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One of my earliest childhood memories is driving through the rockies with my parents and my siblings. One year we stopped in at Frank slide. 

On April 29, 1903, [120 years ago this month], 110 million tonnes of limestone crashed from the summit of Turtle Mountain and buried part of the . . . town of Frank. The rock mass that fell was 150 metres deep, 425 metres high and one kilometre wide. The bustling town of Frank was home to approximately 600 people in 1903. Most of the roughly 110 individuals who lived in the path of the slide were killed.

The primary cause of the Frank Slide was the mountain’s unstable geological structure. Underground coal mining, water action in summit cracks and unusual weather conditions also contributed to the disaster.*

There was a child, maybe 11 or 12 years old, as I recall, working on the tracks with their dad. The child, seeing the first few rocks begin to fall, raced down the tracks to stop an approaching passenger train. They successfully flagged it down, rescuing about a hundred people from sure and certain death. 

We hear in our gospel reading for Easter about the stone being rolled away from the tomb where Jesus’s body was laid. And, because this concept of being buried in a tomb with a large stone in front is maybe unfamiliar to our 21st century western consciousness, we can find it difficult sometimes to imagine what this might have looked like. In the biblical Greek, the word for stone used in this passage occurs 59 other times in the New Testament, 10 times in the Gospel of Matthew, the book of the Bible which we read the Easter story from today. Of those 10 uses, stone sometimes means a literal stone and other times it’s a metaphor. A few examples:

When the devil comes to tempt Jesus, forcing him to go without food, he taunts him saying that if he really were God he would be able to turn stones into food.

When Jesus is speaking to the religious authorities who are slowly building a case against him in order to arrest him and take him to trial, Jesus says to them, “Don’t you know? The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes.”

When speaking to his disciples about the Creator who knows only how to give good gifts to the creation, Jesus says, “Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

So, when we hear Matthew describing the resurrection of Jesus as a great earthquake with an angel descending from heaven and rolling back the stone, we start to get more of a picture of what kind of event this was.

This was more of a rockslide than a pebble being tossed across a creek. The stone being rolled back from Jesus’ tomb: this was the earth giving way, the collision of nature and industry; this was the rulers of this world who seek to corrupt and destroy being brought down with a mighty force. Finally, having made their way past the guards, past the religious and political authorities who murdered their brother, this is a group of women staring evil in the face and backed by angels returning to their communities with a message of salvation!

The women, running to tell the other disciples about what’s happened, they are the child running to flag down the passenger train, crying: “Stop! Stop what you’re doing! Don’t you see? The earth has given way! Do not be afraid! What he said was true! The old order is crumbling!”

Easter Day comes once a year, but the message of Easter rings true throughout the year. We know the stories of people longing for the rulers of this world who seek to corrupt and destroy to be brought down with a mighty force. We know the stories of people desperately fleeing the systems and governments who have murdered their families. We know the stories of the earth giving way, of floods and fires, earthquakes, tsunamis and rockslides. 

We know the message of the stone being rolled away from the tomb. The question is: have we taken hold of Jesus’ message of salvation? Are we seeking peace and justice for all people, freedom for prisoners, healing for the nations, liberation for the oppressed, restoration for all of creation? Or are we splayed out on the ground, still clinging to Jesus’ feet? 

“Go and tell,” the risen Jesus says to the women. 

“Do not be afraid.” 

Do not be afraid. Amen.

Work cited:

*Frank Interpretive Centre, accessed online on 08 April 2023