Living with Dying
For the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision legalizing abortion for any reason at any time right up till birth, Lutherans for Life has the theme "Living with Dying." This theme strikes me as revolting yet revealing, as terrible yet terribly comforting.
Many have lived willfully with dying for the past 40 years and that's revolting and terrible. Politicians have trumpeted a woman's right to choose to bring death to a child. The new health care bill mandates that all insurance plans, including ours, pay for abortions. So sacred is the right to kill the unborn that present day politicians have decided no one has the right to deny it. They're not living with the dying of children; they're promoting it. Our politicians are not even as noble as pagan Rome. Rome "refused to allow the Gauls, the Celts, and the Carthaginians to engage in human sacrifice" (We Look for a Kingdom, 223). Ours insist on the right to sacrifice some humans.
Our politicians aren't the only ones who have lived with the dying of the unborn for the past 40 years, so have our social service agencies. Life Decisions International says the following agencies support abortion provider Planned Parenthood: Girl Scouts, Kiwanis Clubs, Lions Clubs, March of Dimes, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Salvation Army, and Save the Children (http://www.lifenews. com /2011/09/12/pro-life-group-lists-companies-backing-planned-parenthood/). Don't you find it ironic that an organization called Save the Children pays for them to be killed? This is as old as Athens. Plutarch remarked how the Athenians have a way of softening the badness of a thing by giving it a pretty and innocent name. They called harlots, mistresses, taxes, customs (Lives of the Greeks, 76). We call killing children, saving them, or worse we call it a choice.
Politicians, social service agencies, and churches have lived with the dying of babies for 40 years. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America does it openly on their website. They support a woman's right to make the choice to end a pregnancy saying it's too complex of a decision for anyone else to sit in judgment. They're not alone. The United Methodist, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Episcopal Church, and many other churches live with the dying of the unborn.
We won't; we can't because the 5th Commandment won't let us. God says, "Thou shalt not murder." The location of the human life isn't an issue. I do not have the right to take human life for personal reasons, whether in a room or outdoors doesn't matter, whether in the womb or outside of it doesn't matter. In fact, life in the womb mattered so much to God that He sent His only Son into the womb to redeem even the unborn. We can't despise what God shows is worth the suffering, bleeding and dying of His Son lest we find ourselves despising Him too.
Up until the 20th century no one calling himself Christian was for abortion. Athenagoras, a 2nd century, church father said everyone knew that Christians opposed abortion (We Look for a Kingdom, 316). It is unchristian to be for abortion. That's one of the reasons our Synod is not in fellowship with the ELCA. That's one of the reasons Trinity does not commune members of the LCMS who believe members of the ELCA should be invited to our altars. We won't promote living with the dying of the unborn by communing those who believe it is okay to commune with churches who accept abortion.
Many have lived with the dying of the unborn for 40 years. We haven't and won't, but there are some who must live with dying. A baby being killed in the womb is not the only kind of living with dying. The person with a terminal illness lives with dying every day of his life till the end. He wakes up every single day to the realization: I'm dying. Couples trying to have kids live with dying every single month until God grants conception. Every month the passing of the menses indicates to them that there is no life yet in the womb. The elderly live with dying each year. There comes an age when you realize it's just as likely you won't see another New Year as you will.
In reality, we all are living with dying, not just the terminally ill, the childless, and the elderly. And I'm not just talking physical dying. We're all living with spiritual dying. Scripture says we're all spiritually dead in our trespasses and sins, and that is a dying we can't live with and don't have to. And delivered from spiritual dying we can live with some kinds of physical.
Jesus lived with dying. Although He is the Second Person of the Godhead, though He is life itself, He took on death. He stared at it from conception in the womb of Mary on. Christian art has depictions of the Baby Jesus in the arms of Mary struggling to get away from the cross. Poetic license? No, stark reality. Remember how in John, Jesus repeatedly talks about His hour? That's the hour of His death, and Jesus lived with that all His life. Jesus knows what the terminally ill, the childless, the elderly live with day in and day out. The God who is life lived with death.
