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The Stone in the Way

The Stone in the Way

Monday, April 21, 2014 – Easter Week, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 93, 98 (morning) // 66 (evening)

Exodus 12:14-27

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Mark 16:1-8

One nice thing about being visibly “expecting” is that people are always offering to carry things for me. I rarely have to take my own groceries to the car these days. I was similarly in awe of people’s instinctive kindness when I took a somewhat foolish solo plane trip with my son when he was just three months old. There was no way that I could carry our luggage, a car seat, and an infant without some serious help. Fortunately, we found just enough strong and sympathetic strangers to get us through.

These experiences of having too much to lift or carry by myself make me feel especially connected to the women from today’s gospel reading. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome are bringing spices to anoint the body of their Lord, lovingly and properly. When they faithfully set out on that first Easter morning, they have no idea how they’ll remove the stone from Jesus’ tomb.

The women have a clear sense of what they should do, and yet they have no practical plans for confronting a most obvious obstacle. As the gospel says, they “had been saying to on another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?'” Notice, though, how this question doesn’t stop them. I guess they figure that they’ll cross that bridge–or move that stone–when they come to it!

Every so often, when we take faithful steps forward, we find that our path has been cleared for us. When the women actually get to the tomb, they discover that the very large stone has “already been rolled back.” Some source of greater strength has stepped forward just in time to help with the intentions that they knew they must pursue, even when they weren’t fully capable of carrying out their plans.

Of course, the women don’t get to fulfill their original errand of anointing Jesus’ body. It turns out that removing the stone was the least of their worries! Instead of tending to the corpse and the grave, they encounter an angelic young man and receive instructions that they’re too afraid to follow. The man asks the women to tell the disciples that Jesus is going to Galilee ahead of them, and that they will see him there.

The women flee in amazement and keep silent in fear, and that’s where the original gospel of Mark ends. However, since these women once set out to serve the Lord’s body in spite of their doubts about moving the stone, they will probably discover the courage to serve the risen Lord in spite of their fears. A resurrection faith often unfolds in these small steps forward, keeping just one step ahead of where our doubts and fears would tempt us to stop. Today, in the first week of Easter, we can continue to live the resurrection one day at a time.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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