Celebrate Life Sunday -- Repent
What do you think my goal is in celebrating Life Sunday? Of the 26 or so special Sundays the Missouri Synod would have us celebrate, this is the only one I ever have, why? Is my goal to get you to write your elected officials, vote Pro-Life, or march against abortion? My goal this Sunday is the same as it is every other Sunday: that you may repent.
Repent of being numb to the numbers. If there was only one baby aborted, one elderly euthanized, one terminally ill assisted in suicide, one person's life declared to be pointless, useless, a burden that would be too many. But the numbers involved in abortions are staggering. These figures are from the pro-abortion Alan Guttmacher Institute. 43 million babies are aborted worldwide each year. In the United States approximately 1 million 210 thousand were aborted in 2008. From 1973 through today over 55 million U.S. babies have been killed legally in the womb (LifeDate, Winter 2011, 5).
Numbers without perspective are like height. They mean little. So imagine the population of Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri and Louisiana were lost since 1973. That's what the self-inflicted wound of abortion has done to the United States.
The relatively good news is that the numbers are decreasing. In 2008 there were 80,000 less legal baby killings in the U.S. then there were in 2002. That means in 2008 the United States gained about 4 more school districts the size of Pflugerville's than it did in 2002. The bad news is that the numbers, if possible, are becoming eviler. ABC news reported that an estimated 92 % of Down syndrome babies are aborted (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/ w_ParentingResource/down-syndrome-births-drop-us-women-abort/story?id=8960803#.TxWjYaW0x5I). And while in the U.S. abortions based on gender are rare. World wide 42% of girls are aborted compared to 25% of boys (http://www.in-gender.com/XYU/Gender-Preference/). American Public Media reported on August 23 of last year. 160 million females have been aborted in China because of gender selection. If you're numb to that number, consider 160 million is more than the female population of the entire U.S.
Repent this Life Sunday of being numb to the numbers and of thinking that Christians can disagree on this. This is what many think in the LCMS. In January 2003 at a Texas District sponsored conference the conference chaplain was asked to remember in the prayers the 30th anniversary legalizing abortion. He didn't. He said, "Let's have a moment of silence so each of us can remember that anniversary in our own way." In August 2009, Concordia Austin gave state senator Kirk Watson their Christian Excellence in Leadership award. Watson according to the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League is one of the strongest proponents and defenders of abortion (http://www.prochoicetexas.org/ instate/2009legislativeguide_sen01-02.shtml).
Can you be a Christian and be for aborting babies in the womb? The ELCA, the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., the Episcopal Church, and some LCMS people say, "Of course, you can." You commune with those in communion with churches that have taken this position and you share in their sin, and I call on you to repent.
Don't you see how far we have fallen? Read Uncle Tom's Cabin published in 1850. Harriet Beecher Stowe argues without fear of contradiction that the principles of Christianity, the Bible, and God Almighty Himself are opposed to slavery. Read any Christian who wrote against Nazi atrocities. Their argument is that you can't be a Christian and support them. Yet in 21st century America you can be in favor of abortion, euthanasia, and assisted suicide and be a Christian in good standing, in full communion with many mainline churches. Dr. George Tiller, the infamous provider of late-term abortions, was a communing member in good standing of Reformation Lutheran Church, ELCA, Wichita, Kansas. You commune with the ELCA; you're in communion with him and his sins.
Because of "Christians" not non-Christians, you aren't allowed to make the argument that abortion and assisted suicide are murder. That's because pity not God's Word carry the day. If the only way you can deliver a person from suffering is by doing something wrong, then pity for the suffering person is the very thing to be avoided. Pity doesn't influence right and wrong (C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock, 224); it can't make a wrong right or a right wrong. Taking human life apart from the power of the State to protect its citizens or apart from the right of the individual to defend himself or another person against deadly force is murder. And the 5th Commandment applies no matter what governments or churches decree.
Repent this Life Sunday of being numb to the numbers; repent I say of thinking Christians can disagree about abortion, euthanasia, or assisting in suicides. But most of all repent of thinking the Gospel is not God's power of salvation; repent of being like me and not like St. Paul. Repent of being ashamed of the Gospel. Paul said in Romans that he is not ashamed of the Gospel for it is the power of salvation for everyone that believes.
