Mar 262005

Who will roll the stone away? This can be a metaphor for our lives. This is of course Holy Week for Christians around the world. I suppose it should be a time of reflection, and I’ve done some thinking about my feelings. I have to be frank, in face of the egregious distortions amd misuse of Jesus and the Christian message, it becomes more and more difficult to hold on to my “religion.

However, I still cling to my faith. I’ve seen what can be done by good Christians taking up the true calling of Christianity. However, America seems woefully short of good people in leadership positions…even within organized religion. I know there are good people there, but lately I haven’t been encountering the people with the courage of their convictions. I know a lot of good Christians who are sitting on sidelines, not taking advantage of their positions of influence to preach the true Gospel. By their silence, they have allowed the fanatics on the religious right to steal Jesus, and corrupt his message for their own aims.

Easter is a time to reflect on life, and on life after death. I’m not sure I hold to the literal picture of heaven and hell, but I must believe that the energy of life and all the accumulated experiences of a person can’t just evaporate when someone dies. Hank Steinbrecher (former Soccer Coach at ASU) taught a death and dying class. I liked his philosophy about what happens. He called his milk can theory. He compared the soul to the milk in a can, and the can was the physical body. At death, the can spills it contents into the universe to spread and run bound only by its own cohesiveness?.

I think of Coach Steinbrecher’s theory in terms of the stone being rolled away. Jesus appeared a couple of times amidst the disciples, even when they were behind closed doors. Closed doors have never kept Jesus out, so rolling away the stone at the tomb was not to let Jesus out, but to let us in.

For centuries the curious have always wanted to look into the dark depths of death, but the tomb has been sealed with secrecy.? The tomb has always mocked us.? It has always stood as the “dead end” of all our efforts to peer beyond this life into the life to come. The angel tells the two women on the first Easter morning to look inside the tomb, saying to them: “do not be afraid, I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.? He is not here ; for he has been raised — as he said.? Come, see the place where he lay.”

Easter rolls the stone door of the tomb away for us so that we might penetrate the mystery of death.? It makes of the tomb a tunnel – a tunnel into the heart of the eternal and shows us that the holy heart of God is love and life.? God rolls the door of the tomb away not to let Jesus out – but to let us in – to allow us to see that Christ’s promises are true.

I?m convinced when we die we die into God, but I don?t know what that means in terms of survival of a personal identity or reincarnation. I?m not inclined to believe in reincarnation, but I have no idea what happens after death. I’m happy to let God handle the details. I’ve got enough to worry about trying to live up to what Jesus taught.

Faith is not primarily about believing a set of claims to be true?that?s what goes with an immature vision of Christianity. The understanding of faith that goes with an emerging vision is about a relationship of trust in God and faithfulness to God. The ancient meaning of the word ?believe? is ?to commit oneself, to be loyal to.? The Middle English word is ?believe,? and that means to love or be loved. So faith is about loving God and loving that which God loves–which is the whole of creation.
Jesus set some pretty high standards, and if I really try to live up to those, I’ve got enough on my plate without worrying about the next life. So I’m content not to think about it too much in terms of what happens after my own death. When it comes to loved ones who have gone before me, though I must admit that I would really *like* to be reassured that they are in some sort of Heaven. But I don’t have that particular kind of faith that I can tell you just what kind of mansions they inhabit in the place called Heaven.

But I’m lead back to the stone…to the symbolism. I see that stone as a metaphor for life. We don’t know who rolled away the stone. The Bible only tells us that it was rolled away when the women arrive, but who will roll away the stone today? Sometimes people in our world are entombed by stones of greed and sin. Self-centeredness and sin has them in its grip. We as Jesus? followers are called to go to them and help to free them from that.

But the stone of sin is too large for us to move. You can?t force people to do right. We can try to persuade them, but most people will not be persuaded. They would rather sit in sin. And even if they were to try to roll the stone away it is too big for even them to budge.

Who will roll the stone away? Sometimes people are entombed by stones of oppression and poverty. Christians are being martyred around the world as we speak. And even in “free” countries like America Christians often find themselves at odds with the social and political powers of their time and place. Then there are others who are imprisoned because of their race, religion or political views. And many people feel caught in a cycle of poverty that they are unable to stop.

Jesus calls us to love our neighbor and do something about it. How can we claim to love God if we cannot act lovingly to our neighbor? A loving person will not just stand by and watch another be hurt needlessly. But the job is too great for us? We can?t possibly right all the wrongs of the world. We are incapable of making everyone act righteously to his or her neighbor.

Who will roll the stone away? You know most people don?t even care. You tell them that people are dying of hunger, they ask for seconds of cake. You tell them that the environment is being ruined, and they complain that recycling takes too much time. You tell them of ethnic cleansing in other lands, and they say, “Well, somebody ought to do something!”

The apathy of the human race seems immovable. It is a moral inertia that keeps the body politic and the body of Christ at rest. And it is too big for us to move. No matter how hard we push, people just don?t care. Who will roll away the stone of Apathy and indifference? Who will make people care enough to change the way they live? Who will release the moral will of the human race from its tomb of non-caring attitudes?

As noted before, the Bible didn’t say, we just know that the stone could not hold Jesus, so I do my best to live that way. I do the best I can in the little ways, and hope that Jesus will move the stones when its time.

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