The following illustration can be used as a great object lesson/participative exercise for Good Friday, Communion, or Easter, or can be adapted for a meaningful added element to a funeral service:
Placing a stone of remembrance at the grave of a deceased loved one is a Jewish tradition handed down from antiquity.
There are many different reasons for placing the stones which have all converged into the modern tradition: Before the time of headstones, stones were mounded on top of the grave to secure the grave, and to mark the site so it could be easily located in the future. The entire community mourning the deceased would help in the process of laying the stones. As people would later visit the grave, they would leave another stone to show that they had been there (the more stones, the more honor, because it showed that many people had been there to memorialize the deceased). The stones were also symbolic of an altar (a place that was sanctified and holy). Later in history, as headstones began to replace the mounds of stones, the tradition continued because the stones were seen as a "lasting" remembrance; a way to bring honor to the deceased (after all, flowers fade and die, but the stones will not!).
The imagery is beautifully displayed in the tomb of Jesus. Therein was laid the body of a Jewish rabbi sealed in his tomb by a giant stone. But there was no honor, no memorial. Just a disgraced, betrayed and brutalized Jewish teacher--tortured and crucified for no fault of his own. It was OUR sin that lashed his skin, OUR sin which pressed the thorns into his brow, OUR sin which nailed him to the cross, and OUR sin which rolled the stone that sealed him in that cold, dark tomb. And with all that, his stone tomb becomes a picture of the altar upon which he sacrificed his life for the sins of the world. And now, we have the opportunity to contemplate the role each one of us played in the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf--to really own it--to thank him for his sacrifice--and to bring him the honor due his name. As we approach the tomb, let each one of us bring a stone of remembrance and place it there--along with our own sin--leaving it on the altar of his sacrifice.
*At this point you can invite the congregation forward, single file, to take a stone, write their name on it, and lay it at the foot of the cross or at the base of your Good Friday stage display (we created a garden tomb seen with stone rolled in front of the grave, and laid our stones in front of it). When adapting for a funeral service, you can place the rocks on or beside the casket, either at the church or at graveside. You can also reserve the observance if you later do a headstone committal ceremony.
"For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:6-8).