Seeing the Hand of God
Clotho was one of the 3 Fates in Greek mythology. She was responsible for spinning the thread of human life. In 1947 C. S. Lewis said the final stage would come "when man by his eugenics and prenatal conditioning obtained full control over himselfThe battle will then be won we shall have taken the thread of life out of the hand of Clotho and be henceforth free to make our species whatever we wish to be." "The battle will indeed be won." Lewis says, "But who, precisely, will have won it" (Abolition of Man, 72).
Have you ever put a child on your lap and let him "drive?" As long as your hands are on the wheel, they like it, but remove your hands and the vehicle starts to careen and they get scared. That's what Lewis foresaw and in our day has happened. The pro-death, man is capable of anything, crowd has taken charge of life issues and removed them from the hand of God. Now we're careening down the road of life, and we're scared. Let's return to the truth. Let's see that God has never taken His hands off the wheel.
Seeing the hand of God in life, the first thing we do is confess that we are not what His hands have made. Yes, we were fearfully and wonderfully made by Him. He knit us together in our mother's womb. He is the one who determined, decided, chose to bring us into being when, where, and how. We have all these expressions that quite innocently take life out of God's hands. "Oops babies," "unplanned pregnancy,' or even "a planned pregnancy." I think God smiles at those expressions.
We are God's special, handmade creation, but we are in another sense not what God has made. Any right thinking about life issues starts with us not them. Don't start with those who murder children with their own hands. Start with what your hands do and don't do, have and haven't done.
When I think of these doctors and nurses killing the unborn or men and women walking into abortion clinics to do away with the life God knit together inside them, I don't know their backgrounds; I don't know how they were raised. Perhaps their parents didn't take them to church or teach them any Christian truth. But I know mine did. From a child I've known the faith. I was raised in a Christian home. From the get-go, I was taught right from wrong. When abortion became an issue in the early 70's there was no debate, no question in the home I grew up in: it was wrong.
So who really is the grosser sinner against life? The abortion doctor raised in India with faith in a baby killing goddess or me, raised in the Abundant life of Christ, who despairs over sick, old, or handicapped life? Who is more in unbelief? The girl raised with no Christian training pregnant by a jerk who took advantage of her who sees no way out but to kill her unborn child or me raised by Christian parents who concludes quicker than she that there is no hope, no help from God?
You get mad at the stray dog that bites the hand that feeds it or pets it, but you're not surprised. In fact, unless the dog got you real good you probably speak soothing words to it after. But if the pet I've raised, loved, and been nothing but good to bites me or even growls at me, Katie bar the door, that dog will get whacked. St. Peter says that judgment begins with God's household. I've been raised in His house. Given the best of His house. Lived a rather blessed life in His house, and yet I have bit the hand that I knew created me, feeds me, and redeemed me. And you think God is angrier at that abortionist or aborted woman who, never taught of His love, providing, or redemption, snaps at Him? I don't.
Let's not lose sight of God's hands in life issues. Seeing the hand of God in them we are moved to confess not only our sins against the God of life and the life He gave us, but we are moved to confess that all life has been redeemed by His hands.
Our God redeemed life from the womb by taking on human hands in the womb. We talked at Christmas how God could've sent His only beloved Son into the world as baby in the manger or popped Him into this life with a snap of His hand at age 12 or 20 or 30. But if God had done that, whatever ages were below wouldn't have been redeemed. So God the Son was sent and willing went into the womb to pass through and redeem and sanctify all human life from its earliest stages on.
God the Son took on human hands in the womb, and from birth on He only and always did good with those hands. He didn't hit or hurt with those hands like I did when I was a boy. He didn't make rude gestures with His hands like I did when I was a teen. He didn't sin in ever more sophisticated ways with His hands as a man the way I have. You know how proud a parent is when their child gets an award, graduates, succeeds? I don't know about you, but it is way better to see your child do that than you yourself. Well, that's how pleased, proud, and happy God the Father was. He did the equivalent of standing up at graduation and shouting for the whole arena to hear, "That's my beloved Son!"
