By Michael J. ARVIZU
The sealing of the tomb of Jesus after his death and the discovery of the empty tomb on the third day are stories well known to adherents of the Christian faith.
Tradition holds that Jesus, after his death on the cross, was buried in a simple tomb sealed by a large stone. At his resurrection, the stone was miraculously rolled away. The Gospels of Luke and John tell of the discovery of the empty tomb by the women who were to prepare Jesus’ body with spices.
Over the centuries, the stone has become a symbol of overcoming adversity, rising from the ashes, and defeat over death.
At La Crescenta Presbyterian Church, Good Friday services at the church featured a symbolic replica of this stone in the form of a hollow wheel made out of chicken wire, contact cement, recycled plastic, wood paneling, and vinyl. Painted to give it a stone-like appearance, the wheel was rolled in front of the church’s front doors at the conclusion of services. At 14-feet high, the wheel covered the entire church entrance, essentially representing Christ’s tomb being sealed.
After the stone was put in place at 6:30 p.m., a five-hour campfire vigil in front of the stone began. Prayers and music were offered every half hour.
“We are hoping it will cause people to think about what the stone represents,” said La Crescenta Presbyterian Church Pastor Andy Wilson. “Is it our doubts? Is it our fears? When the stone is rolled away at Easter, we’re hoping it will cause them to remember that Jesus broke out of the tomb and is alive.”
A Roman centurion, played by church member Josh Kauffman, kept watch, and represented the powers of the world that were against Jesus and “that he ultimately triumphed over,” said Wilson.
“If you don’t see the pain of the tomb, you can’t understand as much how important it was that God delivered Jesus from another impossible state,” said church member and Eagle Rock resident Hilary Norton. “Jesus died for my sins. On Sunday, we [rejoiced] in God conquering even death. It’s important for people to understand the power of that victory.”
Built by father-and-son team Paul Hofmann and Jakob Hoffman, the stone was introduced to the church’s congregation in 2011 and is based on a smaller stone that was constructed for the church several years ago. Because it takes a team of people to transport the stone, assemble it, and roll it into place on Good Friday night, the stone was absent in 2012 when about 80 church members were on retreat.
The Hoffmanns were more than thrilled to bring it back this year.
“I hope it sparks people’s curiosity to open a Bible and read the story for themselves or maybe come to Easter services and hear about the Gospel and hear about what happened,” said Paul Hoffmann.
Both father and son say they are satisfied with the stone’s appearance.
“I did a lot of the gluing and grunt work,” said Jakob Hoffman. “It was a two-man job.”
As pedestrians and motorists traveled down Montrose Avenue where the church is located, they could not help but turn their heads for a split second to see what was covering the front of the church.
“We always stop by if there is anything interesting going on. We’re Christians, too, and I’ve never seen this before,” said La Crescenta resident Elena Alexandria while on her evening walk. “It’s impressive; they did a lot of work. It’s beautiful and interesting.”
For Wilson, using the stone at Good Friday services creates an atmosphere of looking out into the neighborhood instead of the neighborhood having to look in to experience faith.
“We want the people of the neighborhood to know that they’re welcome here and that this church is here for the whole community,” said Wilson. “Everybody is happy to share this with the community. They look at it as a gift to the community. It’s a great reminder to the whole valley that Jesus is alive. He died for us and he rose for us.”