River of Life Lutheran Church
27400 SE Stark Street
Troutdale, OR  97060
Phone: 503.667.3141

Sunday worship service: 9:00am 

LENTEN SERIES   “SILENT WITNESSES”    Week 6   “THE STONE”

[You can go through this service alone, but if there is more than 1 person, you could choose 1 person to be “L” (for leader) and the others do the “C” (other people) parts. For the songs, you can sing them if you’re able, or just read the words together without a tune.]

L: In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets,

C: But in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son.

                Christ the Life of all the living, Christ the Death of death, our foe.

                Christ, yourself for me once giving To the darkest depths of woe;

                Through your suff’ring, death, and merit  Life eternal, I inherit

                Thousand, thousands thanks are due, Dearest Jesus, unto you.

L: No one has ever seen God.

C: The only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made God known.

L: The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.

C: We have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.

L: Therefore we must pay close attention to what we have heard.

C: It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him.

L: while God himself also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles

C: and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his own will.

L: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely,

C: And let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,

L: looking unto Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith.
C: For the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of

     God.

              Lord, for all that wrought my pardon For your death upon the tree,

                Three-day rest within the garden, And the grave that set you free,

                For the stone, rolled back, revealing  Hope beyond all thought and feeling,

That your death makes dying painless, And brings life and joy to me.

             Thousand, thousand thanks are due, Dearest Jesus, unto you.

L: “These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.”

C: We are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.

L: When we cry “Abba, Father,” it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.

C: and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.

L: “This gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations.”

C: We are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.

L: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you shall be my witnesses.”

C: We are witnesses to all that he did. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree;

L: But God raised him up on the third day and made him manifest,

C: not to all the people, but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses.

                Christ, the faithful Witness, sharing   Living words from God above;

                Christ, yourself the Word declaring   All the wonders of God’s love:

                Let your Word, rich fruit now bearing  Be the seed of my declaring

                Grant, O Lord, that I may too, Faithful witness bear for you.

PRAYER OF THE DAY

L: Dear Lord Jesus, you died a real and painful death on the cross, and were sealed in a tomb by the large stone. Yet the grave and that stone could not hold you, for you overcame death and the grave through your resurrection. May that stone rolled away be for us the assurance that we, too, will overcome death and the grave through our resurrection to life internal in that body which will never die.

C: Amen.

FIRST LESSON…………….  Isaiah 54:1-3

PSALM…………….. from Psalm 22

L: The stone which the builders rejected as worthless turned out to be the most important of all

C: All nations will remember the Lord, from every part of the world they will turn to him: all races will worship him.

L: The stone which the builders rejected as worthless turned out to be the most important of all

C: The Lord is king, and he rules the nations. All the proud will bow down to him; every mortal will bow down before him.

L: The stone which the builders rejected as worthless turned out to be the most important of all

C: Future generations will serve him; people will speak of the Lord to the next generation. Those not born will be told: “The Lord saved his people.”

SECOND LESSON…………… 1 Peter 2:4-9

THEME HYMN   “Were You There?”

                Were you there when they crucified my Lord?  Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
                Oh…sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

                Were you there when they crowned his head with thorns?...

                Were you there when they mocked the Son of God?...

                Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?...

                Were you there when they pierced him with the spear?...

                Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?...

                   Were you there when he rose on Easter day?...

THE GOSPEL  …………Matthew 27:60b-66

I: (interviewer) Excuse me! May I have a moment of your time? We have spoken to a number of the “silent witnesses” to the crucifixion of the one called Jesus. Would it be possible for you also to add your testimony to that of the thorn, the robe, the nail, the spear, and the shroud?

S: (Stone) It was a long, long time ago that I came into being and was placed near what eventually became a garden. Up untl that time I was just another huge rock. I was not like some of my kind who are valuable and are fashioned into fine jewelry. I’m too large to be a rolling stone in a stream. I’m just a huge, rough, heavy, strong, solid stone – common garden variety. I found it difficult to accept that my lot in life was just to be: be a stone, be where I was, be the size and shape I was…just BE. I had many years to think about that, and had finally accepted it, when the life of this stone who had never been moved was turned upside-down.

I: Could you tell us about that, to begin with?

S: One day a couple of men began chipping away at me. They were removing some of my rough edges. I didn’t know why they disapproved of my appearance. IF I could live with it, what concern was it of theirs? But they kept on chipping and shaping me. I could tell that I was becoming smoother, more uniform in shape, and even seemed to be round, like a wheel.  Now I couldn’t imagine that they were going to use me as a wheel. Come now, I’m far too large and heavy! Besides, they make wheels out of wood now, not stone any more. But the longer they worked, the more I appeared to be like a wheel. They had flattened me on top and on the bottom, and the rest of me was round. I had to admire the fact that they had taken a common stone and removed its rough edges and given me a shape which apparently had a purpose. (I couldn’t imagine they were doing this just to pass the time!)

I: Did you have any idea at that time about what they were making you into?     

