Who will roll away the stone? An Easter Sermon

Who will roll away the stone?

Mark 16.1-8

Easter Sunday 5th April 2015

Belle Vue Baptist


Who will roll away the stone?

Jesus is not asking the question this time.

The women disciples are.

Who will roll away the stone?

Jesus is hidden behind the stone.

Jesus who has died is hidden behind the stone.

Jesus in whom they had hoped, with whom they had lived,

and to whom they had followed as Lord.

Who will roll away the stone?

Who will roll away the stone so they can at least give his body the honour its due

and they can cling just one more time to him, before he becomes just a memory.

And if these women are asking the question,

so are we,

who will roll away the stone?

   Jesus you called me and I followed

   Jesus you promised and I believed

   Jesus you gave me faith and hope – small like a mustard seed, but you planted me in soil ready to grow.

   but … but now there is this stone

   in the way … this big stone that I can’t move.

A stone that represents

my cynicism – I can’t get past that you’re just too good be true,

I can’t get over that maybe you’re just all made up, or at least

history as made you more than you are.

my apathy – I can’t find the energy to keep believing, the passion just isn’t there    

                   anymore, it all seems too much like hard work

my suffering – I can’t stop asking why me Jesus? why is this happening to me?

my sadness – I just feel sad, there’s no joy left in me, I feel like you’ve taken away  

                   those I loved …

Who will roll away the stone?


For some of us, perhaps many of us,

the Saturday of Holy Week is where the story ends:

Jesus dead in the tomb.

Faith and hope ebbing away.

We started, but now we can’t go any further;

we started, but we don’t know how to go any further;

we started, but we don’t want to go any further.

Who will roll away the stone?

The stone represents

the thing we can’t get round.

The stone represents

our desire to stop.

The stone represents

a weight we cannot lift.


Easter dares us to look again.

Easter dares us to believe that God is stronger than the stone,

that Jesus can make a way where we can’t,

that Jesus will come and wait until we are ready to go again,

that Jesus can remove the weight weighing us down.

Easter declares that nothing, nothing whatsoever,

(to borrow some well-known words)

neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation – and certainly not a large cumbersome stone – can separate Christ from God, and us from Christ.*

Easter is the announcement

that Jesus is who he said he was

that the gospel really is good news

that death is undone

that a new world has come

         that the stone lies rolled away.


Come to the tomb and see that it’s empty.

Come to the table and find Christ is present.

Go into the world for Christ goes ahead of us.

And who is this Christ: he is risen one,

         who says ‘Be clean’;

         who says ‘Your sins are forgiven’;

         who says ‘Go in peace and be freed from your suffering’;

         who says ‘Don’t be afraid just believe’;

         who says ‘All things are possible with God’;

         who says ‘This is my body’.


The woman in the story move from despair to terror.

The stone lies rolled away,

but they are overwhelmed with the news that Jesus is risen.

We are left with an ending that is unresolved,

but with the word of hope and faith, ringing out,

‘He has risen! He is not here’

The promise is we will see him again,

if we will go and look for him.

Easter celebrates a new day, a new world, a new time,

it invites us to leave behind

our cynicism, our apathy, our suffering and our sadness,

to be embraced by Jesus,

do you want to see the glory of God?

Jesus is both here and he is beyond waiting for us,

he invites us once again to follow him,

back to the beginning:

the kingdom of God is near,

repent and believe the good news.


* Sam Wells, Learning to Dream Again.

This sermon was helped by reading Ched Myers, Binding the Strongman and Wells sermon 'Rolling Stones' in Learning to Dream Again.

Easter Icons 2015

This year's Easter Icons is in the street. For several years it was hosted in a church, last year we were in a empty shop in a shopping centre, this year we've gone on to the streets. 14 pieces of 'art' in and around Southend High Street, even one at the end of the Pier, that seek to tell the Easter story. There's a website here to accompany the trail.

How do we live Easter?

