The title of my message today is “ Are you going to die? Yes. But you won’t stay that way.” I say message because that’s what this feels like, this revelation and resolution- if only I didn’t share bathroom space with others, because I would totes preach this to the mirror with my hairbrush microphone!
Firstly, before I begin- we all know that one guy who is like, on point when it comes to the gospel and the word and what it says. The guy who reminds you in a ( I don’t know why ) part Southern part Boston accent ( in my head at least) what the bible actually says ALL THE TIME … Like you are standing there in church and saying to your friends “ and she wouldn’t let me put on her other shoe! Getting to church on time is IMPOSSIBLE with a toddler!” And ( let’s call him Earl) pipes up and says “ actually, the word saith’ Nothing is impossible with Gawd’ “ And then proceeds to smile like he doesn’t expect to be punched. If you have a particularly annoying Earl, he throws in a “ you just need to trust Jaysus more” And you lose your salvation for the space of two heartbeats and wonder if anyone has ever been thrown out of a church for brawling. ( likely) While I’m saying this- don’t look over at anyone! We’re all stuck together for a while, no need to make things tense- and not only that, they know who they are already. We just don’t want them to know we know they know. You know?
So I know when I say “ Are you going to die? Yes”. Earl is right there! He is all over that with a “The bible says we shall not all sleep , but we shall all be changed” Yes Earl, I KNOW! We were both greeters at the same conference together for pity sake!! I don’t need your impersonation of Elvis singing ‘ Swing down sweet chariots ‘ thank you! You know what? I think I saw your nursery number come up on the screen! Better run and see if little Enoc is ok!
What do I mean on this beautiful Resurrection day? ( which is now the day after because it takes me longer to get to a point that it does Earl) I mean, Death is going to take you. But the grave cannot keep you. It cannot.
Let me bounce around here so you see why I am so excited about this ~ I had a lot of dreams when I was a young girl. I wrote down a lot of them, and three in particular were spoken out loud all the time – three goals 1. Write a book. 2. Star in a movie. 3. Cut and album. I dreamt of going to TBN in West Virginia and becoming a brilliant Christian Broadcaster , I daydreamed about touring with a choir and seeing the world while I sang across it. Tons of dreams. Some changed. Some evolved ( be quiet Earl) and some died. Dead died. In the middle of the nightmare that was my 20’s, dream after dream just shrivelled up and died. The grave of disillusionment, doubt, fear, unbelievably stifling anger and bitterness came for and took my dreams. My hope for a happy home, loving family, faithful husband. Dead. Whispered prayers as a young girl about where my life would go, what Jesus would show me- dead. And I know as sure as I am typing and listening to the rain fall just outside my window, that you have those deaths too. A relationship, a career, a home, an opportunity, a dream. They’ve been stolen from you in their prime, cut off from you by unseen circumstance, carried off through no fault of your own and the hurt or the loss is stifling. It’s closed in. It’s a silent grave. Maybe you didn’t act fast enough? Maybe you just needed to have more faith ( be quiet Earl) Maybe you didn’t make the right choices, and you’ve got the ruin of your hopes and dreams lying all around you- tripping you up. But here was the part that got me dancing this morning… it’s a law- it’s an actual factual natural and supernatural law. It won’t stay that way!!!! It can’t. On a scale of one to can’t, it cannot. Nothing stays dead!! Nothing! Want to know how I KNOW? ( This part is fun because Earl is waiting for a huge scriptural reference here..Heeheehee) I know because I recently opened the fridge in my home that I hadn’t opened in a while due to Covid-19 and being tucked in safely with my parents miles away…NOTHING had survived. Not the milk, not the luncheon meats, not the take out container with my leftovers. But ( without painting this too close to the lines). It sure didn’t smell like life had stopped. Fantastic fur coved my mandarin oranges. Something blue was coming out of the luncheon meats and I’m sorry.. I mean, I hope you aren’t eating right now… but something WIGGLED in that take out container. Hope you enjoyed that Earl.
The grave can’t keep your dreams any more than the grave could keep Jesus. He was there- oh yes He was. Did He die? Oh yes, yes He did. But could the grave keep Him? NO! It can’t!!! Death didn’t own Him- death couldn’t command Him. The fully God/fully man body in that tomb had given death permission ~ but that didn’t give it AUTHORITY. Your dreams and hopes and wishes for the life God created in you were not given to you by death- and death cannot keep them, it has no authority to do so.
Well wait… what about your physical marriage Pammelah? Do you want that back? Do you really want all of that resurrected? No!! I personally don’t. Nuh uh. But my hope for love, for faithfulness, for family life and happiness and joy- those things have been reborn. They laid dormant so long I didn’t even feel them wiggling- I didn’t see how, couldn’t see far enough to know that what God had brought me through was preparing me for what He is bringing me into. I couldn’t see His hand .. and I asked, believe me. I’ve heard stories of the families who learned about the Down syndrome diagnosis at arrival of their precious child- of how their hopes and dreams and imaginations for their child just died when they heard. I have yet to hear a story of things staying that way. ( If those stories are out there, I don’t want to hear them, Earl)
The death of dreams, of hope, of health- those are real, they are painful, they have a cost. A steep price. If you are in mourning now, still – and. you can’t see your way clear to a day when you’ll ever smile or laugh fully again, I want you to know I understand. Does it hurt? Yes. Will it stay that way? No.
