Messages, Meditations, and Musings on the Life of Faith by Rev. Dr. Scott E. Olson, Pastor, Grace Lutheran Church, Mankato, MN

Sunday, June 7, 2015

"Singing Our Faith: You Are Mine" - Sermon for the Second Sunday after Pentecost

Singing Our Faith: You Are Mine
Pentecost 2 – Summer Series
June 7, 2015
Grace, Mankato, MN
Isaiah 43.1-7

Today we explore the second hymn of our summer sermon series, “Singing Our Faith.” It’s a series designed to take some of our beloved songs, both old and new, and put them in conversation with Scripture and our lives. Our focus song today, You Are Mine, couldn’t be more different than last week’s I Love to Tell the Story. I Love to Tell the Story is a “golden oldie,” having been written in 150 years ago whereas You Are Mine is an adorable infant by comparison, copyrighted in 1991. Catherine Hankey, author of "Story" is long gone, but Haas is still kicking and very prolific. Though we know how and why "Story" was written, I’ve not been able to find similar information about You Are Mine, perhaps because unlike "Story", You Are Mine is based on a particular scripture text.

David Haas was born in 1957 and has become one of the preeminent liturgical musical composers in the English-speaking world. He has produced more than 45 collections of original music. Though he composes mostly contemporary Catholic liturgical music, published in Roman Catholic GIA materials, his works are found it Protestant hymnals as well, including four hymns in our own cranberry hymnal, the ELW. Haas currently resides in Eagan, MN where he is the director of the Emmaus Center for Music, Prayer, and Ministry and serves as campus minister at Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul.

You Are Mine was nominated by Jean Anderson, and here’s why she proposed this hymn:
I have a curiosity about hymns and check the composers and lyric writers of most of the hymns that we sing and so I notice the newer ones. The composers currently writing that have their work in our hymnal seem to be giving us meaningful and sing-able hymns.  This creative hymn has meaning for me because we sing words that are intended to remind us of God's grace through God's own voice.   I need messages of being lifted out of fear, despair, loneliness and pain and recognize that many others need this comforting message also. 
One reason You Are Mine is so powerful is that it is based on a powerful passage from Isaiah 43, which addresses many of our human situations that Jean mentions. The passage comes in a section called Second Isaiah during which time the prophet brings God’s word to Israelites captive in Babylon (modern day Iraq). The Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem, including the temple and carried everyone who was anyone into exile. As you can imagine, they felt but off and abandoned by God. In their world, one country’s victory over another’s means the victorious country has the biggest god. The Israelites had always thought their God was not only the biggest god but the only God.

A prophet’s job is to speak a word of truth from God to God’s people. Not so much a predictor of the future, the prophet does more “forth-telling” than “foretelling.” Often, the word is a difficult one to hear, but it is also a word of comfort. In the verses preceding this passage at the end of chapter 42, God reminds them that their predicament is largely of their own making. In some of the harshest words of admonition found anywhere, God exhibits his depth of care for them. These are followed by some of the tenderest words of divine love in scripture. Now, God is not an abuser who lavishes affection after a domestic assault. Rather, God is more like a parent who, after seeing their child do something dangerous, forbidden and stupid, first shakes them up a bit before embracing them in a tight embrace and telling how much she loves them.

I read this passage a lot, mostly to people who going through health problems or are actively dying. In the same way, I read it to families who are or who have said good-bye to loved ones. I remind them this passage tells us that no matter what we go through, God will be there right along beside us. Notice it doesn’t promise God will take away the bad stuff. For God is not a superhero who flies in to save the day, rather God is more a companion who sits with us through our darkest times and tells us we’ll be okay.

Frankly, these words have gotten me through some times when I’ve felt cut off from God. I’m not the kind of person who feels God’s presence a lot, so I cling to promises like Isaiah’s. And that’s why Communion is so important, because it’s a concrete expression of this promise. To God, each and every one of us is precious. God knows each and every one of us by our names, the name into which we have been baptized and claimed by God. No matter what happens, God says to each and every one of us, “You are mine.” Amen.

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