Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sermon for January 24,2010

Life Sunday
January 23-24, 2010
Text: Genesis 2:4-24

Dear Friends in Christ,
Among the celebrities who passed away this past year was Mary Travers. If that name doesn’t quite ring a bell, just think back to 1966 and think of a girl with long, blond, oh so 1960's hair, on stage with two guys singing, “If I had a hammer...” That’s Mary Travers, as in Peter, Paul, and Mary. You may remember that folk music group as the face of the 1960's civil rights movement and the anti-war movement. They continued in that vein later when the band reunited in the 1980's and their concert’s featured Noel Paul Stookey’s song El Salvador, protesting the U.S. support of the conservative government of that country. They sang songs about racial justice. They performed in the same Washington rally where Martin Luther King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. They campaigned for justice for people in places like Vietnam and El Salvador. But they had no justice for the unborn. Mary Travers was a militant abortion rights advocate.

We live in a world of great ironies. Many of our left wing activists will say that we should all line up to adopt overseas children. But these people would say that the solution for a country like Haiti is abortion - the killing of large blocks of their unborn. This same left, that would condemn the nation of Israel, refused to even consider Yasser Arafat’s homosexuality and blatant corruption. They would ignore how his wife would go on million dollar shopping sprees with dollars given for the assistance of the Palestinian people. All too often what we see is activists campaigning for justice that isn’t justice, but opposing real justice at every turn. Nor were they real students of history. No where did radicals like Mary Travers acknowledge the fact that our withdrawal from Southeast Asia led directly to the communist genocide in Cambodia. Nor do they acknowledge that the U.S. policy in El Salvador under Ronald Reagan ultimately worked.

Nowhere do we see this lack of true justice more clearly than in the issue of abortion. Oh, yes, we must protect the rights of women. But what about the rights of unborn women? Where are their rights? What about the responsibility that goes with having rights? Oh no, we can’t expect anyone to act responsibly. We must be free to have sexual relations wherever and whenever we desire without consequences. This is the cry of modern man - and not just with sex. The first commandment of modern man is “There shalt be no consequences.” This is why so many in our world are so panicked about finding a cure for AIDS. The spread of this disease is almost entirely the consequence of man’s behavior. AIDS stands in direct opposition to the first commandment of modern man.

Modern man thinks that he is self created. He is the author of his own life and can be the author of his own death if he so chooses. This was the kind of thinking that led Ernest Hemingway to take his own life. And as the author of life, man can define the moral use of life. But is that true? Is man the creator of himself? Of course not. That does not even make logical sense. Who is the author of life? God. The LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

Human beings are the craftsmanship of God. He formed us with great care. He took the elements of the earth and formed us into the shape and structure that we have today. God created DNA with the millions of base pairs. Often we focus on those occasions when some of those base pairs are wrong. It is only an error in a sequence of three base pairs that results in a typical genetic disease such as Cystic Fibrosis. Millions and millions of base pairs must be correct or the person wouldn’t live at all. This is the careful craftsmanship that God applies to all life and particularly human life. But God does something else with man. He performs mouth to mouth resuscitation. He breathes life into us. In doing so the Spirit of God enters into man. Man becomes endowed with an element of the divine. We call this the image of God. The image of God is divided into original righteousness and the higher powers. By higher powers we mean having an eternal soul, self awareness, rational thought, the power of speech and so forth. Original righteousness was lost in the fall into sin. The higher powers were not lost in the fall, but they did become corrupted. We see this in the words God speaks to Noah after the flood. “And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. ‘Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in His own image. And you, be fruitful and multiply, teem on the earth and multiply in it.’” God is saying to Noah, you are in My image. You are My craftsmanship. My breath is in your lungs. You are special. And you shall treat all human life as special and precious. In fact it is so special that man is to procreate and fill the earth. Yes, that is a command from God, at least in the context of marriage, to have sexual relations.

This then raises a question. When can a human life be taken? As a private person, one can only take a human life in self defense or defense of another in immanent danger. If the danger is not immanent we are to call the authorities. Beyond this, only one acting within an office can take a life, and only within the parameters of their office. A soldier is to kill enemy soldiers in a time of war. A policeman can kill in the line of his duty. An executioner can put to death those properly delivered into his hands. But they must never take a life that is innocent. These lives must always be protected. And for this purpose we are not saying innocent before God. We are saying innocent before the world. No life can ever be taken that innocent before the world.

In our day we see the demands for abortion and euthanasia. We hear slogans like “death with dignity”. Actually, all death is undignified. Nor is it only what we have done, but what we have permitted by our silence. Life issues is an area where we like to sit back and judge others. See, we aren’t sinners like these other ones. But by our silence we are accomplices. Nor do we really know who among us has violated these things. How many women sit in our congregations each week who have had abortions? How many among us may have committed euthanasia, either directly or by neglect? We might be surprised. One way or the other we end up looking at ourselves in the mirror. This, at the end of the day, is how we must look at God’s command to protect human life. Before we attend to the sin of others, we must see to our own sins. Still, we are to speak out. Yes, indeed. But we speak as redeemed sinners. We speak with compassion toward those caught in these sins. We act to make it easier for others to make Godly decisions regarding life, than we ourselves did. Most of all we apply the grace of God also to this area of Divine law. We speak forgiveness to those who see their sins and repent. In this way we place matters of human life under the cross - under the cross that paid for all our sins, including those sins against human life.

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