On Good Friday the year I was nine I was hurt by a man in a way that would shape me for many many many years to come. It would inform my choices, colour my perception of who I was, what I was worth, darken my world, my future and kill my childhood in a stripping kind of way- ripping away innocence and replacing it with knowing. I didn’t mourn my childhood then because I didn’t know what I’d lost- I mourned when I became a mom and became a vigilante of protection over my children’s lives. I’ve met dozens and dozens of men and women who had the same ripping away as children and they all came to a time of mourning. Alive- but only surviving . Breathing but not living. It can’t stay that way. It just can’t.
When Sunday rolled around after that very first ” good Friday” nothing was the same- not for any one. You’ve been to services this past week I’m sure, of one sort or another- so I’m not going to recap it all, except to say this. Even death had changed. What was dead before and had remained dead was walking around the streets- where things had ended, there was now a door that meant beginning – death had lost its ultimate hold. Wasn’t death the last straw? Except was it?? Could it be if Jesus could come back from it and walk and talk about it?? Disciples who had watched him die and with him their hopes and dreams for the kingdom coming on earth- friends who had wanted to believe in him but had watched them take a dead body down from that cross were mourning. The earth mourned. The ground was offended. But.
Wow- I’m getting excited all over again….
Earl, give them a little Hebrews 2:9
”But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone-”
He tasted it. He allowed it. He walked in to where it had been in the lives and hearts of all of mankind as the greatest thing we could fear- and He conquered it. He changed everything!! And we celebrate once a year- but the whole of the truth of the cross is an every single moment by moment promise by promise no end to the beginning He won for us thing!!! Come on get happy! It means that wherever there is death in your life- the whole story is different now! It won’t stay that way! It can’t – it doesn’t have the authority or the power to keep your dreams, to keep your promise, to take and keep taking. Did it? Yes -but unless you refuse to see life walking out of that tomb, unless you refuse to face the facts that death lost and lost for good- IT WILL NOT STAY THAT WAY! New life and new hope and new promise is even now folding the shroud that covered the truth and it’s walking out toward you. Look up. Look out! I’m jumping around excited. Come on Earl! Even you can’t find a problem with this~ This is what was won for you on that cross on that weekend and it’s not a one day deal. ETERNAL LIFE. That’s not just quantity – it’s quality!! It’s abundant. Don’t wait til you’re dead to experience this, please don’t wait til you have watched everything die and you’re old and grey saying how sad it was that you lost so much but ’ at least’ you have heaven to look forward to- please pick up on this truth here and now.
After the resurrection, even the closest people to Jesus didn’t recognize Him right away sometimes – they were looking at the death of it all- they could talk to the risen Lord standing in front of them and not see Him- because everything had changed! It didn’t look like it did before-when death was still a thing. It had all changed and they were still trying to see it the same. Come close please and listen to this from the book of Mark. …” The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise. But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.” He told them everything was going to change. Jesus told them that death was going to have to step aside for life. But they were afraid to ask Him about it. They couldn’t see and were afraid to ask- so that when He came back with all authority over life and death, they didn’t realize that meant He would forever be conquering death. Everyday, in all the ways death tries to wiggle in and carry you off….Jesus is there with your beginning just waiting for you to ask Him about it.
Will it look the same? Probably not. My take out sure didn’t look the same ( shhh Earl I’m not saying all change is gross) Will your dreams change? Probably. Will it be hard some times to recognize God working and restoring and living in you? Possibly. Will you die sometimes? Yes. But I promise you. I promise you!!! You will not stay that way. If you ask Him about the eternal, perpetual, overflowing life He bought you… You will walk out of your grave into His glorious life.
Jesus, I’m not afraid to ask you anymore about what you mean. About what you’re doing, about what will happen. In fact- I’m not afraid about what will happen at all. Not at all. I live and move and have my whole being in the life that you gave me- in you! You tasted death. But you didn’t make a buffet out of it- the next meal you shared was on a beach with the men that loved you and you said ” come and eat” – of your plans, of your provision, of your life. I’m sorry for the times I’ve forgotten about the life that’s with you. I’m sorry for the times I made my dreams bigger than your plans for me. Thank you for the hope you keep stirring in me, in the beginnings you keep giving and for the trust you are growing in me as I walk with you and ask. Jesus, the world is hurting right now, it’s almost as if the very ground is offended. People are really dying and the people that love them are really hurting. Don’t let them stay that way please. In your love and mercy please begin to touch the hearts of all who mourn. Bring us back to life. I love you Jesus.