The church is getting better about observing (or recovering) lent. There are number of resources, ideas, possibilities for people to engage with intentionally (or half-heartedly) over the 40 days.

There is little or nothing for the 50 days of Easter.

How do we live Easter or to use Wendell Berry's wonderful phrase 'practice resurrection'?

Easter tends to pass us by.

We get to to the summit of resurrection day and then drift along until Pentecost, or maybe Ascension.

What are Easter habits?

Lent is hard work, should Easter be a rest? After all, the disciples went fishing or at least were fairly quiet until Pentecost. Should Easter be a break (many clergy often need one), and then at Pentecost, when we pick up the work of again, (empowered by the Spirit)?

Its easier to preach Lent, than it is to preach Easter, or that is it what it can feel like.

So any ideas for 50 ways to live Easter?

Easter Icons report

This year we saw over 400 people visit (including approx. 250 primary school children) during holy week. This is what we did. photos can be found here.

1. Jesus weeps over Jerusalem (Luke 19.41-42) | a video meditation reflecting on different cities around the world and how we still don't know what makes for peace

2. Jesus clears the Temple (Matt. 21.12-13) | a giant wailing wall in which people were encouraged to write prayers and place in the cracks

3. Jesus is anointed at Bethany (Mark 14.3-9) | a chance to be sprayed with perfume, for just as the woman wanted Jesus to feel special, so we wanted people to be reminded how they special they are to God. There was then an opportunity to write on a post-it how they wanted to be remembered

4. Jesus washes the disciples feet (John 13.1-15) | There was a photographic display of feet and then an opportunity to have feet washed with this reflection

5. Judas (Matt. 26.14, 47-50) | borrowing from kester brewin's 2006 blog post on the judas i never knew, this was a monologue of judas' story and then an invitation to reflect on different "villians" and ask whether any are wholly evil

6. The Garden of Gesthemane (Matt. 26.36-46) | we made a garden with real grass using the baptistry. in the garden the words of jesus spoken to the disciples we're heard. this reflection went with it.

7. Jesus before the High Priest (Matt 26.57-68) | an opportunity to reflect on jesus' trial in light of unfair treatment of prisoners today. we had an orange jumpsuit. this reflection went with it.

8. Peter (Matt. 26.69-75) | matt smith made some excellent newspaper front covers that told the story of 9 episodes from peter's life. we gave every school child who visited a t-shirt with 9 symbols representing the 9 stories.

9. Jesus before Pilate (Matt. 27.1, 11-26) | this reflection encouraged people to make a difference, we had 5 examples of people who had made a difference. to go with this we had cards from tearfund on life the label, fair trade and cutting carbon footprint.

10. Jesus carries the cross (via dolorasa) | this was a video filmed in the narrow streets of bath, reflecting jesus' journey to the cross.

11. Gologotha (mark 15.22-24) | we made an easter egg cross with this reflection.

12. 'Father into your hands, I commit my spirit' (luke 23.44-46) | an opportunity to write a prayer of something that they wanted to commit to God and place it his hands.

13. 'Surely this man was the Son of God' (mark 15.37-38) | an opportunity to reflect on who is jesus. there were sets of different glasses / binocoluars through which people could view a picture which depending on how you looked it, could be seen the centurion's words. this reflection went with it.

14. Jesus is laid in the tomb (luke 23.50-56) | a bench to sit and wait and reflect on the death of jesus. this reflection went with it.

Interim Report on Easter Icons

Today was the last of 3 days of school visits (about 250 students from 7 different schools, mainly primary) to our Easter Icons exhibition. We're open tomorrow to the public between 12-6pm. It's been a fantastic few days - its be great to see children and adults engaging with the different stations. Geoff has kindly blogged some of his reflections here. A full report with pictures will appear at some point in the next week.

