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God Calls Us Through
Easter Sunday, March 30, 1997

MARK 16:1-7

Several weeks ago, Jody loaned me a tape of gospel music by Ron Kenoly. When I returned it to her, I told her, "Thank you, I found the Easter sermon!" One of the original songs goes like this:

When you catch hell, donít hold it!

When you are going through hell, donít stop!

Go ahead, go ahead, go ahead, donít stop!

When you catch hell, donít hold it! Have you ever caught hell? When you do catch it, learn whatever there is to learn, but donít hold it! A pastor friend of mine reported that his church had moving, inspiring Palm Sunday services last week. He went home elated, grateful, happy, until mid-afternoon when the phone rang. A member of his congregation lambasted my friend because he didnít like some of the music. He ripped the pastor up one side and down the other. He gave him hell, and my friend held it. It ruined the rest of his day. He was upset, hurt and angry. I saw him on Monday, and gave him the usual platitudes: "Hey, donít let one personís criticism get you down. Think of the hundreds who liked the music. Donít hold on to criticism, let it go. Let it wash over your back." In other words, when you catch hell, donít hold it!

But, talk is cheap, isnít it. Platitudes are easy to deliver. Itís hard to let go, and itís easy to let oneís day be ruined. Why is the negative often more powerful than the positive? Why do we give more power, more credibility, more attention to the one who complains than we give to the many who are appreciative and grateful? There are some people out there who love to tear down. Have you noticed that when you get in your stride, there is usually someone to trip you? When you do your best, there is usually someone there to point out a flaw, a mistake, an oversight.

Listen, you who clerk in stores, you who teach school, you who go to school, you who are salespeople, you who manage companies or offices, you who work in companies and offices, you who do church work, you who sweep floors and wash windows, you who cook, you who parent-- when you catch hell, donít hold it! Donít let it eat at you. Donít let it stop you. Donít let it fill you with guilt. Learn whatever good there is to learn from the criticism, and let it go!

When you catch hell, donít hold it!

When you are going through hell, donít stop!

Go ahead, go ahead, go ahead, donít stop!

Jesus is our model. Deep down inside him, Jesus knew that when he went to Jerusalem, he would be rejected, suffer and die. But, did he try to escape? Did he try to run away like Jonah did? Did Jesus stop? No, he set his face towards Jerusalem. He faced his accusers. He faced injustice. He faced death. He faced hell, and he went through it. Jesus was humiliated, beaten, and hung on a cross until he died. He died, he was buried, but death did not have the final word. Hell did not have the final word. The devil did not have the final word. The powers of evil did not have the final word. The principalities and powers did not have the final word. God did! Today is Easter, and we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus went through hell. Jesus went through death.

God calls us through. There is nothing that can happen to you that will ultimately defeat you. We are not promised a life without questions, a life without problems, a life without sacrifices, a life without hell, but we are promised victory. There is a comforting verse in 1 Corinthians, 10:13, Iím reading from The Message:

"No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; heíll never let you be pushed past your limit; heíll always be there to help you come through it."

When you find yourself in a dark tunnel, donít turn around and try to go back. Whatever you do, donít stop. Donít give up. Donít give in. Go ahead, go ahead, go ahead, donít stop. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Thatís the Easter message. Thatís the Easter hope, that there is light ahead. Christian hope does not mean there never will be any tunnels. Hope does not mean there will never be grief, hardship or hell. No, Christian hope means that no matter what, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and we are going through. Go ahead, go ahead, go ahead, donít stop.

I think of Ouida Petty this morning. Her youngest child is being baptized this morning. I wonít go into detail, you can ask her, but she has gone through hell. Her children have gone through hell. Ouida moved back here a few months ago. She went into a drug recovery program and is now clean. One Sunday, she knelt at our altar and gave her life to Jesus Christ. Last Sunday, she came again and renewed her commitment. Walking with the Lord is a constant act of commitment. Her life still wonít be easy. She needs your prayers, your love and your support. She has an advantage, though, that helped her go through hell. She has a mother who never stops praying for her daughter. Never doubt the power of wearing out your knuckles pounding on the door of heaven.

When you are going through hell, donít stop. Go ahead, go ahead, go ahead, donít stop.

Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up: It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.

Every morning, the lion wakes up: It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.

It doesnít matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle: When the sun comes up, youíd better be running.

Go ahead, go ahead, donít stop. Whatever you do, donít stop. Youíd better be running!

A four-year-old boy fell to his death from the 53rd floor of a New York City apartment building. He was the son of British rock star, Eric Clapton. What do you do with death? Go through it. God calls us through. What do you do with grief? Go through it. Donít deny it. Donít cover it up. Donít hold back the tears. Go ahead, go ahead. While grieving, Eric Clapton wrote a song called, "Tears in Heaven." In 1993, the song won the Grammy as the Song of the Year. Also in 1993, Eric Clapton won the Grammy as Male Vocalist of the Year.

The song is a moving struggle of a man with his grief. It begins with a question to his son, "Would you know my name if I saw you in heaven?" At the end of the song, we see a glimpse of light at the end of the dark tunnel of grief, a glimpse of hope as he goes through his grief. The song ends with,

"Beyond the door thereís peace, Iím sure.

And I know thereíll be no more tears in heaven." Listen to the entire song.

Would you know my name, if I saw you in heaven?

Would it be the same, if I saw you in heaven?

I must be strong, and carry on Ďcause I know I donít belong here in heaven.

Would you hold my hand, if I saw you in heaven?

Would you help me stand, if I saw you in heaven?

Iíll find my way through night and day Ďcause I know I just canít stay here in heaven.

Time can bring you down, time can bend your knees.

Time can break the heart, have you begginí please, begginí please.

Would you know my name, if I saw you in heaven?

Would it be the same, if I saw you in heaven?

Beyond the door thereís peace, Iím sure.

And I know thereíll be no more tears in heaven.

When you are going through hell, donít stop! Go ahead, go ahead, go ahead, donít stop! When it comes time for you to face your own death, donít stop-- go through it. I donít mean committing suicide like the 39 computer programmers in San Diego who believed some alien space ship would come and get them! I mean, when death comes knocking at your door, donít run, donít hide, donít stop, go through, go ahead, go ahead. In my vast years of ministry, I have come to believe that Christians die better than nonChristians. NonChristians are often afraid. They often try to prolong an impossible situation. They often want needless surgeries and life prolonging machines hooked up to them. Christians die with a sense of peace and hope. We know there is light at the end. We know Jesus conquered death. We know there is a gift on the other side of death, the gift of eternal life in heaven with Jesus and loved ones.

To prepare for the inevitability of your death, every adult here this morning needs to have a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care to spell out in detail what you want and what you donít want when you become terminally ill. I firmly believe that God calls many people home, but machines and contraptions wonít let them go. Do your family a big favor and decide now how you want to die. Iím not being morbid on this Easter Sunday. Iím encouraging you to follow Jesusí model-- face death head-on, right in the face, and go through it. God calls us through.

When you catch hell, donít hold it!

When you are going through hell, donít stop!

Go ahead, go ahead, go ahead, donít stop!

ã 1997 Douglas I. Norris