Monday, January 25, 2010

Sermon on 1 Corinthians 12:27, for Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, "Whose Body is it?"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. I have Good News for you! Though we live in a world that is dead and dying, though we live in a world that often chooses death over life, God speaks love and life, hope and healing to us in His Word. He has made us and He has re-made us alive in Christ. That is why we’re here. That is why we listen to His life-giving Word on this Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

People that God dearly loves—babies—are everywhere! They’re selling Michelin tires. They’re babbling away about e-trading. And they’re even roller skating to rap music to sell Evian water! It’s cute! And cuteness works. But what does it say that we accept babies in advertising, yet discard them like old tires even before they are born?

Babies are everywhere! Hardly a week goes by that the celebrity gossip shows don’t gush over another “tummy popping out,” or about another one of the rich and famous adopting a newborn or a toddler from somewhere in the world. It’s cute! And cuteness works. But what does it say that the tabloids celebrate babies—whether the parents are married or not—and also take it for granted that it’s just as OK—and might even be celebrated—when one of them decides to abort because “who are we to judge another’s decision?”

Sadly this shows that not all stories have happy endings. Some are sad and disappointing at best, tragic and shocking in their harshness and horror at worst. Consider for example a former NFL player in prison for plotting the murder of his pregnant girlfriend. The hit man was spared the death penalty even though he was found guilty of “using an instrument with intent to kill an unborn child.” One should stop and note how this guilty verdict also fits as a description of the work of an abortionist. The man who fired the gun said, “I couldn’t bring myself to kill the baby. I shot at the top...” Fortunately the unborn child, delivered by C-section, survived the violence against his mother.

Today we grieve a deadly tragedy. But as we grieve do so by celebrating the gift of life, in the face of a culture that is filled with death. Thirty-seven years ago—on January 22, of 1973—the United States Supreme Court handed down it’s decision on the case of Roe versus Wade, legalizing abortion-on-demand in these United States of America.

How serious is this holocaust? A conservative estimate is that—in our country alone—almost 52 million unborn children have been killed by legalized abortion in the past 37 years. Who might these children have been? The researcher who could be finding the cure for breast cancer or AIDS or Parkinson’s Disease! The police officer, the soldier, the scientist, the writer, the teacher, the mother, the father, the musician, the artist, the missionary bringing the Good News to those who had never heard of Jesus Christ!

Who were they? Who were these nameless members of a lost generation? They were children denied life after conception. They were grandchildren denied life outside the safety of the womb. Perhaps they would have simply been children who delighted those around them with a smile or a laugh. Children that never lived outside the womb to bring the delight and awe and innocence of a child to the world. How much poorer are we for their absence. How much less knowledge, joy, and energy does the world have because they are lost to us. They were God’s creation, given bodies and souls, to live in His world and to live in Christ through the gift of His salvation.
And it’s not only Roe v Wade that we grieve today. We grieve the culture of death which surrounds us, the culture that has made “choice” and “freedom” and “privacy” its unholy trinity of false gods. We grieve RU-486 and partial birth abortions. We grieve the rise of infanticide and euthanasia. We grieve political policies and practices which do not value and protect the life of the smallest and most vulnerable among us. As we grieve we turn to God’s Word seeking answers to this important question: Whose Body Is It?

Let’s start with the positive, with the affirmation of God’s wisdom in designing life and God’s power in creating life. The Psalmist says, “…I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14a).
What mystery and what marvel. From conception on there is a unique human being. This isn’t a potential life but a life filled with potential. All this unborn child needs is time and nourishment—and protection.

For at only 18 days after conception the tiny heart begins beating. At eight weeks the stomach, liver, kidneys, and brain are functioning. Distinctive, one-of-a-kind fingerprints are defined. This child is moving and maturing. The Precious Feet of only ten weeks show little toes already formed and growing. All the preborn child needs to become a healthy newborn is nourishment and time—and protection. For in the womb the growing person is safe and protected and completely dependent. He’s dependent upon the nutrients supplied by the mother. She’s dependent upon the protection supplied by all of the rest of us—through our care and our acceptance and our laws.