tenebrae service

This evening I organised with the help of Hilary Jappy (a member at Bunyan) a tenebrae service. I was first introduced to the creative delights of a tenebrae service by Maggi, when Hannah and I made a visit to Robinson College Chapel back in 2005. Ever since, I've hoped to find an opportunity to plan a similar like service. So thanks to Maggi (we borrow your structure), Geoff for some of the music ideas, to the person who put together this version of the service and all those involved tonight. Here's what we did :-

As people arrived ‘Passio’ - Sanctuary, The Heart Has Its Reasons [track 8, 8.25min]

Introduction and Explanation

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross    (verses 1, 3, 4)

1. THE SHADOW OF BETRAYAL                                          

R4: (Psalm 41:9)
    A reading from the Psalms:                        
    Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.
R2:  (Matthew 26:6-25)
    Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant.
R3:    Why this waste?"   
R4:    This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.
R2:    Aware of this, Jesus said to them,
R1:    Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful
thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but
you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.
R2:    Then one of the Twelve--the one called Judas Iscariot--
    went to the chief priests and asked
R4:    What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?
R2:    So they counted out for him thirty silver coins.
    From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over. On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked,
R3:    Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?"
R1:    Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.
R2:    So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover. When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said,
R1:    I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.
R2:    They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other,
R3:    Surely not I, Lord?
R1:    The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born."
R2:    Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said,
R4:    Surely not I, Rabbi?
R1:    Yes, it is you

(coins thrown onto the floor)
Music ‘Part One: Exposition – Canons’ - John Law, The Art of Sound Volume One
(slices of lemon are passed round – the bitter taste of betrayal)

2. THE SHADOW OF DENIAL                                                

R4:  (Zechariah 13:7)
    A reading from the prophet Zechariah
    "Awake, O sword, against my shepherd,
    against the man who is close to me!"
    declares the LORD Almighty.
    "Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered...."
R1:  (John 10:14-15)
    I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know
me- just as the Father knows me and I know the Father- and
    I lay down my life for the sheep.
R1: (Matthew 26:31,33-35)
    This very night you will all fall away on account of me,
    for it is written:
R4:    ‘I will strike the shepherd,
    and the sheep of the flock will be scattered’.
R3:    Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.
R1:    I tell you the truth, this very night, before the rooster
crows, you will disown me three times.
R3:    Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.
R2:  And all the other disciples said the same.

(sound of a rooster crowing and the words ‘I do not know the man’)
Sing Jesus remember me - Taize               

3. THE SHADOW OF SEPARATION                                       

R4:   (Psalm 13)
     A reading from the Psalms:
     How long o Lord? Will you forget me forever?
     How long will you hide your face from me?
     How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in
     my heart all day long?
      Consider and answer me, O Lord my God!
R1:   (John 16.16-20)
      A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a
      little while, and you will see me.
R2:   Then some of his disciples said to one another,
R3:   What does he mean by saying to us, “A little while, and
      you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and
      you will see me”; and “Because I am going to the Father”?
R2:   Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them
R1:   Are you discussing among yourselves what I meant when I  said, “A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me”? Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy.

(Piece of cloth torn apart in three places and the words – the pain of separation, the agony of being torn apart, the ache of being broken-hearted)
Sing How long o Lord – Brian Doerksen

4. THE SHADOW OF ANGUISH                                                

R4: (Psalm 31:9-14)
    A reading from the Psalms:
Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;
    my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief.
    My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning;
    my strength fails because of my affliction,
    and my bones grow weak.
    Because of all my enemies,
    I am the utter contempt of my neighbours;
    I am a dread to my friends --
    those who see me on the street flee from me.
    I am forgotten by them as though I were dead;
    I have become like broken pottery.
    For I hear the slander of many; there is terror on every side;
    they conspire against me and plot to take my life.
    But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, "You are my God."
R2: (Mark 14:32-41)
    They went to a place called Gethsemane,
    and Jesus said to his disciples,
R1:    Sit here while I pray.
R2:    He took Peter, James and John along with him,
    and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.
R1:    My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, 
    Stay here and keep watch.
R2:    Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed
    that if possible the hour might pass from him.
R1:    Abba, Father, everything is possible for you.
    Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.
R2:    Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping.
R1:    Simon, are you asleep?
    Could you not keep watch for one hour?
    Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.
    The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.
R2:    Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him. Returning the third time, he said to them,
R1:    Are you still sleeping and resting?  Enough!  The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

