January 17, 2016
*This sermon is adapted from a sermon by Rev. Dr. James Lamb, Executive Director, Lutherans for Life
“Created, Redeemed, Called”
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is from Isaiah 43:1, “But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.’” Here ends our text.
Today is Sanctity of Life Sunday and I want to warn you right off the bat that the life issues I’ll talk about today are some of the more difficult subjects that we as the Church must address. The life issues can be complicated; embryonic stem cell research, cloning, in vitro fertilization, genetic engineering. The issues can be confusing and heartrending; living wills, Do Not Resuscitate Orders, and extreme measures to extend the life of the dying. The issues can be controversial; you might wonder why we have to talk about this in church when these are political and social issues. Finally, the issues can be uncomfortable; people in church pews have had abortions or pressured a girlfriend or daughter to have an abortion or were unable to stop someone from having an abortion.
So you see, if you didn’t already, life issues often bring up more questions than we have answers for. But on this Sanctity of Life Sunday, we’re not going to spend much time talking about any of these things. Instead, we are going to talk about something that is not complicated, not confusing, not controversial, and not uncomfortable at all. We are going to talk about something that is, in fact, very simple. Yet in its simplicity it speaks profoundly to all of the life issues. It is where we need to start before addressing any of the life issues. We have to start with God, and specifically we have to start with what God has done that gives value to human life, and our text from Isaiah contains the answer in three simple words: He has created it, He has redeemed it, and He has called it.
Every human life has value because God creates every human life. Starting with Adam whom God formed out of the dust of the ground and Eve whom He made out of Adam’s rib, this creating work of God is in every single person, born and unborn. Job says, “Your hands fashioned and made me.” David said, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” God’s creation of human life is an intimate and hands-on work.
Now some argue that if every human being is the work of God’s hands, then how do we explain Down syndrome babies or other babies born with physical or mental challenges? You might think this is a hard question to answer, but it’s not. The simple answer is that these children are still the work of God’s hands. God is still their Father and Creator, and to head off any arguments we might make God asks us some questions. He says, “Do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands?” (Isaiah 45:11). And again He says, “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘You did not make me’? Can the pot say to the potter, ‘You know nothing’?” (Isaiah 29:16) Are any of us who are created by God in the position to question God about what He makes?
That God makes tiny little human beings from the moment of conception is clear from Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Since sinfulness is a human condition and we are sinful from the moment of conception, we must be human from the moment of conception. There is no point in our existence that we are not living human beings. What this verse also points us to though is the next thing God has done that gives value to human life.
Since we’re sinful from the moment of conception, we need a Savior from the moment of conception. And we have one! Remember the angel’s words to Mary? “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus” (Luke 1:31). We read this at Christmas time, but note that there are two events in Jesus’ life described here, His conception and His birth. And it is His conception that is miraculous, not His birth. When the “power of the Most High” overshadowed Mary, Jesus was conceived without the aid of an earthly father, which is why the angel also refers to Him as “the Son of God” from the moment of His conception. Jesus was not only the “God-man,” He was the “God-embryo”! His holiness at conception takes the place of our un-holiness at conception. What value this gives to all embryos from that very moment!
But there is more. Jesus needed to develop in a womb. He needed feet to walk among us. He needed hands to touch and heal the sick. He needed a mouth so He could teach. He needed a heart to be filled with compassion for the lost. He needed a body so He could take little children in His arms and hold them close and bless them.
And there are deeper reasons for Jesus’ human development in the womb. He needed those hands and feet to be pierced as He was nailed to the cross in our place. He needed a mouth to utter that forsaken cry so we never have to. He needed a heart to pump the blood that would be shed and bring cleansing for sin, and then be stilled in death. He needed a body to be buried in a tomb, and then to rise again victorious over death and the grave!
Paul says that we were “bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20). All that Jesus did from His conception onward was part of that price. God did not purchase us with the blood of a man or the blood of some animal. God purchased us with His own blood! Because the price paid for sinful humanity was so astronomically high, the value it gives to human life is likewise exceedingly great.
And remember, this price was paid for every human being. Jesus Christ died “once for all” (Hebrews 9:12). Not every human being knows this, of course, and it is the task of the Church to share this message. But the fact remains, Jesus’ life and death and resurrection give value to the life of every, single person.
So while every human being is created and redeemed, these are only part of what God has done for life. The last part is that every human life has value because every person is someone God desires to call into an eternal relationship with Him. Paul writes that God “wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). He wants every human life to be splashed with His Holy Spirit in the waters of Baptism. He who created every life with His hands and redeemed every life with His hands wants to call us all as His children and hold us, indeed He wants to “engrave” us, in the palms of His hands (Isaiah 49:16) now and in eternity.
You are created, redeemed, called. It’s not complicated or confusing or controversial or uncomfortable at all. It’s very simple. It’s the Gospel message for you, and this same Gospel speaks profoundly to all of the life issues. It is where we need to start before addressing any of the life issues. So as we think about the fact that God creates all life, redeems all life, and desires all life to be in a faithful relationship with Him, some situations can be addressed.
Why do we strive to protect tiny embryos in Petri dishes who are used for embryonic stem cell research? Because they are created, redeemed, and little ones whom God wants to call.
Why do we speak up for those in the womb who cannot speak? Because they are created, redeemed, and little ones whom God wants to call.
What do we teach our little children so that when they are older, sexual promiscuity and abortion will be unthinkable? They are very special because they are created, redeemed, and called.
What do we tell you young people as you struggle with temptations and tough choices, mood swings, and confused feelings about your identity? We want you to know whose you are and that you can make good choices because you are created, redeemed, and called.
What do we share with that unmarried, pregnant girl who is ashamed and afraid and sees only one way out? We share that she is loved and forgiven and not forsaken because she is created, redeemed, and called.
What do we say to women and men crushed in the aftermath of an abortion decision? They are created, redeemed, and called, and therefore nothing can separate them from the love and forgiveness of God in Christ Jesus.
What do we share with the infertile couple desperately desiring a child? They are created, redeemed, and called, and they can trust in the ways and will of their God.
What can we say to those who miscarry a child they already know and love? They are created, redeemed, and called, and God holds them in His hands.
What do we have to share with the frail elderly person who wonder about God’s purpose for their lives? They are created, redeemed, and called, and as long as God gives them life, He gives their lives meaning and purpose.
How can we help the family struggling with a difficult end-of-life decision for a loved one? They and their loved one are created, redeemed, and called. They can make a decision they believe is in accordance with God’s will and trust that He will work through it.
Undoubtedly, there are far more situations than we can cover here, but the answer will still be the same. Our lives have value. Every life has value because every life is someone created by God, redeemed by the blood of Jesus, and someone He either has called or wants to call into an eternal relationship with Him. It’s not complicated for all the answers are found in God and what He has done for us in Christ Jesus.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen