Summary: People of faith know the story of redemption as their own story.
First Presbyterian Church
Wichita Falls, Texas
September 17, 2011
Witness to the Resurrection
Geradine Campbell Coppage
(February 23, 1923 – September 13, 2011)
ON EAGLE’S WINGS
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NIV)
13 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.
What do you think? When God parted the Red Sea for the people to go across – remember that? When the Israelites walked through the bottom of the sea, do you think they got their feet muddy? Probably not, since Hebrews 11:29 says ‘the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land.’
But there’s another reason to think they came out clean, head to toe. In Exodus 19:4, the Lord himself says to them, ‘You…have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagle’s wings and brought you to myself.’ Israel’s deliverance was so remarkable that you could almost think of it as an airlift operation. ‘I carried you on eagle’s wings,’ God said.
When you think about it, that’s not just the story of ancient Israel; it’s your story and mine. It’s the story of all those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. There’s not a one of us who hasn’t had the Egyptian army, in some sense, breathing down our necks, breathing threats against us. But God was with us, and he brought us through. ‘I carried you on eagle’s wings,’ he says.
This is certainly Jerry’s story. Even as a girl, she dreamed of having wings. Her feet were anchored in the rich soil of her family’s farm in Vermont, but she kept her gaze on the horizon. She looked beyond the mountains and thought to herself what it would be like to live in Texas. ‘One day, I’ll fly,’ she said. ‘One day, I’ll take to the sky, and I’ll go there.’
And she did. It was one of those prophecies that come true. In 1950, when Jerry and John came to Texas, they flew here in a plane. Not the same as ‘eagle’s wings,’ I grant you, but, still, Jerry was in flight.
It was cold when they started out, and they were both bundled up against the frigid air. They stopped at points along the way, of course, to refuel and rest. And at every stop the temperature was a bit warmer. They peeled off one layer of clothes and then another, until they got to the Lone Star State, and had no need for coats and mufflers. Wichita Falls became home, and Jerry couldn’t have been happier.
She was one of those people for whom dreams come true. She and John raised three children: a son, Walter, and two daughters, D and Martha. The family business was airport management, and, in her mind, nothing could have been better. Running Kickapoo Airport meant being around planes and pilots and flight logs and radio frequencies. It meant breaking free of the limits of time and space to which most of us landlubber, surface types acquiesce. It meant keeping her dream alive.
As a woman of faith, Jerry knew the story of redemption as her own story.
• Just as God brought the people of ancient Israel out of slavery in Egypt to the joy of the Promised Land, so he brings his people out of slavery to sin into the plenty of his salvation.
• Just as God led his people of old through the Red Sea to the safety of dry land, so he leads those who trust in him through the waters of baptism into new life in Christ.
• Just as God carried the faithful long ago ‘on eagle’s wings,’ so he bears us up and delivers us and makes our paths straight.
This is the story of faith. It is a story that Jerry knew; it is a story that Jerry lived.