Monday, March 23, 2015

Sermon on Psalm 10, for Life Sunday, "Helper of the fatherless"

In the Name of the Father—Life Creator, the Son—Life Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit—Life Sanctifier, Amen. Psalm 10, which we just recited, is a passionate outcry of the righteous against the wicked. The Psalmist asks God, where are you to help? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble? He sees the wicked pursuing the poor and the helpless, being greedy for gain, cursing and renouncing the Lord. He hears them denying God’s existence and believing that for generation after generation, they will be able to get away with this oppression. Murdering the innocent in secret places, preying on the poor, the helpless, and the afflicted. The Psalmist cries out to God—how can this be? He cries for God to remember the afflicted, hold the wicked accountable, and to take this violence and injustice into His hands, and break the power of evildoing. The Psalm ends on the confident note that God will hear the cry of the afflicted, will encourage and strengthen them, will do justice for the fatherless and the oppressed, and call the wicked to account.
Today we observe Life Sunday, and I ask that we pray Psalm 10 as an outcry against the great evil that continues daily in our land. An evil that is hard even to comprehend. Did you know that on one day, there were 2,977 victims killed? It rocked our country and shook us to our core. The unanswered questions still haunt us, and the disastrous effects are still with us today. Most of all those who were directly impacted. But the effects rippled far beyond. That day was September 11, 2001, when terrorists struck our country. Those who were alive and remember it, each know the emotional impact and shock that hit us, and will never forget. But approximately 700 more lives—an average- of over 3,700 lives have been lost—every single day—in the United States of America, since 1973, when abortion was legalized, in Roe v. Wade. That’s the daily average of what has amounted to over 57 million abortions, just in America, since 1973.
Even the loss of one innocent life, by acts of terror, or abortion, or even natural causes is a tragedy. But shouldn’t tragedies of this proportion, that are intentional, rock us or shake us to our core? Do you have any doubt that—realize it or not—there has been a tremendous nationwide impact from those 57 million innocent deaths? Does that innocent blood cry out to the skies, unanswered, with no hope for justice? With the grim promise of millions to follow each year? Do millions of surrounding lives—the mothers of those children, the fathers, the siblings, the families, the abortion workers themselves—suffer the ripple effects of the emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual consequences of this ongoing evil? There are countless women and men who were involved in abortions, and even a few children survivors of abortion, who have broken the silence and spoken of the damaging effects on their lives. Equally important, they have spoken out about the forgiveness and healing they’ve found in the Good News of Jesus Christ. Later this year, we expect to have a young woman speaker here on Maui, to speak for our pregnancy center, who actually survived an attempted abortion, and is alive today because a nurse rescued her.
I urge that we pray vigorously for the power of evildoing to be broken, and that this great evil and shame would come to an end in our land. I urge that you pray Psalm 10 for the victims of such evil. Our situation is very much the prayer of Psalm 10. The abortion industry has pursued evil and harm for generations, for incredible profit, and most often at the expense of the oppressed, the poor, minorities, the unmarried, and the fatherless. And we must commit this injustice to God’s hands, and fervently pray that He break the power of injustice. And as we pray, we should also be ready for God to call us into action to use us to make a difference. God is answering our prayers, and He is calling Christians to action.
A few weeks ago we talked about the Godly zeal and passion that drove Jesus to cleanse the Temple, and that Christians should likewise be motivated with a zeal directed by knowledge, truth, and compassion. This is one issue in particular where God can use our Godly zeal to love our neighbor as ourselves and to care for the “least of these.” There is a tremendous upswing of pro-life support across the country, and it is overwhelmingly among young people. And people of all ages are getting involved in a variety of ways, that are open to each of us as well. A difference is being made. 73% of the nation’s abortion clinics have closed in the last 10 years, leaving less than 600, and compassion pregnancy centers are taking their place, and now outnumber them by 5 to 1. Local communities are leading the change. The former Planned Parenthood clinic near where Pastor used to work closed down and was replaced by a Pro-life compassion pregnancy center. The director of that abortion clinic made a 180 degree turn from being pro-choice, and has become an outspoken advocate and speaker for life. Prayers are being answered. Lives are being changed for the better. The annual numbers of abortions are in decline and may finally have fallen below 1 million/year. But that’s still 1 million too many.