He did this for us. For us and our salvation God the Son took on flesh and blood in the Virgin Mary's womb and from conception on was the perfect embryo, fetus, baby, toddler, teen, and adult. But His mission wasn't just to live the perfect life in our place. He mission was also to redeem guilty sinners, to pay the price to free them from Sin, from Death, and from the Devil. His mission was to satisfy God's wrath against a world of sinners.
Remember how in Forest Gump the woman who had been abused as a child goes back to her childhood home with Forest and proceeds to throw rock after rock in rage at the place where she was abused? Her wrath was real and it was right. If you can understand, how a sinner can have wrath, real and right, against another sinner, how much more so the Holy God against sinners like us? That young woman was depicted as abused but her abuse was nothing compared to how I abuse God's gifts and mercies. Her father had violated the sacred trust he had as a father; I've treated my heavenly Father as if He couldn't be trusted. She had a right to be mad at her father; God has a right to be enraged at me.
In the movie, the woman is finally exhausted and stops. Forest sagely says, "Sometimes I guess there just aren't enough rocks." Her just wrath really couldn't be satisfied by throwing rocks against a house. God's wrath was satisfied by crucifying His Son and throwing against Him all the pains of an eternal hell due our unbelief and sins, even the sin of living with the dying of the unborn.
But our story doesn't end with Jesus dead on the cross. If it did, it would be the same as the woman walking away from the house. Her wrath wasn't satisfied; just spent, for now. God's wrath against my sins, your sins, our sins, even the sins of abortionists, the men who pay for them, and the women who suffer them, was satisfied on the cross. We know this because the Father raised the Son on Easter. The perfect Son of God died to pay for sins. Once those sins were paid for death could not hold Him. Try holding a basketball underwater. It must come bursting to the surface. The Man Jesus because He is God in the flesh is life itself. Once the world's sins were paid for He had to burst forth from death to live forever.
Where God goes Man goes in the Person of Jesus. The Human and Divine natures were joined in Mary's womb, never to be separated. So when Death had to let loose the Divine Nature, the Human Nature joined to it was let loose as well. In this Jesus, spiritual death is defeated; God is no longer angry; and sinners are invited to find shelter from sin, devil, and even death. So in Jesus sinners can live with dying.
For the Christian it is not death to die. The terminally ill or elderly don't live staring at the end; they live each day staring at a door, the Door. Jesus says that He is the Door to everlasting life. You haven't watched enough scary movies if you don't know the difference between a wall and a door when being chased. Yes, even the Christian, is chased by sin, death, and the devil every day of his life, but wait there's a Door! When Death comes to the Christian, Jesus the Door opens to a living without dying.
Couples living with a monthly dying telling them there is no child can know in Jesus that this is not a judgment. All sins were paid for by Jesus on the cross; The Psalm says, "He has not rewarded us according to our sins." The Devil lies when he points to that monthly dying as proof of your sins. Your sins, unless somehow you're not part of the world, were carried away by Jesus. Your sins, unless they somehow were not on Jesus, were finished being paid for when Jesus declared from the cross, "It is finished." Not having children is a dying some have to live with, but not a one of them has to live with their sins or believe the Devil's taunts.
But what about those living with the death of the unborn? The politicians, the social service groups, the churches, and the individuals embracing abortion are calling down God's judgment upon them, and they won't be able to live with the Second Death that eventually comes. But what about the 14% of girls under 20 and the 33% of women by age 45 who have the death of an unborn child on their conscience (http://www.texasrighttolife.com/about/ 141/Abortion-statistics)? What about all those girls, teens, and women for whom we have made killing their baby as easy as taking a pill? How do they, how can they live with this death?
You can't live with dying by giving the good reasons you had for causing the death. You can't live with dying by promising to make up for the life you ended. Your only hope, your only relief is the Door of Life, Jesus who stands open to you in Baptism's waters and Absolution's words. As often as you're hounded by that death, or by any other sin, run to Jesus and die to your sin, your guilt, yourself in His open arms and rise in His forgiveness and peace. He's the Death of death and the death of your sin and guilt too. Place all your sins, all your guilts, on Jesus. He will bear them for you; He will bear them away from you.
It's terribly comforting living with dying when it's revealed that the death and life belong to Jesus. Then with St. Paul you can say, "It is no longer I who live but Christ in me." Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Life Sunday (20130120)