Letter From The Director – April 2023

My Heart Will Go On

On April 14, 1912, at 11: 40 PM ship time, the British passenger liner, the RMS Titanic, hit an iceberg, which caused her hull plates to buckle inwards in a number of places on her starboard side, and opened five of her sixteen watertight compartments to the sea.  Over the next two and a half hours the ship filled with water until just before 2:20 AM ship time, on April 15, 1912, when she broke up and sank with over fifteen hundred people still on board. 

One hundred years later – April 15, 2012 – was a Sunday.  In fact, it was the Sunday after Easter.

That day I preached a sermon entitled, “My Heart Will Go On.”

I am sure you recognize that phrase as the title of the main theme song of the 1997 blockbuster movie, “Titanic,” a fictionalized account of the sinking of that great ship.  It starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet as members of two very different social classes who fall in love aboard the ship during its ill-fated maiden voyage.

Recorded by Celine Dion, the song “My Heart Will Go On” quickly became the number one song all over the world.  The fact that that song became Celine Dion’s greatest hit, one of the best-selling singles of all time, and the world’s best-selling single for the year 1998, I believe shows a deep longing in the human heart.

On the Sunday after Easter, April 15, 2012 – one hundred years after the sinking of the Titanic – I shared with the congregation during the sermon that I could imagine the disciples – after the resurrection of Jesus – gathering together many times and sharing thoughts and feelings very similar to the ones that are expressed in Celine Dion’s song.

“Every night in my dreams I see you, I feel you.
That is how I know you go on.
Far across the distance and spaces between us
You have come to show you go on.

“Near, far, wherever you are 
I believe that the heart does go on.
Once more you open the door and you are here in my heart 
And my heart will go on and on.”

In one scene in the movie, as the ship is sinking, Leonardo DiCaprio says to Kate Winslet, “Do not let go of my hand.”  Kate Winslet replies, “I will never let go.”

And the resurrected Jesus says the same thing to us today.  “Do not let go of my hand” and “I will never let go of you.”  Therefore, because of Easter, like the original disciples, we too can say, My heart can and will go on.

First, because of Easter, your heart can and will go on BECAUSE YOUR PAST CAN BE FORGIVEN.   

Have you ever been halfway through a project and then wished that you could start out all over again?  A lot of people are living their lives that way.  They get halfway through life and then they wish that they could start out all over again.

We have all done things that we wish we had not done, said things that we wish we had not said, and thought things that we wish we had not thought.  We all have regrets.  We all carry a heavy load of guilt.

A lot of people cannot move on with the present and the future because they are stuck in the past. Some guilt and/or regret has them all tied up.  They are allowing a former relationship to mess up all their current relationships.  They are saying, “I guess I am just going to have to sit out the rest of my life.”  They are carrying around this huge emotional baggage, and they are wondering why they are so unhappy.

The apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 2: 14, “He erased the record that stood against us with its legal demands; He set this aside, nailing it to the cross.”

Jesus nailed all your sins to the cross.  He paid for all your guilt.  Which means that you do not have to pay for it anymore.

He was nailed to the cross so that you can stop beating yourself up.  He wants to – and He can – forgive your past.  He can cancel all of your debts – all of your emotional debts, relational debts, and spiritual debts.  He can cancel them all.

Like a bill that has been paid, once it has been paid, you can forget about it.  The same thing is true with your sins.  Once God has forgiven it, you can forget it.  It is like when you pay a bill online.  Once you have paid it, you can get a receipt for it.  If anyone says it has not been paid, you can show written proof that it has been paid.  The Bible is written proof that the debt for our sins has been paid.  Why would anyone not want to be a follower of Jesus if for no other reason than just to have a clear conscience?  Because of Easter, your heart can go on because your past can be forgiven.

In our First Reading for Easter Sunday, in Acts 10: 43, Peter is at the house of Cornelius, the Roman centurion.  He says about Jesus, “Everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.”

Paul wrote in Romans 8: 1, “There is therefore now no condemnation awaiting those who belong to Jesus.”   

Did you ever have an Etch-A-Sketch?  What can you do if you mess up the picture on an Etch-A-Sketch?  You can flip it over, shake it, and then turn it right side up again, and there you will have a clean slate.  The cross is God’s Etch-A-Sketch.  He wants to and He can give you a clean slate.

Because of Easter you can know for sure that every single thing that you have ever done wrong can be completely forgiven.  There is therefore now no condemnation.  Jesus did not come to rub it in.  Rather He came to rub it out.  Jesus said in John 3: 17, “I did not come to condemn the world; rather I came to save the world.”  He wants to help you.  He wants to change you.  He wants to give you a new beginning.  Because of Easter, your heart can and will go on BECAUSE YOUR PAST CAN BE FORGIVEN.

And then second, because of Easter your heart can and will go on BECAUSE YOUR PRESENT CAN BE MANAGEABLE.

