Monday, February 14, 2011

Sermon for January 22-23, 2011

Life Sunday
January 22-23, 2011
Text: Jeremiah 1:4-10

Dear Friends in Christ,
Life Sunday comprises a number of things that are hard to compact into a sermon. First you have the reality of sin. In our world today this must be explained, it cannot be assumed that people understand what sin is. Then you have the whole business of repentance and forgiveness. Then we have role of the Christian in society and the doctrine of the two kingdoms. Each of these could encompass several hours of study. They are all, difficult to express and prone to much error. But we do not have hours today. So we will press on and see if we can’t digest this all successfully.

Jeremiah was a prophet sent to give a warning. In chapter 4 for example we find the prophecy of the coming of the Babylonians. Jeremiah warns that those who say all is well are false prophets who stand under God’s wrath. We must take those words to heart today as well. God is the author of life. He creates each human being in His own image. Even after the flood, God tells Noah that man is forbidden to kill man, because man is created in God’s image. In this sense the image of God continues in man after the fall into sin. That life begins when God creates it, in the womb of the mother. That child, from the moment of conception exists in the image of God. It exists because God created that life for a purpose known only to him. My sister Sandy lived just 10 painful years, before succumbing pneumonia and emphysema caused by Cystic Fibrosis. I cannot say what God intended for her life. But she lived the years God gave her. His purpose was fulfilled. He brought into this world and He took her out of it. That is the way God intends it. Abortion, on the other hand, is man taking a life and ending it before God’s time. It is in short, a form of murder, just as much as what Jared Loughner did in Tucson. We don’t want to deal with that reality, but that is what is. Just because our countries make it legal, doesn’t make it right. Fornication is legal as well. That is not right either.

In our society, many other sins are under attack. We see a full frontal assault being waged against those who would dare to call homosexuality a sin. But we dare not change the word of God. Both Old and New Testament speak of homosexuality as sinful.
One might look to Romans 1: “God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” (Rom. 1:26-27)

One of the common errors of our day is see all sins the same. Sadly, even our catechism fosters this idea. They are all the same in that they destroy faith and lead to damnation. This is true. But their earthly consequences are not equal. Some sins are according to nature and other sins are contrary to nature. The ones that are contrary to nature are the more devastating. Women are hard wired to be mothers. It is natural that they desire children and have great love for their children, that they protect their children. Abortion violates that very nature. Many of the women who have abortions are devastated by it. They live a life of horrible pain. Guilt and despondency from abortion destroys a vast number of lives in the United State each year.

Homosexuality is part and parcel of the culture of death in two ways. First, it is a rejection of our God given procreative function. God commands humanity to this day, to be fruitful and multiply. We have lived far too long the shadow the myth of over population. Obviously two men or two women can’t make a baby. Secondly, homosexuality greatly reduces life expectancy. A study collected data from obituaries in the Homosexual Times, a Washington D.C. gay newspaper. They found that male homosexuals who did not die of A.I.D.S. had and average age at death of about 41. Those who did die of A.I.D.S. had and average age at death of about 37. The age of heterosexuals who had obituaries in the same news paper was about 72. And of course if we broaden that to general national averages, life expectancy is about 80. So homosexuality in males cuts life about in half. As one writer grimly quipped, homosexuality is not a life style, it’s a death style. Perhaps God knew some things when He said that homosexuality is a sin.

So, how does the Church respond to individuals committing these sins? Pastorally. Now what does that mean? It means using the tools God has given us. It also means treating one sinner at a time. One might need God’s law rammed down their throat. The next might need to be ever so gently nudged by the law over a period of time. But as we know, no one is saved by the power of the law. The law cannot save. It condemns us all. It always accuses us of our sins. So the most the law can do is show the sin and teach us what God’s will is. The real power to deal with this comes in Holy Absolution. The law is a tool to bring a person to the point where they confess their sins. With confession ought to come a desire to amend our sinful lives. This is true for all of us, for all sins. But we have no power, on our own, to do this. Christ forgives us our sins. This is declared in the Absolution spoken by the pastor. Particularly in private confession, where a particular sin is absolved, this can be a powerful tool. We know with absolute certainty that the sin is gone, forever. It has been forgiven, on earth and in heaven, before the Church and before Christ. Then with the sin behind us, Christ living in us, empowers us to amend our lives. What do we do when the same person comes back with the same sin. We do it all over again. Some, though they hate their sins and greatly desire to amend their lives, can never do it. Some we may need to offer greater assistance and counsel. But Absolution is never denied because a sin was repeated. It is only denied when people are unrepentant. The Absolution is God’s gift, given to the Church, to deal with abortion, homosexuality and all the sins of the culture of death.

The Church exists to preach God’s law and Gospel to sinners. We are here to convict hearts and absolve sins. We are not here to change the world. But the individual Christian is to speak and act for that which is just and right. We are to take our understanding of right and wrong into the public square. In our society we have been given a sacred trust in the right to vote. As Christians we should consider well the position of the candidates on a whole list of issues. Life issues are among the most important, for they have an effect on so many other matters. For too long life issues flew under the radar. Did you know that every president from Herbert Hoover through Jimmy Carter, with the possible exception of John Kennedy, was pro abortion? George H. W. Bush was a pro abortion activist in congress who suddenly become pro life to be Ronald Reagan’s running mate. Both Bush wives were pro abortion. Who knows what influence they had. That’s how we got where are today. Likewise, with the matter of homosexuality. We don’t want rampant discrimination or any such thing. But we also don’t want laws that amount to societal approval either. Nor can we accept laws that would muzzle the church or the church’s military chaplains. If this were to come pass, as it has in Canada and several European countries, civil disobedience would be required of us.

We live in a time when the culture of death has grown large around us. We must speak to it. Yet, we must speak as the Church. We must speak law and Gospel. As the Church, we seek repentance and Absolution. We seek to make people citizens of heaven. As individual citizens who have many rights in this society, we seek use that power to select leaders who embrace life and reject death. And yet, as we do this, we must remember that Christ died for all sins, even these. Even mass murderers sometimes later come to faith in Christ and end up in heaven. And that should be our most important desire for those caught up in the culture of death.

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