yet, neither of today's messages
    Is a repeat of the previous 35 - not even of the 6 that were reflections on what Mark recorded for us..

That says a lot about the fact that God helps, guides, and rescues
    Those of us called to preach the gospel.

Let's look at the story as Mark tells it
    And then focus on an aspect
    About which I had never thought before. [Mark 16: 1-9]

The passage is familiar.
There is nothing new in it.

But this time,
verse three captured my mind.
    In that verse Mark tells us,
        "They [that is the women] were saying to each other, "Who's going to roll the stone away from the entrance for us?"

If I had reflected on this before,
    It would probably have been
        To chuckle at their foolishness in setting out
        While that question remained unanswered
    Followed, of course,
        By seeing that apparently foolish decision
As an act of faith.

But this year, instead
    I saw the question of
"Who's going to roll the stone away?"
as being a message, in and of itself.

Because while the women on Easter morning
    Were talking about a literal stone
    That separated them from Christ

You and I have hundreds of other stones
    That separate us from Christ,   his story,  his teaching.

Those stones can be any number of things

They can be our character defects
    Like jealousy, pride, and selfishness
They can be our casual and unmotivated attempts to follow
    Without giving Christ sufficient priority

They can be our weak faith
    That causes us to run away from what he expects
    And retreat to human values and remedies.

They can be the people with whom we hang out
    Who discourage us from worshiping
    Who talk us out of giving and serving
    Who encourage us to live and behave in ways that disappoint Christ.

They can be our lack of discipline
    Which results in failure to build up what we need
    To truly be servants and disciples.

And so we ask ourselves
"Who's going to roll our stone (or stones) away?"

The answer in this morning's story is that
God is willing
and God is able         to roll the stones away

We may,   at times,     have to ask - with words and/or actions -
that the stone or stones be rolled away.
But we know that God wants to roll them away.

In the story of Jesus' resurrection and empty tomb
    The stone has already been rolled away.

And at times this may well be the case with our own stones
    But we just do not recognize it

Or perhaps more importantly and more commonly
    We do not recognize the significance of the fact that the stone (stones) has/have been rolled away.

Too, at times, we may know that they are gone,
but not know that they were stones separating us from Christ

There is another aspect to the answer to our question.

This aspect results from the fact that God does not just act through supernatural phenomena
    Like earthquakes and floods.

God also works through us
    Through     our words and examples
    Through our love and compassion
    Through our worship and service

Through all of these
We may be instruments of rolling away the stones of others

You see,
    We not only can have stones that need to be rolled away
we can also    be God's rollers of other people's stones.

Who needs Keith Richards and Mick Jagger
    When we have Jesus Christ and each other?
    Particularly when we can be found rolling stones away
        And opening our access to the one we call "Lord."

I guess I didn't owe that apology after all.