God Still Moves STONES
Easter at Ginghamsburg
April 05, 2015
We all feel the confines of obstacles - tomb-sealing boulders of guilt, failure and pain that seemingly stand in the way of life dreams. And a boulder isn't something you can just move by yourself.
Easter celebrates the story of a boulder POWERFULLY moved to usher LIFE out of the grave. JESUS escaped the tomb, proving once and for all that new life emerges out of the darkest of places. So this weekend we gather - not to celebrate an historic event - but to welcome LIFE for each and every person - NOW. Whatever that tomb-sealing obstacle is, expect resurrection - GOD STILL MOVES STONES.
Mark 16:1-8 / Mike Slaughter / April 4-5, 2015
Easter: God Still Moves Stones
April 4-5, 2015
God Still Moves Stones
Mike Slaughter, Lead Pastor
Thanks for joining us for Easter at Ginghamsburg, with this weekend’s message, “God Still Moves Stones.”
(Video: Pastor Mike Slaughter and Officer Zach Williams)
(Officer Williams) Does God still roll away stones? Yeah, He sure does roll away stones. You know, when I was 17 or 18, I met my wife, who just happened to be white. I never really knew much about racism growing up; it was never a big issue in my family. We were a middle class family who lived in the suburbs. But, when I married a white girl, things kind of took a turn. I started to realize that everything wasn’t the way that I thought it was growing up. I’ve always wanted to be a police officer, from the age of 16. From that time on, I worked hard to become a police officer, a goal that I accomplished, but unfortunately not before my mom passed away in 2012. Two weeks after my mom passed away, I found out that I was adopted, which really threw questions in my mind, but overall I found out that my mom loved me, she didn’t care about my background, she didn’t care that I was addicted to crack as a child. She loved me for me. In the police academy, I had a picture of my mom and a picture of my daughter, Layla; they were my motivation. At those times, I was working for and working towards making them proud. Fast forward from the academy two years later, and we have incidents like Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, the issues of Walmart, New York… and just the outright distrust of police from our community. The only thing that I know to do is to react, get into my community and become that centerpiece that links police officers with community, and brings them together. We started a discussion—a dialogue—between community members and police officers; we sit at a table and we talk. We talk about the things that scare us, we talk about the things that we love, and we talk about our children. We’ve placed officers into an intentional dialogue with people they would have never talked to. So, yeah, God still moves stones, and as a result of that, I am moving stones.
Zach is a member of this church who is one of my young heroes. He is 25 years old, and very humble. He is the Dayton Police Officer who has organized these events around our city where officers sit down with community members and enter into dialogue—isn’t that tremendous? He is 25 years old. Zach is also an incredible servant here at Ginghamsburg Church, and right now he is serving here this weekend. Zach, are you upstairs running lights? Where are you—all the way at the top? Let’s give a shout out of love to Zach!
If you have your Bible, will you open it to the Gospel of Mark, the very last chapter, chapter 16? Mark ends the Gospel abruptly, unlike the other Gospel writers. The three women, who come to the tomb, do not witness Jesus’ presence at the tomb. In the last verse we read, “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to no one because they were afraid.” Boom! It’s cut off. Now, you will notice there were verses that were added years later, but that is the original Mark where it was cut off right there. Now, go back to the very first verse in chapter 16, ”When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome brought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on the way to the tomb, and they asked each other, ‘Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?’”
As I was reading this question, it hit me, because that question is the epitome of what the resurrection is all about. When the women were going to the tomb, what were they expecting? They weren’t expecting to find life; they expected to find death. Like so many of us right now sitting in this place, we come here with unmet expectations. For the last month at Ginghamsburg, we have been praying with so many of you who have unmet and unwelcomed happenings in your life. Just a few weeks ago, One Brother—younger than me—sitting here looking fine in worship, went into a seizure and discovered he had a brain tumor of cancer. A 37-year-old young male, who exercised, had a stroke. All of this happened in the last month. Friends of Carolyn and I—friends our age who we grew up with, went to church with; vacationed together—their son, the same age as our son, was just diagnosed with a reoccurrence of cancer in his life.
