Epiphany 2, Sanctity of Human Life Sunday
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Isaiah 49:1-6 Sermon
January 20, 2008
Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
169 "All People That On Earth Do Dwell"
375 "My Faith Looks Up To Thee"
510 "Take My Life And Let It Be"
429 "From All That Dwell Below The Skies"
A NEW LOOK AT LIFE
TEXT: (v. 5-6) “And now the LORD says—he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD and my God has been my strength—he says: ‘It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
This particular Sunday can be noted in a variety of ways. According to the liturgical calendar, it is the second Sunday after the Epiphany. Or, if you look at an older liturgical calendar, it is Septuagesima Sunday, which means it is seventy days before Easter, not counting Sundays.
But if we look at a secular calendar, we would find that this past Tuesday was the 79th birthday of Martin Luther King, who was born on January 15, 1929. And if we look ahead to this week, we would see that this coming Tuesday is the 35th anniversary of the United States Supreme Court decision in the matter of Roe vs. Wade. It was on January 22, 1973 that their landmark decision legalized abortion on demand in the United States.
Ever since Abortion on demand became legal in the United States, the various pro-life organizations have agreed that the Sunday closest to the 22nd of January be designated as Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.
Considering everything that’s going on, the churches in America have a lot of options. Many churches will have a whole service dedicated to pro-life issues, including sermons, hymns, and Bible readings. Other churches will promote it in one way or another, but they will still carry on with the liturgical calendar and related themes.
But there are many churches who don’t agree with the pro-life issues at all. Instead they will focus on other things, like civil rights (even though last Sunday would have been closer to Martin Luther King’s birthday), or maybe world relief, or just let it pass by unnoticed.
In our congregation, it is no secret as to where we stand on abortion and pro-life issues. We are members of the Seward County Right to Life, and we support the cause of Lutherans for Life. Our congregation’s name has appeared in the newspaper ads for Seward County Right to Life, and every Mothers’ Day we put our mother’s names in that big newspaper ad which reads, “Thanks Mom for giving me life.”
This was a decision we made shortly after we established our congregation. We unanimously voted to become a part of Seward County Right to Life, and therefore we took our stand on this issue. We make no apologies as to where we stand either.
In the past, I haven’t made a big deal out of preaching anti-abortion or pro-life issues from the pulpit, at least in this congregation. We are all agreed on where we stand, we’ve studied the issue in earlier Bible classes; and well, I sort of felt that by tackling this subject in a sermon, I was “preaching to the choir” so-to-speak, or trying to convert the converted.
This year however, I decided that maybe it was time I did address this from the pulpit. I’ve come to realize that my sermons have a far broader impact than just the walls of this building. Judging by the number of hits we get on our website, and seeing how many times individual sermons get read, I know that we’re reaching probably more people than what we realize. Besides that, I think we all benefit from knowing why we have taken the stand we have.
Abortion is a very emotional topic. People on both sides of the issue tend to take a strong stand, and many are very vocal about it. And in presidential election years, the topic is always brought up; and everybody knows which side of the issue the candidate has taken. In my experience, I can’t think of anybody I’ve met who has been completely apathetic about it. It is indeed a very emotionally charged issue.
For us in the church, abortion is not a political issue. It is a moral one. And since it is a moral issue, we have to look at what God says in his Word, and take it seriously.
The main question to be resolved is: When does life actually begin? A person who takes a “pro-choice” stance on the issue will argue that life doesn’t begin until birth. In fact, some have even gone further than that and have opined that a baby has to be alive outside the womb for a certain number of days before it should be considered to be a viable human being and thereby justify the barbaric practice of partial birth abortions.
Pro-choice advocates will use anatomical terms such as “embryo,” and “foetus” to downplay the existence of a real baby before birth. Abortion clinics will simply refer to unborn babies as “P.C.” which has nothing to do with computers; for them it means “product of conception.” They’ll do anything to soften the blow of taking a human life before birth.
God thinks differently. In numerous areas in the Bible, he tells us just how precious that life in the womb is to him. When God spoke to Jeremiah, he says in chapter 1 verse 5: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” God knows us just as well as he did the prophet Jeremiah.
King David also attests to this, as he says in Psalm chapter 139 verses 13-14: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” He also writes in Psalm chapter 22 verse 10: “From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother's womb you have been my God.”
This morning, our Old Testament Lesson, which is the appointed reading for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany, gives us some insight into this as well. Verses 5 and 6 read: “And now the LORD says—he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honoured in the eyes of the LORD and my God has been my strength—he says: ‘It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
This is a prophecy about Jesus, and it points us directly to the womb of the Virgin Mary. When God the Holy Spirit came and overshadowed her and caused her to be pregnant, it happened in her womb. Jesus Christ became fully human in that womb, and from then on Jesus was both fully God and fully man. That was the way he came to this earth to be the light to the nations and the Saviour of all.
There was no time during that pregnancy that Jesus wasn’t fully and completely Jesus. He wasn’t an insignificant blob of an embryo or some nameless foetus in there. He was never just a “product of conception” that could be terminated at any time.
From that moment of conception, the true and only begotten Son of God had come to this earth. He came for our sakes; he came because he loved us. He humbled himself to be carried for nine months in the Virgin Mary’s womb, so he could be born like any other human being. He put on human flesh and blood and entered the world to live the perfect life we could not because of our sins, and to suffer the punishment for those sins so we might be reconciled to God and live eternally.
