The first time I remember hearing the story of the Resurrection, I must have been about 5 years old. Of course it was Easter Sunday. The one thing I remember from that morning was puzzling over how strong one had to be to roll away that huge stone. Or, how many people it must have taken. At that age, nothing else mattered. It was a mystery, possibly magic in the many fairy tales I grew up with, or in “Harry Potter” or “The Lord of the Rings.”
In the coming years, of course I learned about the Resurrection and about the importance of Jesus having risen from the dead. But somewhere in the back of my mind was always this niggling question about the stone. The question I kept asking as a teenager was, “Why did anyone have to roll away the stone for Jesus?” After all, as the son of God he should have been strong enough to do it himself.
Fast forward 40 years. I am at Lancaster Theological Seminary, now hearing many different interpretations — by learned theologians — of the story of the tomb, the story of the stone that had been rolled away. By angels? By an earthquake? Maybe even by Roman soldiers, as some suggest? Still, there was no answer for me.
Eventually, my questions about the Resurrection faded into the background as the teachings of the living Jesus became much more important for me. And yet, every Easter the mystery of the stone unfailingly invades my thoughts when I try to write a sermon that is an appropriate Easter sermon for a Unitarian Universalist congregation.
The question I had asked as a young person, the question of why Jesus had needed someone or something to roll away the stone from his tomb for him, resulted in the insight that even Jesus had needed help. The Son of Man needed help like all of us: sons and daughters of men.
This turn-of-thought made me aware of the many people in my life who had helped me at one time or the other. And so, when reading John 20 or Mathew 28, I am reminded once again how important it is that we lend a helping hand. However, it is equally important to become more aware of the many people who have helped us to “roll away the stone” when we were in the dark; or folks who have removed an obstacle from our path. We are all part of an independent web of life. We all depend on getting help some time, and we are all called to roll away the stones in others’ path.
I invite you this Easter season to think of times when a person has helped you by giving you a hand with a difficult task. Or a time where you were lost, psychologically or spiritually, and a wise person lead you out of the dark. Resurrect and relive the gratitude in your heart!
The Rev. Gabriele L. Parks is the interim minister at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Centre County in State College.