Whose issue is this? Is it just an issue between a women and her doctor, as we are repeatedly told? Is abortion in any way a man’s issue? Statistics show that 85.5% of abortions are performed for unmarried women. Does that tell you anything about the silent involvement or un-involvement of men? I think it really tells us how marriage is an overwhelmingly significant factor in creating the context in which a mother can embrace that incredibly fearful and wonderful responsibility of motherhood. Perhaps we can safely assume that it has something to do with the commitment, security (both financial and emotional), and love that marriage should provide. Half of women report that they have abortions because the father is absent from the picture, or that there are problems with the husband or boyfriend.
So is abortion a man’s issue too? Do men have responsibility and accountability in this area, or is it only a women’s issue? At a minimum, in half the cases, if a man loves, supports, protects and provides for mother and child, the reason for a woman even contemplating that abortion wouldn’t even exist. And on the flip side, I’m convinced that the negative influence of an unsupportive father, or being missing altogether, are huge factors in pushing many women to abortion as well. Fatherhood and the responsibility that goes with it can be just as exhilarating and frightening as I assume motherhood can be as well. But anything truly worth doing is hard, and demands our presence, sacrifice, and effort. And we can each walk with each other in our Christian community, and among our extended families and friends, and show that parenting is truly worth doing, and well worth the love and effort. Even if you are not parents yourselves, you can encourage those who are and point them to God’s own faithful example.
One of the faults of the wicked, as described in Psalm 10, is that they assume both that God does not exist, and also that God will not call them to account. Fatherhood and motherhood both require a high level of accountability, first to God, but also to children and society. Sadly, we have gone so far that absentee fathers have almost come to be expected in our day and age. But before we blame anyone else for the problem of abortion, we should consider that 70% of women who have abortions profess to be Christian. We are first of all accountable. Fixing the problem starts with us, the Christian church. We Christian men need to step up and be good fathers, be faithful and committed to our wives, and to love our children, teach them the faith, and discipline them, as Scripture commands us to do.
And if you feel I’m preaching to the choir, or you’re not a father, or your children are grown—then consider the young men and women who may fall into your sphere of influence. Raising up a new generation of responsible young fathers and mothers who are committed in marital love to each other and toward their children, should be seen as a responsibility of our whole Christian community, not just a few. And it’s a responsibility and task that pays dividends far beyond the immediate family. If you want to talk about the positive ripple effects—mental, emotional, financial, physical, societal, effects of strong, intact families, there is ample evidence of the positive effects on society. Those ripples will go well beyond us and the church.
And then there is the aftermath of abortion. There are those negative ripple effects that touch our many lives. Women suffering from post-abortion syndrome, or health consequences, or unresolved guilt. Men suffering from a sense of lost fatherhood or the failure to be able to protect their child. Families that dealt with unplanned pregnancies in destructive ways, that broke relationships, care, and trust. And more than a generation of missing children, and their unknown missing contributions of love, laughter, and creativity to our families and communities. It is easy for abortion to become a reason for despair, hopelessness, powerlessness, and discouragement. Just like the Psalmist thought, sometimes it seems like the wicked not only get away with oppression, but they even prosper and continue to sin with impunity.
But then hope and faith are stirred in the Psalmist, and Psalm 10 confesses that God does in fact see and hear the evil and injustice that takes place. God does indeed take “mischief and vexation” into His hands. We pray that God would take the fatherless into His hands today, that He would be their Father and protector. That He would “break the arm of the wicked and evildoer; call his wickedness to account till [He] find[s] none.” God is the helper of the helpless and the Father to the fatherless. No one needs to go through life without knowing their True Heavenly Father, the One who truly protects and loves us in all the ways that we as earthly fathers so often fall short. No one who still bears their guilt need carry it any longer. God calls us to confess our sins, lay them down before Him, and receive forgiveness, full and free.