So whose body is this? See and marvel at what God has done since Adam and Eve first conceived a child. See and marvel at what God still does! The baby and its mother share nourishment and oxygen, a common blood supply through the umbilical cord. Waste removal happens through the amazing placenta even as the growing child “rehearses” the waste disposal process for after its birth. Hear a longer portion of Psalm 139 in another version: “You are the one who put me together inside my mother’s body, and I praise You because of the wonderful way You created me… Nothing about me is hidden from You! I was secretly woven together… with Your own eyes You saw my body being formed” (Psalm: 13-16a Contemporary English Version).
By genetic makeup, this new life is completely unique. No other human being has had or ever will have the exact combination of genes and chromosomes. No other person’s DNA will ever define the complex and complicated person that is alive and growing in utero. But here is also a miracle of God: this isn’t just true of an unborn child, it’s true of the aged and the handicapped though weakened by age or disease, though limited by injury or illness. Each one is God’s creation, each one is wonderfully, uniquely made; each one is still valued and still valuable, unborn or aged, newborn or disabled.

Whose body is it? The slogan, “It’s My Body! It’s My Choice!” has been on too many signs held at too many pro-abortion events for too many years. The assertion is this: “You can’t tell me what to do! Because it’s my body, not yours!” But is it truly your body that you’re trying to control? An unborn baby is not a spleen or an appendix to be removed, or even a kidney or liver to be transplanted. An unborn baby lives within its mother and is dependent upon its mother, but is separate from its mother. From the moment of conception it is a completely genetically unique human life, growing in her womb. Yet, the choice can be made to end this precious and fragile life.

For choice has become “god.” And if this is our culture’s “god,” this “god” must be worshiped and served. This appeal to choice has led to the great confusion that a perplexing number of people view abortion as the taking of a human life, yet grant to a woman the “right” to kill this unborn child.

It’s clear there is both confusion and conflict over this simple question. People disagree over who establishes value, who determines personhood, and who exerts control over this unborn life. These are questions that the Body of Christ, and each follower of Christ, can and must answer. And we do so by listening again to God’s Word. Isaiah the prophet writes: “This is what the LORD says – your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: ‘I am the LORD, who has made all things…’” (Isaiah 44:24a).

Whose body is it? The follower of Christ says, “It belongs to the One who formed it. It is a gift of the One who has made all things.” But our question this morning reveals something more. It reveals that we often live far from the intention God has for us. He designed us to live in relationships with each other and with Him.
So we must confront and confess these sins: separateness and individuality and independence and freedom. These are all sinful when they distance us from God and from each other within His family.

And we must confess that they stand behind the sinful choices we make: convenience and control over the unborn or the aged, the weak or the handicapped. Indeed we’re also guilty of not wanting the inconvenience of being burdened with a life that we’ve decided isn’t of the same value as another, or not valuable enough to others.

Whose body is it? That questions leads us to Scripture’s salvation story. The ultimate “crisis pregnancy” occurred when the unmarried virgin Mary is told she will conceive and carry and give birth to the promised Messiah. And hear Mary’s quiet confidence, “I am the Lord’s servant…may it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38).
Know that she willingly accepted shame—for there were certainly those in Nazareth whose tongues wagged about the “trouble” Mary was in. But she accepted this that all the world might know hope! And rejoice that Planned Parenthood wasn’t there to “rescue” Mary from this terrible burden!
For here is a great truth—one that we celebrated barely a month ago: Christ takes a human body. Our Lord takes on human life to give us life. Jesus lives like us in every way so that He can fight the battle we could not fight.