You know, I really do believe that for some of the men and women getting abortions, it is hard for them to do it. I'm not so sure about the 48% of all abortions that are repeats, but even then I can believe that a woman raised not knowing the love of God in Christ might have some shred of morality left that makes it hard for her to kill the life within her. And I have read enough pro-abortion literature to know that not everyone in the abortion industry pursues this with glee. They are wrong about it being a choice in their hands, but because they see no hand of God in life, they can only see it as choice in theirs, and for some it's still a hard choice.
God can really relate to that. There His beloved Son stands. The perfect, most loving, most helpful, most successful Son ever, and God the Father chooses to nail His hands to the cross with His very own hands. What God never ultimately required of Abraham, He required of Himself. What God never ultimately asked of Isaac, He asked of His own Son and Jesus willingly stretched out His hands.
Hear the hammer on the nail. That's what it cost God to redeem all life. God's very own words and promises meant that only men who kept His laws could go to heaven. So Jesus as a Man did that for all mankind. No one can point to a law not kept in Him. And God had promised that all men's sins would be punished: their desperate ones, their willing ones, the ones that only God knows. So the perfect Man Jesus was punished for us men and our salvation. You can't find, God can't find, one sin of yours or anyone else's that was not paid for by Jesus. And no it doesn't matter what you feel or even if you feel anything at all. What matters is that Jesus said on the cross He finished paying for all sins and that the Father showed He accepted what Jesus did as payment in full by raising Him from the dead on Easter.
If a child gets frightened enough in their "driving," they will just let go of the wheel, but once you put your hands back on, they will too. Seeing the hand of God in life issues from creation to redemption, from womb to tomb, we are moved to put our hands back to use.
The first way we do that is in putting our hands out to receive the means of grace for our sinful, fallen life. We'll never forgive anyone of any sin without first being forgiven by God in Christ for ours. Secret guilt, says David, wastes away a person's bones and saps their strength. It drove Judas to suicide. So before even thinking about life issues, be like Elijah and eat the food God provides for you to strengthen you for the journey. Put your hands in water and know that by means of baptismal Water, God drowned that person you can't stand, drowned that person that bites the hand of God; drowned that person who can't believe in forgiveness. And from that water God brings forth a new man, a new woman created with the holiness and righteousness of Jesus. God can no more see sins in him or her than in Jesus.
But don't stop there. Come here each Sunday to have your sins sent away from you. Use your hand to mark yourself with the sign of the cross as the pastor forgives you in Jesus' name. Cup your hand to your ear if you need to so that you can hear your absolution echoing in heaven as if Christ your Lord spoke it Himself.
Ever not been sure if someone really forgave you? That's horrible. Eventually the forgiver might say to you in exasperation, "What more can I do to prove it?" Well, God doesn't want a doubt, a question, or fear of not being really, completely, totally forgiven to exist between you and Him. So by three different things, He conveys, gives, proves, seals His forgiveness of you. By the Waters that baptized you, by the Words that forgive you, and by the Body and Blood of His Son.
God can't be angry with you if He is willing to give you the Body and Blood of His Son to eat and drink. Moreover, if the blood of a lamb could cover the sins of Israel so that the Angel of Death passed over, what must the Blood of Jesus do? If the Body of a goat could carry the sins of Israel away, how far must the Body of Jesus carry them? So far away that not even God Himself can ever find them again.
Having been reborn, forgiven, and bodied and blooded to Jesus for life, now you have strength to stretch forth your hands in prayer for life issues that are too big, too scary to be in human hands. Recently I got myself lost here in town. I turned on to an unfamiliar back street and there was an abortion clinic. At the curb were 5 or 6 Christians praying. I don't recall any bombastic signs or gory pictures. Just a handful of Christians with bowed heads.
Whether you do it publicly or privately stretch those newly created, forgiven hands stained by the Blood of Jesus high to heaven and pray that His Name be hallowed, His Kingdom come, His will be done so that poor sinners who think life issues are in their hands might be forgiven, led out of temptation, and delivered from evil so they can see the hand of God in their life. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Life Sunday (20110123); Job 12:10