(silver cup on stand)
Sing Stay with me - Taize               
Music ‘Carlotta’ - Ennio Morrione, The Mission [track 6, 1.18min]

5.THE SHADOW OF TREACHERY                                               

R4: (Genesis 37.18-20, 23-24a)
    A reading from the book of Genesis:
    They saw Joseph from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. They said to one another,
R3:     Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what becomes of his dreams.
R4: So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the coat of many colours that he wore; and they took him and threw him into a pit.
R2: (Mark 14.43-50)
Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying,
R4:     The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.
R2:     So when he came, he went up to him at once and said,
R4:     Rabbi!
R2:     and kissed him. Then they laid hands on him and arrested
him. But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to them
R1:     Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.
R2:     All of them deserted him and fled.

(the words 'the kiss of Judas was a slap in the face' followed by the speaker being slapped)
Music ‘Betrayal and desolation’ - James Horner, Braveheart [track 13, 1.25min fadeout]
Sing My Lord What Love Is This - Graham Kendrick (verse 1 and chorus only)

6.THE SHADOW OF HYPOCRISY                                          

R1: (Isaiah 53:7)   
    A reading from the prophet Isaiah:                   
He was oppressed and afflicted; yet he did not open his mouth;
    he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth. 
R2:    (Matthew 27.15-24)
Now at the festival the governor Pilate was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them
R4:  Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?
R2:  For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. While he was sitting on the judgement seat, his wife sent word to him
R3: Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.
R2:     Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. The governor again said to them,
R4:     Which of the two do you want me to release for you?
R3:     Barabbas.
R4:     Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?
R3:     Let him be crucified!
R4:     Why, what evil has he done?
R3:  Let him be crucified!
R2:     So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water [pause as Jug of water is poured into big metal bowl] and washed his hands before the crowd, saying
R4: I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.

Music ‘Minas Morgul’ - Howard Shore, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King [track 6, fade up, track five, 0.43min stop]

7. THE SHADOW OF DEATH                                                    

R4:     (1 Samuel 9.15-17)
    A reading from the book of Samuel:
“Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed to
R1:     Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be ruler over my people Israel. He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines; for I have seen the suffering of my people, because their outcry has come to me.
R4:     When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord told him
R1:     Here is the man of whom I spoke to you. He it is who shall rule over my people.
R2:     (John 19.4-7)
Pilate went out again and said to them
R4:     Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.
R2:     So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them,
R4:     Here is the man
R2:     When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted
R3:     Crucify him! Crucify him!
R4:     Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.
R3:     We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.

(sound of hammer hitting nails into cross)
Music ‘Angry Flames’ - Karl Jenkins, The Armed Man [track 8, 1.25min stop]
Sing Were you there when they crucified my Lord

8. THE SHADOW OF HUMILIATION                                          

R1:  (Isaiah 53:1-5)
    A reading from the prophet Isaiah:
    Who has believed our message and to whom
    has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
    He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
    He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
    He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows,
    and familiar with suffering.
    Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised,
    and we esteemed him not.
    Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows,
    yet we considered him stricken by God,
    smitten by him, and afflicted.
    But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our sin;
    the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
R3:  (1 Peter 2:21-23a)
    A reading from First Peter:
    To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you,
    leaving you an example, that you should follow in his
    "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his
    When they hurled their insults at him, he did not
retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. 
R2: (Mark 15:16-20)
    The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace and called together the whole company of soldiers.
    They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him.
    And they began to call out to him,
R4:    Hail, king of the Jews!
R2:    Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spat on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

Music ‘This Love’ - Craig Armstrong, The Space Between Us [track 2, 4.20min begin fading out]
(crown of thorns is placed on head and cross is picked up and carried out, people follow)