For the body carried in Mary’s womb, the body placed in the manger for its cradle, the body seen by shepherds and honored by Magi—this is the body that Christ will offer on the cross. Jesus will give this body over to suffering and death, to torture and humiliation, to whipping and mockery, to crucifixion and entombment. Whose body is it? It is the body of the very Son of God. And the body of Jesus sacrificed at Golgotha means forgiveness for every sin against life, every disregard for the unborn or every disregard for the young woman pregnant and alone and desperate or every disregard for the woman or the man who still is burdened—ten or twenty or thirty years later—by choosing abortion over adoption.

Even more, the body raised on the third day means life for the bodies of all who believe in Jesus Christ. Whose body is it? It is the body of the victorious King of Kings now seated at the right hand of the Father and proof and promise that we will live for all eternity with resurrected and glorified bodies.
It’s time to share another Scripture with you. Maybe it’s the one you’ve been expecting all along!

This Word of God is from 1 Corinthians chapter 12. Here the Apostle Paul writes: “If one part [of the Body] suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part [of the Body] is honored, every part rejoices with it. …[for] we were all baptized by one Spirit into one Body…” (1 Corinthians 12:26,13a).
Whose body are we? We’re the Body of Christ! We don’t live in brokenness, separated from each other, separated from God. The Holy Spirit’s work is to bring us into this marvelous relationship.

In Christ we’re connected: first with God, then with each other. We’re not independent, but interdependent. We need each other. We rely on each other. We support and care for and encourage each other.

Whose body is it? It’s Christ’s body! And because we’re the Body of Christ—because we have this connection to our Lord and to each other—we’re called to care. This is the Body of Christ. And because we’re part of this body we’re empowered and equipped to care as those who have been cared for by the One who (as Michael Card sings) cannot love us more and will not love us less.

We’re called to care for those who have chosen life over death, providing for and supporting a new mother—whether married of unmarried—and her child. Just as we’re called to care for those who have chosen death over life—boldly and lovingly speaking the forgiveness of the cross to those burdened by guilt, that they may rejoice in the freeing grace of God in Christ. We’re called to care for those who are weak or defenseless; we’re called to care for those who are weary and devalued. We’re the Body of Christ. Chosen. Forgiven. Cleansed. Connected. Freed. Called in Christ to serve others, called to affirm life, called to celebrate life, called to protect life, called to share life. Amen


NOTE: When Choice Becomes God was written by F. Lagard Smith [Harvest House Publishers, 1990]. Here is a link to a review of the book: http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/1991/11/14/a-review-of-when-choice-becomes-god-by-f-lagard-smith/


Sermon Talking Points:
Read past sermons at: http://thejoshuavictortheory.blogspot.com
Listen to audio at: http://thejoshuavictortheory.podbean.com
**The sermon today is adapted from a Life Sunday sermon from Lutheran’s for Life, by Rev. Mark Barz.

1. Why is the statement “Who are we to judge another’s decision?” a fatally flawed statement from a logical point of view? What other immoral actions could be protected under this same logic? Abuse, slavery, theft, deviant behavior, drunk driving, etc.

2. Considering over 50 million children have been killed by abortion in the last 37 years in the U.S. alone (not to mention worldwide!!), who might these lost children have been? What contributions of knowledge, love, joy, and friendship have been lost to society?

3. Does the status of being dependent change the value of a human life? This logic extends to the infant outside the womb, to children, to the aged, to the infirm or disable. Dependence does not change the value of life. Even Jesus was dependent, humanly speaking, on his mother from conception through childhood.

4. How does Scripture speak of unborn life? Psalm 22:9-10; 51:5; 71:6; Psalm 139; Jeremiah 1:4-10; Luke 1:15, 39-45; etc.

5. Whose body is it? 1 Cor. 6:19-20; 12; Rom. 14:7-8; 2 Cor. 5:14-15

6. How is the story of Jesus the ultimate “crisis pregnancy?” What did this body, the body of Christ accomplish for our redemption? How does that join us together in fellowship and concern for one another?

7. What is the true source of peace and healing and forgiveness for those who’ve gone through abortion? How can we spread Christ’s mercy to them? Visit www.lutheransforlife.org for more resources

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