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Notes from the Back Row: Rolling Back Stones

 

Baptists can learn from our Episcopal friends about how to observe Easter. Father Matthew Bradley, the priest at Murray’s St. John’s Episcopal Church, gave the most hopeful of Easter messages at Easter Vigil when he proclaimed the silent message of the angels when they rolled back the stone of the tomb of the risen Lord. For Christians, the joyful message of Easter today is not about proselytizing one denomination for another. Neither is it dressing up in suits and dresses, 1950s-style, to be seen in church by the business and social elite of a community.

And as much as we gather together as families for meals and Easter egg hunts with children and musical and theatrical performances, and as much as we enjoy the precious beauty of God’s tender green earth, all budding and sprouting and growing and singing with full-throated Kentucky red cardinals and blue jays and house wrens and mourning doves and robins to be seen and heard in front yards and back yards everywhere; Easter is not even about that.

As Father Bradley reminded his hopeful congregation at Easter Vigil, Easter is all about an empty tomb and even today it is still about rolling back stones. Christ’s victory over death gives us victory today. Easter after all is all about rolling back stones.

Just as the angels rolled back the stone of the tomb of Christ, we might think today about how we are free to roll back stones that have entrapped us in our daily lives. How many of us, for example, have been entrapped by stones of fear and anger and jealousy. I know I have.

As a husband I have the joyful responsibility to love Evelyn and to care for her, and I rejoice that I can share each passing year with her. As a proud father, I have a responsibility to love and care for Wesley and Cammie Jo, and I have the honor to watch them grow and flourish with each passing year. Easter reminds me that the stone has been rolled away and such joy is indeed possible.

As a brother, I have a responsibility to love and pray for my brother Stephen who has recently had back surgery and is undergoing treatments of chemotherapy for multiple myeloma. To talk to Steve, anyone would think that the stone has already been rolled away.

I am reading from my father’s “Selected Verse” of Alfred Noyes, a narrow volume that he picked up during a shore leave from a troop transport ship in Wellington, New Zealand during his sojourn in the South Pacific during World War II. In a poem titled, “The Hills of Youth,” Noyes wrote,

“Once, by the wellsprings of joy,

In the glens of the hart’s-tongue fern, where the

brooks came leaping

Over the rocks, like a scrambling barefoot boy

That never has heard of a world grown old with

weeping;

Once, thro’ the golden gorse (Do the echoes linger

In paradise woods, where the foam of the may

runs wild?)

I followed the flute of a light-foot elfin singer,

A god, with eyes of a child.

Once, he sang to me there,

From a crag on a thyme-clad height where the dew

still glistened;

He sang like the spirit of Spring in that dawn-

flushed air,

While the angels opened their doors and the whole

sky listened;

He sang like the soul of a rainbow, if heaven could

hear it,

Beating to heaven, on wings that were April’s own;

A song too happy and brave for the heart to bear it,

Had the heart of the hearer known.”

So during this Easter season, I too want to roll back the stones. It is “a song too happy and brave for the heart to bear it, had the heart of the hearer known.”

Duane Bolin teaches in the Department of History at Murray State University. Contact Duane at jbolin@murraystate.edu

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