+ In Nomine Jesu +
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
While we don't normally observe "non-liturgical" events in our services on Sunday morning, I have chosen to do so today, as we follow the lead of our Lutheran Church Missouri Synod in observing "Life Sunday." Actually, most of the congregations of the Synod observed "Life Sunday" last week on the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision, which legalized abortion in this country. We've put our observance of "Life Sunday" off a week because I simply wasn't able to pull everything together last Sunday due to recent travels.
The theme of the service this morning, as well as the theme of this message is "Trust God! Choose Life!" The portion of Scripture chosen for the message is from Deuteronomy 30. I draw your attention particularly to verse 19 of the reading, which you heard earlier…"I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants."
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
God says, "choose life," and yet, as a culture, we have, for many decades, chosen death over life, so much so that our culture has be characterized by many as a "culture of death." A recent issue of "The Weekly Standard," a conservative political magazine, suggested that Baby Boomers are to blame for many of the ills of our culture. Baby Boomers were born between 1947 and 1960. Even though I am one of the Boomers, I happen to agree with the article in the Weekly Standard.
Wesley J. Smith, in his article in the periodical "First Things" titled "Are Baby Boomer Values behind the Culture of Death?" says, "I believe these two themes-nihilism (that is, the love of self) and eliminating suffering-create a toxic cultural brew, bringing to mind the harrowing quote about assisted suicide from Canadian journalist Andrew Coyne, written in the wake of widespread public support for a Canadian father who mercy killed his 12-year-old-daughter because she had cerebral palsy:
A society that believes in nothing can offer no argument even against death. A culture that has lost its faith in life cannot comprehend why it should be endured.
Now, in attributing much of the decline in our culture to the baby boomer generation, I don't, by any means, intend to suggest that the guilt we bear as a "culture of death" is to be born only by such a small minority. The fact is our common guilt, for what have become our cultural norms, is evident in our isolationist views of the ills of abortion and euthanasia, attacks on life at both ends of the spectrum.
The doctrines of tolerance and individual rights have compelled us to reason in this way…who am I to tell another person what they should be able to do with their own body, or, with their own life!? Thus, a motorist proudly displays his view of the abortion issue on the back of his vehicle with a sticker that reads…"If you are against abortion, don't have one." The expressed point is subtle, and yet, it speaks volumes. "If you are against abortion, don't have one, but don't infringe on my right to have one." From a Biblical perspective the sticker may as well have read, "If you are against murder, don't commit one, but don't infringe on my right to commit one."
Beyond our wholesale adoption of the doctrines of tolerance and individual rights is the general notion that "mercy," or, shall we say "compassion," sometimes demands death. And so we learn to speak in terms of "mercy killing," or, of "compassionate ends," or, even of "euthanasia," which literally means "good death." Thus, the great enemy of mankind, which Scripture clearly portrays as death, is used as a means to fend off, or, combat the perceived greater enemy, which is suffering. Therefore, a father kills his 12 year old daughter because she suffered from cerebral palsy. Indeed, "a culture that has lost its faith in life cannot comprehend why it should be endured."
God says, "choose life," even though He knows that the life we choose, indeed, the life He lays out for us, may well be laden with difficulty and with suffering. And then, in the marvelous gift of faith, He enables us to believe that He can use even suffering to our greater good and to His glory. "Through (Christ) we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."
Suffering without trust in God is really just suffering, and in that sense, it can truly be the bane of our existence. However, when our faith is in God and in His merciful goodness, so clearly showered on us in the giving of His Son, even suffering has meaning and a purpose. Indeed, "In the cross of Christ I glory…when the woes of life o'ertake me, hopes deceive and fear annoy, never shall the cross forsake me; lo, it glows with peace and joy."
As those adopted by Christ in the water of baptism, we, of all people, have something to say about life, because we have been given a grand view of life, one that transcends the spoiled and fettered imaginations of our broken reason and souls. There we were, in the arms of our mother or father, dead, as it were, dead to God, dead to hope, dead to promise and joy, and God made us alive in Christ. "You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."
You are, my friends, God's voice for life. "Choose Life!" Speak of it, and dare I say, vote for it! Resist the temptation to accept what is clearly an abomination to God. Speak tender words of mercy to those who have succumbed to our cultural norms and have taken life and have subsequently faced the ills of a tortured conscience. Tell them that God's mercy and love for them is great and that He forgives any and all sin. Tell them that His Son literally became their sin that they might have life and that might have it to the fullest.
Years ago I made a visit to someone at one of the hospitals in downtown Houston. As I was going in to the hospital, a woman walked toward me pushing a wheel chair with a young lady in it. The young girl's body was obviously misshapen, a malady that prevented her from being able to walk. I looked at her and thought to myself how hard her life must be. I began to pity her, not in a healthy way, but, in a way that sort of said to God "why?" "Why would you let this young lady have to deal with such suffering?" The Canadian journalists comment applied to me. "A culture that has lost its faith in life cannot comprehend why it should be endured."
And then, as I walked by, the young lady looked up at me and she smiled. Immediately, my assumption about life, specifically about her life, had been crushed and put in its place. God is good! He brings joy out of and even in the midst of suffering.
"In the cross of Christ I glory…
Bane and Blessing, pain and pleasure
By the cross are sanctified;
Peace is there that knows no measure,
Joy that through all time abide."
In Jesus' name. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.
+ Soli Deo Gloria +
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