For all of us, we come to that point—if you haven’t yet, you’ll come to that point—where there’s a huge, unwanted obstacle that rolls into your life’s path. You are going to be asking the same question, WHO IS GOING TO ROLL AWAY THIS STONE? WHO IS GOING TO REMOVE THIS STONE? Now, the danger in that time is that we allow fear and negative expectations to dominate our thinking. Expectations impact our life outcomes—Failed expectations, broken dreams.
Our son Jonathon—a lot of you know this and watched him grow up—from the time he was four years old said, “When I grow up, I want to be a professional baseball player.” Now, all of us hear kids say things like this, or that they want to be an astronaut… but this kids was passionate about it! If it snowed in the wintertime, he would have me pull the cars out of the garage and I would pitch him those little plastic practice balls, and he would hit in our garage. He went on and he did well, he excelled through high school, he made all of the special teams and so forth. He graduated out of high school as First Team All State. I’ll never forget it—as soon as coaches could start contacting kids, right after their junior year, the first coach that called was from Duke University; the second one was from Virginia University. He chose the University of Pennsylvania where he played four years. He was a four-year letter winner, and First Team All League. Everyone asked him what he wanted to do when he got out of college, and he said he wanted to play baseball. He had an agent who told him that since he batted .299 and led his team in RBI’s, that he would come in on the second day of the draft. So, we hovered around the computer all day, listening to the second day of the draft, and we heard two of his teammates get drafted. That was pretty good since one of them was his back up catcher, who only had four official bats in the season. Then he heard that the guy he beat out for First Team All League was second team for the same position. That guy is now starting for the San Diego Padres in the outfield. So Jon thought surely it’s going to happen. It got down to the last draft—and guess what—he wasn’t drafted. He didn’t give up hope because the agent was working for him, and said that they would try to get him signed as a free agent. In the month of June, he got seven pro-invites around the country, and he traveled over 3,000 miles doing tryouts that month. The last one was with Tom Browning, who may be one of the coaches for the Dragons this year.
Jon called me after trying out that day, and said that Browning had said that he would sign him! Five minutes later, he called me back and said that they wanted him to come back the next day and go head-to-head against another catcher. I got to go that day and the neat thing was to see my son hit a homerun, hit one out of the park, against Tom Browning. That’s one of the greatest memories to hold on to. Both of the catchers did really well, and I thought they were probably going to sign both of them. He went in to Browning’s office with the other catcher, while I waited in the car. I saw my son come out with his equipment, 22 years old, and I knew, I knew he knew in his heart that that was a dream that had died. I can’t tell you how I felt as a father in that moment, not because he wasn’t going to play baseball, but because my son was so down.
I want to tell you—here is what the Resurrection is all about—it may not be the outcome you expected, but God’s UNEXPECTED is going to trump your expected every time! You all know what my son does today? He is an orthopedic surgeon. Last year he and I were at a baseball game together (Philadelphia Phillies against the Cincinnati Reds) and I asked him if he would rather be a 32-year-old surgeon or out there on the field playing ball. He said, “Out there on the field playing ball.”
See, if a dream dies inside of you, you don’t have to die with it. We need to begin to expect Resurrection. I don’t know where you’re sitting today—if you’re sitting here going through divorce, you’ve been diagnosed with a disease, you’re losing your job—we need to begin to expect Resurrection. God says, “See, I am doing a new thing, old things have passed away, but I’d doing a brand new thing. I’m going to bring water from rocks! I’m going to make a way in the wilderness, and streams in the desert!”
Resurrection is about reversal. It is an undoing. It is a rolling away of death and effects. The Word says, “I can remain confident in this, I believe I am going to see the goodness of the Lord, the bounty of the Lord, the abundance of the Lord in the land of the living.”
Believing is expectations, because your expectations will determine the outcomes in your life. Now, Sisters and Brothers, what happens when we focus on our frustrations and setbacks? We become entombed in our negative expectations. We begin to say stuff like, “Well, I’m too old. It’s too late. I’m too young. Someone else is going to get that promotion. I’ve tried so many times before.” We need to EXPECT RESURRECTION. God’s going to do a new thing.
I had an Aunt, and this Aunt was an incredible influence of faith in my life. She was a woman who went to Seminary in the 1950’s. Can you imagine what it means going to Seminary in the 19650’s—it is still hard today for women in Seminary. In her forties, she was diagnosed with a very aggressive, rare form of cancer. She had four daughters, two of which had not even graduated from high school yet. The doctor gave her a prognosis of two years, and he told her he didn’t know anyone who had lived beyond five years with this aggressive form of cancer.