S: As I thought about my new shape, I did begin to speculate about my use.  Was I to be a grinding wheel? That idea rubbed me the wrong way. Who wants to spend an entire lifetime going around in circles? Perhaps I was to be a platform or base for a monument. Now, that could be a position of “class”! And yet, the more I thought about that possibility, the more I realized that children would be climbing all over me and, worse yet, birds would be perching above me. Please, no! Not that!  After a short time – well it was short to me; after all, when you’ve been sitting in one place since the beginning of time, just about any time seems short – the men were through with their remodeling job on me. They got some additional help and tilted me up on my rounded rim. Oh, boy! What a strange feeling!

I: What do you mean?

S: Have you ever been in one position for a long time and then gotten up suddenly? Then you know what I mean. Well, almost. I’m sure you haven’t rested in one position for as long as I.

I: No, I’m sure not!

S: Well, they started to roll me from where I had been for centuries over toward an opening in the side of a small hill in the garden. As I rolled slowly by the opening, I took a quick peek inside and saw that it was just an empty hole, or carved chamber. There was a table-like slab which I assumed was to hold something. I was really confused as to what I had just seen. Just then, another huge stone that had a shape similar to mine spoke up and told me that the chamber was called a tomb.  He also told me that I was very lucky because that tomb belonged to a very wealthy and influential person named Joseph, and that he was a member of the Council (some religious official, I think). After the men rolled me past the opening, they leaned me against the side of the hill. I was on a slope with some other stones wedged under me to keep me from rolling on my own. You see, the slope was so that I could be rolled easily back toward the opening. That way, it would be difficult to roll me uphill and away from the opening once I had been put in place.

I: I see.

S: So there I was again, resting in one place and waiting. Oh, well, at least it was new scenery for a change. As I leaned there, I had a great deal of time to think. One question that kept bothering me was why did they need a stone in the first place? Why did they have to close and seal a tomb? The dead person certainly wasn’t going to get out; you didn’t have to lock HIM inside! All I could think of was that the stone was intended to keep OTHERS out. I guessed that animals and children, and perhaps curiosity seekers, might wander in for various reasons, and that would certainly be inappropriate. That must be the reason, then, for a huge stone in front of a tomb: to keep people out. This would force people to respect the dead a bit more also.

I: Respect the dead?

S: I feel that people ought to spend more time respecting the living, actually; but what do I know? As I continued leaning, I heard some rumors –

I: Rumors?

S: --through the underground, you know; graveyards are full of that kind of thing—rumors that a crucifixion was taking place. That wouldn’t affect any of US,of course. Criminals don’t get buried in a fine grave such as this. Yet the events of this day did affect everyone.

I: What events do you mean?

S: Just about noon the whole world got real dark—I mean eerie dark, not just “slightly overcast with a chance of scattered showers”; I mean DARK dark! And it lasted for about three hours. There was something very strange going on. I was feeling these strange vibrations. The ground beneath me was starting to rock and heave as though it was getting ready to explode. Then it happened: it was a full-fledged earthquake! The ground shook and I bounced against the side of the hill so hard that I almost fell over on my face. The stones wedged to hold me in place shook with me. Fortunately, they held their ground, and so did I. It was as if the heavens and earth were having a violent allergic reaction to the events of the day.

I: I can see why you were a bit shaken up.

S: The sky finally cleared and the earth became calm again. Yet, I still had an uneasy feeling, as though it wasn’t really over yet. Eventually I dozed off in the warm sunshine that had returned, when I was disturbed by the sound of people walking in the garden. I forced my eyes open and saw a couple of men and two women coming toward me. The men seemed to be carrying a heavy load of some sort. As they got closer, I could see what it was they were carrying. Joseph, the owner of the tomb, and another Council member named Nicodemus were carrying a body, wrapped in a linen shroud. It must have been from the crucifixion, the “underground” was murmuring. They entered the tomb and rested the body on the slab. That really seemed unusual.

I: How do you mean?
S: All that time, energy, and expense to prepare a tomb for himself, and now Joseph was giving it up to provide a proper burial for someone who had been crucified! Usually they just discard criminals’ bodies in a common grave. But no, Joseph gave up his grave for someone who had been crucified, a man named Jesus. Well, no sooner had the body been laid in place and Joseph and Nicodemus came out of the tomb, when it was time for me to get rolling, so to speak.

I: I get it!

They carefully removed the small stones which were wedged between me and the slanted pathway which ran in front of the tomb’s entrance. I began to roll slowly down the incline, gradually picking up speed, only to stop abruptly when I ran into a barrier at the end of the track.  I had stopped directly in front of the entrance and was providing a tightly shut seal to the tomb so that nothing could get in or out. (What am I saying? No one comes OUT! Why would I even say that?) Shortly after the tomb had been sealed, some government guards arrived. What an insult!

I: Insult?
S: What foolishness! Here I am – heavy, huge, strong, and as hard as a rock—and they send guards to make sure the tomb stays closed! I can do my job; I don’t need them! Well, they were there anyway. They wedged stones on either side of me so that I couldn’t roll or be rolled. Now, that’s silly. I’m not going to roll Uphill, and there is no place to go downhill. This whole situation is bizarre!

I: You sound upset.