Several years ago I was driving on one of the southern California freeways during the middle of the day when all of a sudden my windshield started getting pelted by dozens of little objects as if it were hailing.  But the sky was clear.  Then I thought that maybe I just got hit by a bunch of gravel that came flying off of a truck in front of me.  But there was no truck in front of me.

Then I realized that I had gotten hit by dozens and dozens of bees.  There were splattered bees all over my windshield and mangled bee bodies on my windshield wipers.  I must have run into a swarm of bees.  I was just glad that I was not riding a motorcycle with my mouth open.

And the truth of the matter is that you never know when you might run into – or get run into by – a swarm of something.  Much in life is unmanageable.

Somebody once said, Maturity is when you figure out that you do not have it all figured out. Maturity is when you realize that you cannot control everything that life is going to send your way.

Faith is realizing that you cannot control everything in your life, but God can. So why not look to God and ask Him for His help.  Let God take charge of your life.

Many people say, “My life is out of control.  I feel powerless in my situation and powerless to change my situation.  I feel powerless to break a bad habit, save or sever a relationship, get out of debt, or get on top of my time, my schedule, and/or my finances.”

We all need a power that is greater than ourselves and that is outside of ourselves.  You were never meant to live life on your own power.  The Bible says in Ephesians 1: 19-20, “How incredibly great is His power to help those who believe in Him.  It is the same mighty power that raised Jesus from the dead.”

The same power that raised Jesus from the dead can help you rise above, deal with, and face your problems.  The same power that God displayed in the resurrection of Jesus two thousand years ago is available to you in your life right now.

We do not know what the future holds, but we can know who holds the future.  Even if it is out of our control, it is not out of God’s control.  He can give you the power to face it and deal with it.

In the Gospel writer Matthew’s account of Easter Sunday morning the angel says to the women (28: 5), “Do not be afraid,” and Jesus says to the women and the disciples (28: 10), “Do not be afraid.”  But we all have many reasons to be afraid.

John mentions three people in his account of Easter Sunday morning – Mary Magdalene, Peter, and “the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved,” who is generally considered to be the disciple John.  Each of them had reason to feel that their life was out of control.

Mark 16: 9 describes Mary Magdalene as the one from whom Jesus had cast out seven demons.  How those demons gained access to her life – and what kind of destructive affect they had on her life – we do not know.  But before she met Jesus her life must have been out of control.

Peter had real issues with lack of impulse control, and John must have been a real hot-head, because Jesus called John and his brother James the Sons of Thunder.  Yes, all three of these first witnesses to the resurrection before meeting Jesus were living lives that were unmanageable and out of control. 

The apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4: 13, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”  No problem is too big for God.  No situation is hopeless if you turn it over to Him.

The Bible does not say, I can face all things through the power of positive thinking.  Nor does it say, I can face all things if I get myself sufficiently all psyched up.  Rather it says, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”

Because of Easter, your heart can and will go on BECAUSE YOUR PAST CAN BE FORGIVEN and BECAUSE YOUR PRESENT CAN BE MANAGEABLE.   

And then, third, because of Easter, your heart can and will go on BECAUSE YOUR FUTURE CAN BE SECURE.   

One of the universal problems that we all have is death.  Everybody is going to die.  Someday I am going to die, and someday you are going to die.  Only a fool would go through life not preparing for something that is inevitable.

Will Rogers once said, Worry must really work because almost nothing that I worry about ever happens.  But death happens – sooner or later – to everybody.

It just does not make sense.  But so many people get so busy with the here and now that they do not stop to think about and prepare for what is 100% certain to happen.

A group of children were asked to write down what they believed about death.  An eight-year-old wrote, “When you die they put you in a box and bury you in the ground because you do not look so good.”  A nine-year-old said, “Doctors help you so you will not die until you pay their bills.” Another nine-year-old wrote, “When you die, you will not have to do homework in heaven unless your teacher is there too.”  And then a ten-year-old said, “A good doctor can help you so you won’t die.  A bad doctor sends you to heaven.”

The truth of the matter is that every one of us will die.  But many people do not want to think and/or talk about it.  But still, there is a deep, universal, human longing to know, “What is going to happen to me after I die?”  Because of Easter, your heart can and will go on because you can know for sure what will happen to you after you die.

Because of Easter, your future can be secure because if you believe in the Christ of Easter, then you can know for sure that you can and will spend eternity with Him.

Because of Easter, your heart can go on because YOUR PAST CAN BE FORGIVEN, YOUR PRESENT CAN BE MANAGEABLE, and YOUR FUTURE CAN BE SECURE.  Why would you not want to give your life to and live your life for the Christ of Easter?   

I pray that you experience the depth of God’s love and the joy, hope, and power of the resurrection during this Holy Week.

Dennis D. Nelson

Executive Director of Lutheran CORE