In the same way that the womb was the beginning for Jesus, and the prophet Jeremiah, and King David, so it is for every human being on this earth. Life begins in that womb, and it is very precious indeed.
Abortion involves taking a precious and helpless life. God indeed lets us know that this unborn child is a real person. And modern science also backs this up. For example, do you realize that a person’s DNA, their unique blueprint of life is established at conception? This is the very same DNA they have throughout their life. And shortly after conception, there are such things as brain activity and a heartbeat. An unborn child passes all the tests of being a viable human life.
The Declaration of Independence of the United States guarantees a right to life for everybody. This is why those opposed to abortion call themselves the “Right to Life” movement. God says that an unborn child is a real person, and this is confirmed by science. And since United Sates citizens are guaranteed a right to life, it isn’t too difficult to see why abortion on demand has been such a legal and political issue.
By making my next statement, I am not trying to make a political statement, nor am I alluding to the endorsement of any political candidate. But I do want you to think seriously about this. If a political candidate or party is pro-choice, how seriously do they regard the Declaration of Independence? In the same way, if a Christian is pro-choice, how seriously do they regard the Bible?
It always amazes me how many pro-choice people are so vehemently opposed to capital punishment and the death penalty. They wave their Bibles and say “God says ‘Thou shalt not kill!’ God is opposed to the death penalty!”
Comparing the two is like comparing the proverbial “apples and oranges.” We read in Romans chapter 13 verses 3 and 4: “For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you; for he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” And Jesus himself says in Matthew chapter 26 verse 52: “…for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.”
God permits capital punishment. He doesn’t command it, but he permits it. Now we may not personally like it or want it, and that’s our right and privilege. We have every right to express that; and in our secular society, we can work to repeal it if that’s what we want to do. What we can’t do however is to bring God into our argument, and say that he’s opposed to it. That’s not what the Bible says. Capital punishment exists as both a punishment for the person who willfully does wrong, as well as a deterrent for those tempted to commit crimes which would result in the death penalty. God allows governments to do this.
Capital punishment and abortion are different things. A child hasn’t committed a crime simply by being conceived. Abortion isn’t a deterrent to keep a baby from growing in his or her mother’s womb. Abortion is nothing more than senseless murder for selfish reasons.
In the few years after abortion on demand became legal, I had one of the most eye-opening experiences as to the horrors of abortion. I was reading an article in Life magazine of all places; and beside the article was a picture of a family: a husband, a wife, and a little boy. The article said that this family had wanted a boy. And then it explained how they got their son; the mother had aborted a total of 23 girls before she finally became pregnant with a boy. Or I think of another article I read where this woman in China was persuaded to have an abortion in her sixth month. They induced labor, and a healthy boy was born, whom they strangled with his own umbilical cord. That’s the tragedy of partial birth abortions. The whole mess disturbs me very much.
The subject of abortion always points up the sinful ways of humanity. Selfishness and convenience become a god to so many people. People think more about protecting a rare species of beetle or a couple trees than they do about protecting the unborn.
Over two thousand years ago, a womb brought forth a very special person into the world. He would bring light to a people steeped in the darkness of sin. That light was Jesus, the Saviour. He was the true God/true man person prophesied from the time mankind fell into sin. He would come, so that through faith alone, sinful humanity would be saved.
I remember picketing outside Robbinsdale Clinic, an abortion facility in Minneapolis. We had a special tract that we handed out as women left after having an abortion. The tract was simply entitled, “Healing on His Wings.” It introduced people to Jesus, and explained how much he loves them and forgives them; and that through faith in him, they would find rest for their souls.
All of this should remind us of our purpose here. We exist to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a sinful world. When we assemble here, we hear both God’s law and gospel. The law convicts us of our sinfulness and how far we have fallen short of the perfection God demands. The gospel however tells us just how much God loves us and forgives us for Jesus’ sake. We know that when we come to Jesus in faith, our old sinful record will be eradicated and we will be transformed into a new person who wants to serve the Lord out of a thankful heart.
Sadly, I know that there are people out there who would never walk through our door knowing that we are a pro-life congregation. It may be out of pride, or selfishness, or guilt. Some people may not want God to tell them what to do; but that can happen in any area of life.
But then there’s the person who has had an abortion, who may feel that they would be ostracized or shamed because of what they’ve done.
That’s why we always need to express the same love Jesus has for us. The Bible tells us that he welcomed sinners and ate with them. He told the woman at the well that he didn’t condemn her for her past sinful actions either. People who came to Jesus in faith found a new joy and a constant hope. Jesus came forth from a virgin’s womb so that a new day would dawn in the hearts and lives of people.
We pray that the Gospel of Christ touches the lives of many people, and we pray that he will use us as his instruments. We also pray that the new “safe haven law” being debated in the legislature will save the lives of many babies. And we continually pray that abortion on demand will come to an end in this country and throughout the world.
We may not all be aware of how popular abortion on demand is today, so I’d like to close with a paragraph from an article by Brian Cole of the Christian Post which contains some very startling figures: “There are about 46 million abortions a year worldwide and about 126,000 abortions a day, according to The Alan Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion organization. According to Focus on the Family, 44 percent of all American women will have an abortion at some point in their lifetime. More than a million American women will have an abortion this year.”