Believe that God spoke for life in the womb by beginning the Gospel of redemption in the womb. God the Son didn't have to descend into the human womb to take on flesh and blood. God the Son appeared as a man in the Old Testament. He could have done so in the New permanently. There was no need for Jesus to be conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in Mary's womb. There would still be Good Friday, Easter and Ascension if Jesus had taken on flesh and blood at age 30, 13, or 3, but there wouldn't be redemption, salvation, or forgiveness for anyone under those ages. But God loved the world, God wanted to buy back from sin, death, and the devil even those under age 3, even those in the womb.
In Romans Paul is arguing that the Gospel applies not just to the Jews but to the Greeks. You probably rarely think of that, or even consider it an issue. You know what the issue is in our day? Does the Gospel apply to the unborn, to those born with wretched diseases, to the infirm mentally or physically, to those who can do absolutely nothing for society? Has that baby about to be killed in the abortion clinic, been redeemed by Christ the crucified? Did God send His only beloved Son into the world for the sake of those embryos that will be destroyed in a fertility clinic? Were the sins of the Alzheimer patient lying mindlessly in bed carried to the cross or not?
Of course they were or God was not in Christ reconciling the world to Himself as Paul says in 2 Corinthians but only part of the world. Of course they were or Jesus was not the atoning sacrifice for the world's sins as John says but only for some sinners in the world. Of course the sins of the unborn, the feeble, the helpless, the aged, and the demented were on Christ or the Gospel could not be preached to the world. John the Baptist couldn't have believed while still in the womb; the dead who are the most helpless of all could never have been raised; the demonic who are the most demented of all could not have been delivered, and the lame, blind, deaf, and dumb who are the most feeble of all could not have been healed if the Gospel wasn't for all.
But wait; there's still one more category. Does the Gospel apply to murderers? Does it apply to those who break the 5th Commandment? King David, an ancestor of Jesus, was a murderer. St. Paul, an apostle of Jesus, was a murderer. The churches that will not speak of abortion or assisted suicide as murder but only as a tragic choice or the lesser of two evils aren't helping the sinners caught up in such sins. God didn't send His only Son and His only Son didn't become incarnate in a virgin's womb to pay for tragic choices or lesser evils. He came to pay for very real sins.
He came to pay for YOUR sins. You see not only didn't Jesus abort or help someone kill themselves, He never hurt nor harmed His neighbor like I do nearly every day, but unlike me Jesus helped and supported him in every physical need. Unless we see that all of us without exception are guilty of murder under the 5th Commandment, we will continue to think murderers are someone else besides us; Life Sunday is about others repenting not us. But how does anyone deal with the heavy, messy, serious sin of murder? Not by pretending it's not a sin, that's for sure.
How do you think David and Paul dealt with their sins of murder? How did David go on to rule the people of God and Paul go on to preach the Word of God when anyone could and probably many did point out their murderous pasts? What did David do when the Devil stabbed his conscience in the middle of the night? What did Paul do when he was pained by the innocent people he murdered?
They did what you and I are to do. They saw what others, the Devil, and their own conscience kept trying to blind them to: that Jesus already kept completely the Commandment that was trying to haunt them. Although others, the Devil, and their own conscience insisted the 5th Commandment lay broken and with a jagged finger pointed right at them, Jesus said, "It is finished, kept, done." God for Jesus' sake sees it that way too, and not all your doubts, fears, and worries can change that.
I'm sure loyal Uriah's face floated before David's eyes, and the dead face of Stephen leapt into Paul's head. And they did what you are to do. Don't you dare deprive Jesus of what He called His glory: paying, suffering, dying for your sins. Don't you dare try to suffer, pay, or die for them. You do your Savior the highest glory and honor when you see your sins, all of them, even that one, even those, floating in the Baptismal font or sent away over the horizon by Absolution. You pay Jesus the utmost thanks when you put your sins on His conscience, when you leave your sins at His altar, when you say "Amen!" to His, "Take eat and drink for the forgiveness of your sins."
You rightly celebrate Life Sunday when you repent, but remember repentance has two parts. Not just sorrow for your sins, but faith that for Jesus sake those sins have been forgiven, that sorrow has past, and life, real and forgiven, has begun anew for you in Jesus' name. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Life Sunday (20120122)