She was a woman of faith, and talk about expectation, here is what she said to God: ”The only thing I ask is that I live long enough to see all my kids graduate from high school, college and that I live long enough to see them get married and that I live long enough to see my grandchildren.”
Well, I think that she had 10 grandchildren, and with the last two, she had the opportunity and privilege to keep them every day while mom and dad went to work. As for her prayer, she kept extending it to “until my grandkids are in school.” When the youngest grandchild, who is now in junior high, went to Kindergarten, she died. She was in her 70’s! Our expectations—we need to expect Resurrection. Limitations—God has none. Limitations—God has none. The same power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead lives in you, Sisters and Brothers. Every promise of God is yes in Christ Jesus. The outcome may not be what you expected, but God’s unexpected will trump your expected every time!
It’s not enough just to expect Resurrection, look at verse 7. Mark tells us that there was a young man at the tomb, who spoke to the woman, and used two verbs. The women didn’t see Jesus, just like you and I have not experienced the resurrected Jesus, the first thing the young man told them to do was GO. He didn’t say BELIEVE, didn’t say ASK, didn’t say WANT or DESIRE. GO is a verb; it is an action.
Before you experience the power of resurrection in your life, you have to activate or act on the resurrection promise. I love that account in scripture where the four friends have another man, a paralyzed man that they want to get to Jesus for healing. They get to the door and can’t get in because it’s crowded with all the people bringing their needs to Jesus. Can you imagine the activation of energy, the activation of energy for them to work their way up onto the roof, get his dead weight up on the roof, find an opening in the roof and lower the man to Jesus. Get this part, when Jesus SAW their faith—didn’t hear their prayers—when Jesus SAW their faith, He said, “My son, your sins are forgiven, get up and walk.” What I want you to notice in this account is that the three women didn’t let their fears or doubts prohibit them acting on the promise. You heard the saying, the road is made by walking? The road is not made by wanting or believing, the road is made by walking.
Let me tell you about a 1,000 pound stone in a man’s life and how that stone was rolled away. Carolyn and I came here, it will be 36 years ago this month; I was 27. Before I came here, I had served in two other churches as a youth pastor. So, from age 18-27, I had been a youth pastor, and I had begun to do some conferences and speaking in youth ministry. I come here, serving the little tiny church down the road, and the pastor over by Bethel at the United Methodist Church called me; we had never met. He asked me to come over and speak to his youth group on a Friday night. I drove over to the tiny church building and went in to meet the pastor. They had food for the kids like they do at youth events, and he and I were eating sandwiches and sharing our experiences together—how each of us met Jesus Christ and how we experienced this call to ministry. Then, I heard the unexpected, this young pastor had gone through twelve years of school as a special education student, then went to work as an unskilled laborer after graduation in a factory. One of the co-workers in that factory had begun to share Jesus with him and how he had personally found a relationship with Jesus Christ, and the change it had made in his life. This young man who had become pastor was kind of skeptical but he watched this man and noticed the difference in his life, so he made a commitment to Jesus Christ. Now, not long after that, that young man, a special education student was experiencing a call to ministry.
You have to understand, to be ordained in the United Methodist Church; you need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, and a master of divinity degree from an accredited seminary. If you go full time, it is a full three years including summers, and most probably takes 4-5 years. So, I’m stunned, my mouth is hanging open. I said “College? How did you get into college?” As a special ed student, he didn’t have the kind of prerequisites that he needed. He said that he had applied to Wright State University and they turned him down, and so he went to the admissions office and they explained to him how it was not possible. He went back a second time, and then a third time, and then they accepted him because they realized he wasn’t going to stop coming.
So, I said, “You graduated?” He said it took him 8 years, but he has a bachelor’s degree from Wright State University. Regarding seminary, he said that he had just completed his 5th year at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, and that it may take him two or three more years to finish. When Jesus SAW his faith—I don’t know if you would have found one person who would have said it was possible—the young man defied reason, other people’s expectation and acted on the Resurrection Promise.
Folks, the road is made by walking. Not only do we need to expect Resurrection, we’ve got to continue to act on Resurrection Promise. Here is the third thing, what was the second verb that the young man said to the women?
