Summary: A funeral sermon about the hope of belonging to God
In the opening of a David Haas song called “You Are Mine” the lyrics state:(1) “I will come to you in the silence, I will lift you from all your fear, You will hear My voice, I claim you as My choice, Be still, and know I am near. - I am hope for all who are hopeless, I am eyes for all who long to see, In the shadows of the night, I will be your light, Come and rest in Me.(Chorus) Do not be afraid, I am with you, I have called you each by name, Come and follow Me, I will bring you home, I love you and you are mine…”
The words of Isaiah 43 remind me of these David Haas lyrics, and perhaps he was even inspired by them. An oracle of salvation, God gives his people a word of assurance and hope. Do not be afraid, “I will lift you from fear”. But perhaps even more than that, He not only declares that He created and formed us, but He also “summoned you by name, you are mine” says the Lord. It isn’t a question for those who have salvation; it isn’t like a annual valentine’s day question “Would you be mine?” or “Will you be mine?” It’s not the Guns N Roses song “You Could Be Mine” nor the Dixie Chicks “You Were Mine” but God makes a decisive statement of fact for those who belong to the House of God, “You are mine!”
This salvation story discussed in Isaiah is no doubt a recollection of the Exodus and God’s saving act to bring the people through the rivers, but the rivers would not sweep over them. God’s saving act, which brings His people from the bondage to freedom, ultimately in the promised land. “It is the saving act by which (God) brought Israel into being…”2 and we the hearer of these words are reminded afresh of God’s salvation act which comes in the new covenant in Jesus Christ. The theological connotation then is that God will bring us, whom he created, and formed, and has summoned by name, from the bondage of this earth to the promised land. And the first reminder is that “when we pass through the waters (the Jordan), He will be with us. And through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you. And when we walk through the fire, we shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”… Why because “You Are Mine”.
“Water and fire”(2) are often used symbols of judgment. Crossing over has often been linked with crossing over the Jordan into the promised land. But the water and fire of judgment, for a believer who has taken the name of Jesus Christ, will not consume you, for you have been summoned, and God says “You are mine!”
This text reminds me of another often quoted scripture passage at someone’s death, Rev 21:1-4:
“1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
And so here is the hope of today! Bill Foley was a believer in Christ Jesus. Created and formed of God, summoned to be a child of God, and I trust fully that God said to her “You Are Mine”. So in death, though she passed through the waters, the rivers shall not overwhelm her. And though she walked through the fire of death, she was not burned, nor was she consumed by the flames. These seven verses end with ‘Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made!” Bill Foley was created for the glory of God, and that glory so radiantly shown through her. Her life was a witness to Him, and clearly she was His.
Max Lucado in his book “You Are Special” tells of the land of the wooden doll people called Wemmicks, in which those who were talented got “stars” and “others though could do little, they got dots”.3 One such Wemmick was Punchinello. He literally became covered in dots. He seemingly didn’t do anything right. In a discussion with the Wood Carver, the Creator named Eli, he “lifted Punchinello off the bench and set him on the ground. “Remember,” Eli said as the Wemmick walked out the door, “you are special because I made you. And I don’t make mistakes”. Punchinello didn’t stop, because in his heart he thought, “I think he really means it”.(3)