||4th Sunday of Easter
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
1 John 3:1-2 Sermon
May 7, 2006
Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
524 "Saviour Like A Shepherd Lead Us"
530 "The King Of Love My Shepherd Is
522 "The Lord's My Shepherd I'll Not Want"
519 "O God Of Bethel By Whose Hand"
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH
TEXT: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
How much are you worth? Do you have any idea at all? The answer to that question would depend on whom you ask.
For example, an employer would arrive at a figure which would be the result of how much you produce minus what you are paid and the employee benefits you receive. A life insurance company would calculate that figure based upon the amount of insurance you have and what they would have to pay out in death benefits.
In the April 27th 2006 issue of USA Today, a rather horrifying article appeared. It seems that the operators of some rather unscrupulous funeral homes and crematoriums have been robbing corpses of body parts and selling them on the black market.
According to the article, a head can fetch about $900; a brain about $600; a shoulder about $650 each; an entire torso about $3,000; a leg about $1,000 each; a knee about $650 each; a foot about $400 each; and other miscellaneous organs anywhere from $280-500 each. An entire body which is parceled out can fetch anywhere from $5,000 up into the tens of thousands of dollars.
The reason all this came to light, was because various parts were transplanted into living patients who later developed complications such as hepatitis, bacterial infections, and HIV/Aids. The article included pictures of X-rays of corpses which showed sections of PVC pipe which had been inserted where bones were removed.
I should take this time to assure you that our local funeral directors are probably as horrified as I was when I read this article. I know for a fact that DeRoyce and Jeff Volzke, and Greg Zabka are fine, upstanding, and reputable people, who would never even dream of doing such a thing. I would say the same about the funeral directors in the surrounding area.
In a similar sense, our hospitals and doctors deal with reputable and government inspected and approved tissue and organ banks. So the chances of anything like this happening to us here are extremely slim. And now since the unscrupulous people have been brought to light and court cases are being won, hopefully this type of activity won’t be happening at all any more.
In short, I don’t think any of us need to worry about shady funeral directors, or discount doctors and hospitals misusing the bodies of ourselves or our loved ones, or receiving infected body parts.
All this being said, it still is a horrifying thought. Besides being horrifying, all of this seems so cold and calculated. We cringe at the thought of people being hacked apart and sold like so many car parts at an automobile wrecking yard. And we further cringe at the thought of price tags being put upon people at all, whether it be by an insurance company, an employer, or the black market.
As we look at our text for today, which is our Epistle reading, along with our Gospel reading, we can get a good idea of what God thinks of us and how much we are worth in his eyes. In verses 1 and 2 we are told: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God….Beloved, we are God’s children now…”
And in our Gospel lesson for today, from John 10, verses 14 and 15, Jesus says: “I am the Good Shepherd…and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
The Bible introduces one factor into all of this that has no dollar sign attached to it; and that one factor is summed up in the word “love.”
St. Paul does a good job of comparing the value of love verses the value of money and a body. In I Corinthians 13, 3 he says: “If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.”
You can’t place a dollar sign on the value of love. It is priceless. So when we consider the question of how much we are worth, we would have to effectively answer questions like: How much is a husband and father worth? How much is a wife and mother worth? How much is a child or grandchild worth? And we could go on. The answer is, that love carries no tangible price tag. The value of love is indeed beyond any monetary value.
Every year, there are many court cases involving the wrongful death of someone. Judges and juries make a feeble attempt at trying to compensate the surviving family with money when, through gross negligence or incompetence or the fault of someone else, somebody dies. But even when the settlement ranges in the millions of dollars, and the dust has finally settled and cleared, the fact remains that the person is still dead. The surviving family in almost all cases would gladly hand back the settlement check if they could have their loved one back. They’ve lost something which money simply cannot replace. You can replace an income, but not the person.
If we can imagine what a person means to us, then we might get an inkling of the tremendous value human beings have in the eyes of God. Our text for today says, “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”
John is describing something that is so awesome, so tremendous, so wonderful and so perfect that mere words cannot express it. He puts it in terms of a father and his children, similar to the Psalmist in Psalm 103, 13: “As a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.”
Most of you are aware that I am a Chaplain for the Lincoln Police Department. During the seven years I have been doing this, I have had to respond to numerous suicide calls. Those are always difficult.
People frequently get the notion in their heads that the world would be better off without them. On their own, they have made the determination that their life is worthless. They see themselves with no more value than a piece of trash littering the highway of life. And so they decide that by committing suicide, they are doing the world a favor by ending it all.
I wish these people would have the ability to see the results of their action before they do it. They don’t have to sit with a grieving and weeping family trying to make sense out of everything. They’re not around to pick up the pieces. And there hasn’t been one family that hasn’t wished that the person hadn’t done what they did, and that they could have done something to have prevented the tragedy.
In some way, we need to look at ourselves and others through God’s eyes. We need to value human life the same way God does. And when we’re feeling down and depressed, we need to value our own life just as highly. We need to see the love the Heavenly Father has given us.
Our Gospel lesson provides us with a good metaphor when we are compared with sheep and Jesus is the Good Shepherd. In John 10, 15 Jesus says, “…I lay down my life for the sheep.”
So how much are we worth in God’s eyes? We are worth so much that God gave his only begotten Son for our life. Our life is worth more than anything money can buy. We can’t value ourselves or others any less than God does.
Earthly life isn’t pretty at times, in fact a lot of the time. We have illness, hurts, ailments, and catastrophes. This is due to the fact that we live in an imperfect and sinful world.
We also aren’t perfect. We have sinned often and sinned much. In so many ways, we have purposely intended to live as one of the devil’s children instead of God’s children. We have done so much to ruin our relationship with God, that we can’t even fathom why God would want anything to do with us at all.
But thankfully he does. In the Bible he tells us that he loves us to such a degree that he delivered the life of his Son Jesus over to sinners. Jesus gladly laid down his life for people like us, the sheep of his pasture. In effect, Jesus has called each and every one of us by name, and has told us individually, “I love you so much that I died to pay for your sins; so that through faith in me, you are a member of God’s family and an heir of eternal life.”
Regardless of how much or how little we value ourselves, we know that God’s love supercedes everything. Regardless of how much we’ve sinned and gone astray, God keeps tenderly inviting us back again and again.
We find love, forgiveness, and acceptance in the Saviour’s waiting and loving arms. Through faith in him, we have all of this, right now. There is no other price to pay, because Christ paid it all.
The value God places upon our lives is the life of his own Son. Our sinful life is worth the perfect and sinless life of Jesus. There can be no dollar value placed on that at all.
When a person reads the Bible, the value of human life always is of prime importance. When issues like abortion, and euthanasia, and hunger, and human suffering arise, Christians are naturally moved out of a Christ-like love for others. Christians will always want to show the same love that God has for them.
When we think of unscrupulous people selling body parts on the black market, it sickens us. To think that there is a cash value on pirated corpses is almost beyond comprehension. And when we consider all of the trouble this has caused, I can only be reminded of what Paul writes in I Timothy 6, 9-10: “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” Did these unscrupulous people actually think they could continue to get away with what they were doing?
We can be very thankful that God has valued our life in a way that is beyond price or human understanding. We know that regardless of what happens on this earth, he will take all faithful believers in Jesus to be with himself in heaven for all eternity. Regardless of the condition or shape of our earthly human bodies, we know that God will resurrect us in a new and glorified body for eternity.
Therefore, let us take comfort in the words of our text from I John 3, 2: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”