He said you’ve got to GO and you’ve got to TELL. You’ve got to speak Resurrection. You’ve got to proclaim Resurrection. Now, folks, we’ve got to watch the words that come from our mouths. Did you know that? Did you know that words have power? Here is what the scripture says, “Our words have the power to destroy or build up. Death and Life are in the power of our tongues, and those who love it (that means use it) will eat its fruit.” In other words, the words we speak will become the fruit that we eat, and experience in our lives. We’ve got to change our language.
If you go to chapter 14, verse 27, Jesus is with His disciples before his arrest, the Last Supper, and he says that they are going to fall away. Now, I don’t know about you—if you’ve looked at verse 27—if I had invested three years into a group of men, everything I have, and I’m ready to go to Hell on their behalf, and every one of them is going to desert me; I’m going to tell you some of the kind of words that are going to be coming from my mouth! But, that is not what Jesus spoke, look with me at verse 28. He speaks words of Resurrection Faith. He says, “But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” Folks, we have got to speak Resurrection into each other’s lives.
When I was a kid, my mom used to have this saying, “If you can’t say something good about people, don’t say anything.” I have changed that a bit—if you can’t say something good about people, find it. For God has not created anyone for destruction, Sisters and Brothers, but that they may come, and know life. We have got to speak LIFE into each other.
Last week, Carolyn and I were out to dinner one night. A young man was our server, and I always like to create conversation with kids, especially asking them if they are in college. I asked him if he was in school, and he was, in engineering at Carson. He had wanted to be an engineer since fifth grade, but he was struggling with Physics and was afraid he would not be an engineer. What do we need to speak? Resurrection Life! So, I looked at him and smiled and said, “You are going to be a great engineer, once you pass through this.” This too will be rolled away, Sisters and Brothers.
The reason we have these little stones today—and if you haven’t gotten one, I hope you take one—is that Easter is a time where we remember our Baptisms. OR, if you’ve made a new commitment to Jesus, as we are doing coming up on April 15 when we do baptisms. Baptism is when God speaks Resurrection possibilities in our lives. Baptism is naming. We read that Jesus was baptized with a bunch of people, and that a voice from Heaven was heard, like a proclamation. Here is what the voice said, ”You are my son, who I love, and with whom I am pleased.” In baptism it is no longer you or I who live, but Christ who lives in us.
What I remember in my baptism is that I am God’s son, whom God loves, with whom He is pleased.
Well, wait a minute—I have doubts, God! I am longer entombed by my doubts, because I am God’s son, whom God loves, with whom God is pleased.
But, God, I have screwed up, and sometimes I get entombed in my guilt, but in Resurrection, I don’t have to be entombed in my guilt for God has named it, He has spoken it into my life. “You are MY SON, whom I LOVE, with whom I am PLEASED.”
“You are my DAUGHTER, whom I LOVE, with whom I am PLEASED.” In the Old Testament, when God did something, the Jewish people would always take rocks or stones and call them “remembering stones.” When they were going to cross the Jordan into the land of promise, they crossed on dry ground and every family picked up a stone, and they stacked the stones. It was a reminder in those times of doubt when they would come up against battles, enemies that they never thought they could defeat, they would pick up the stone and they would remember. We are God’s children, who God loves, with whom God is pleased—with whom God is pleased.
Before we leave to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord, I want to give anyone in this room the opportunity to make Jesus Lord of your life. Would you bow your head in prayer with me at this time? It doesn’t matter that you doubt. All you have to do is be willing to EXPECT Resurrection, and to ACT on Resurrection Promise, and to start SPEAKING Resurrection Possibilities.
Lord Jesus, today, I bet my life on one reality—the Resurrection. I am going to begin to expect Resurrection. One day at a time, I am going to act on Resurrection Promise. I am going to start speaking Resurrection Possibilities. You are the living Son of God, and I give my life and my will to you. Amen.
Now, folks, it’s not because you want it. You have to act. When Jesus SAW their faith. If you are sitting on a dead marriage right now, go to a counselor. If you are in an abusive relationship right now, get up and get out. When Jesus SAW their faith. If you’re stagnant in your faith or you doubt in your faith, activate by getting actively in the life of the church. Next week, we start a brand new series called “God at the Movies.” I am going to be here next week and start with the movie Unbroken. God bless you all; have a celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Go in His love and power. Amen.
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