Well, how about it? Do you have the zeal to do good? As we spoke about a few weeks ago, our zeal for good must never lead us into evil actions, with the thought that the end justifies the means—hoping that good may result. Our zeal must seek righteous ends by righteous means. We must never be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
And thank God, there are many good, lawful, and righteous means for us to do good, and to wage spiritual war against this evil. First of all is prayer, and committing it to God’s hands. But we also must answer the Bible’s constant call to rise up to defend the widow, the fatherless, and the oppressed. That theme runs right through the whole Bible. Right here in our community we have Malama Pregnancy Center, which we can and must support with our prayers, time, and offerings, so that we can address the underlying causes and issues that lead women here to choose abortion, and provide them practical and spiritual support to choose life. You may be able to volunteer at the center—as a counselor, a client advocate, or in some other capacity.  We can speak out to help create a culture of life, instead of a culture of death—a culture where the weakest members of society, the unborn, the newborns, the disabled and the aged—are treated with love, dignity, and respect. And that’s not merely a Christian issue—but truly a human issue that reflects on all people.
And there are too many other positive ways to be involved, than I can mention here. But I want to wrap up by returning again to our Psalm and the outcry that God would not remain hidden, but answer our cry for help in a time of trouble. As we’ve already heard, the helpless and the fatherless do actually have a Helper and a Father in our God. And He is not distant from our trouble, but hears our cries and prayers. And the innocent blood that has been shed, does not cry out in vain. Because the innocent blood of God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, was poured out into death for our sin. All the grossly immeasurable sin of the world—yours, mine, the whole world’s sins of every sort, shape, and variety. Jesus blood was poured out not only for our sins, but the sins of the whole world. But Jesus’ innocent blood does not cry out in vain for justice, and neither does it cry out for revenge. Rather, His innocent blood bears God’s justice for us, so that we are forgiven. Our immeasurable debt of sin is erased. And His innocent blood speaks for our inclusion into God’s family. It is a family reconciliation and restoration that only God can accomplish, and that crosses even the barriers of death. But it is God’s answer in Christ Jesus to the problem of injustice in this world, and it is the proof that He will reign as King, forever and ever! Amen

Sermon Talking Points
  1. Read Psalm 10. How does this Psalm apply as an outcry against evil and oppression, specifically to the abortion issue? Why should our first step of action against any evil be prayer? Cf. Ephesians 6:10ff
  2. Who are the victims of the schemes of the wicked, in Psalm 10? Vs. 2, 8-10, 12-14. How does God answer the prayer of the righteous? Vs. 12-18
    •  Some notable abortion statistics: 85.5 % of abortions are performed on unmarried women. 70 % of women having abortions profess to be Christian. 51% of women having abortions are younger than 25. 40% of minors report that neither parent knew about their abortion. By the numbers, abortion occurs among minorities at a much higher rate. Black women were 3.7 times more likely to have an abortion in 2011, than non-Hispanic white women. The abortion rate is three times as high among women relying on Medicaid coverage. At current rates, almost 1 in 3 American women will have an abortion.
    • National and State statistics: Since 1973, the legalization of abortion nationwide in the US, there have been an estimated 57 million abortions, or about 3,700 a day for over 42 years. By comparison, 2,977 victims died in the 9/11 attacks in 2001. The abortion rate has been in a decline for more than a decade, and it is believed that 2013 was the first year in decades that the rate has dipped below 1 million a year. As of 2011, about 5,580 abortions were performed in a year, a little over 15 per day. The rate of abortion in Hawaii is about 19% of all pregnancies.
    • Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in the US, and in 2013 abortions made up 94% of their pregnancy services. During that year, they received more than $528 million in taxpayer funding, in government grants, contracts, and Medicaid reimbursements. They reported $127 million in excess revenue, and $1.4 billion in net assets. Planned Parenthood Annual Report: Fresh Evidence of Abortion-Centered, Profit Driven Business Model

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