S: I tried not to be upset with the apparent lack of confidence in me demonstrated by the presence of the guards. After all, it was my job to “R.I.P.” – rest in place. A stone, being used as I was, usually expects to rest in place forever. That’s what I expected to do. Well, not quite, because I did hear the two women saying they would be returning in a few days to finish preparing the body for burial.

I: In a couple of days?

S: They had to wait until the Sabbath was over. Oh, well, one brief interruption and then I could go back to resting in one place as I used to do…Well, those “couple of days” passed, and it was early morning of the third day. I was resting peacefully when I started shaking again. Oh, oh! It was those vibrations coming on like last time. Or so I thought.

I: Wasn’t it like the last time?
S: It was only partly like the last time.  If you thought the other earthquake was hard to believe…well, get ready for what happened next. There was another earthquake, all right, but then I saw a creature like I’d never ever seen before.  Now, remember, I’ve been around almost as long as time itself, but this was some different creature! What was even stranger is that it dropped out of the sky!

I: It what?
S: You heard me: I said it dropped out of the sky!  Then it reached over and pushed me uphill! It didn’t even remove the stones wedging me in place, but just made it seem easy! I was shocked.

I: I’ll bet you were!

S: Actually I was EMBARRASSED that I could be pushed around so easily. Don’t forget: I’m solid, heavy, strong, and huge. But that made no difference to THIS creature; I was being moved, and the tomb stood wide open. I wasn’t the only one in shock. Remember the guards who were supposed to make sure I stayed in place?
I: Yes?

S: They shook like thin papyrus flapping in a stiff breeze, and then they fell over as if dead. All of this happened so quickly, and then the one who rolled we aside seemed to fly up and sit casually on top of me as if nothing out of the ordinary had taken place.

I: That’s almost unbelievable!

S: If you find that hard to believe, you haven’t heard anything yet.  Are you ready for this? As I was being rolled away from the entrance to the tomb, I got a quick glimpse inside. No, you won’t believe this, but I’d swear on my mother’s grave (what am I saying?—my mother is a grave!) that it’s the Gospel truth. I was THERE, so I should know. What I saw inside was ….NOTHING!

I: Nothing?

S: Now wait.  Don’t smirk as though I’m crazy.  What I’m telling you is that there was nothing inside the tomb.  There was no BODY inside. Do you hear me? The body was GONE! Oh, the linen was there, but the body wasn’t inside it. What’s with this tomb?
I: What do you mean?
S: First Joseph gave it up for Jesus, and now Jesus had given up the tomb, too!

I: An interesting observation. What happened then?
S: Well, these events left the tomb with its mouth wide open, the linens all wrapped up in themselves, and me? I became the only “part-time” tombstone in the history of the world. Or at least the tombstone with the shortest career.

I: Does that bother you?
S: Oh, I don’t really mind. I guess I’ll be left alone now, allowed to rest in one place. Actually, I’m feeling quite good about the way I was used to serve a special purpose in a very special, earth-shattering event.  Not only that, but we rocks have an improved self-image ever since the one who left the tomb has been referred to as the “Rock of Ages.” Because of him, you human beings find all your hopes and dreams fulfilled.  I know that for a fact, for I have heard (through the “underground,” you know) that because Jesus came back to life, all people will come out of their graves when he tells them that it’s time.

I: Your account has been truly moving. Tell me, have these events changed you in any way?
S: We tombstones have had a considerable change take place in us. As old as we are, and as long as we have existed, we now know that what we have experienced is only the beginning. We no longer hold bodies forever, as some believed.  We only hold them UNTIL forever!

SONG………….”How Deep The Father’s Love For Us”

                I will not boast in anything: No gifts, no pow’r no wisdom

            But I will boast in Jesus Christ: His death and resurrection.

            Why should I gain from his reward?  I cannot give an answer.

            But his I know with all my heart: His wounds have paid my ransom.

THE APOSTLES’ CREED

PRAYER

L: O Lord of life and love, our Savior Jesus Christ, how great the victory you give to us in your own victory!

C: By your strong love our sins are buried in the grave, and we are called to travel on with you, blameless and forgiven, children of the everlasting day.

L: Continue your strong love to us, we pray.

C: Fashion us, according to your will, into the people you want us to be, faithful witnesses in all we say and do.

L: Then set us in the place where you want us to serve you, Lord.

C: There make us steadfast and immovable, always abounding in your work, knowing that in you our labor is not in vain.

L: Remove from us our stony, sinful hearts, O Lord, and give us your own heart, a heart that beats with love for all.

C: Breathe into us your Holy Spirit’s breath, that we may truly live. And let that life, begun in us this day, live on, beyond the grave and grief, forever!

L: All this we pray in your strong name, O Lord, and in the words which you yourself taught us to say:

C: Our father… [the Lord’s Prayer]

BENEDICTION

L: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all,

C: Amen.

SONG………………………”Lamb of God”

I was so lost I should have died  But you have brought me to your side

To be led by your staff and rod,  And to be called a lamb of God.

C SONG…chorus: O Lamb of God, sweet Lamb of God, I love the Holy Lamb of God,

             O wash me in His precious blood, Till I am just a lamb of God.

DISMISSAL
L: Go in peace, and serve the Lord.

C: Thanks be to God.