The sermon below is what I initially planned to preach on Sunday. It felt a little long to me so I shortened it, but the sermon lost “something” when I did. I guess that will teach me! Pastor Don Peterson
Life Sunday
Isaiah 46:3-4, 8-10
January 27, 2019
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 the Old Testament reading from Isaiah, which was read a few minutes ago.
My Bible reading for Friday morning was from the book of Ezekiel and in it the Lord lays out the importance of what Ezekiel was to say. He said to Ezekiel, “But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.” As a pastor, these words bother me because it means that I can’t avoid a topic because it makes one of us uncomfortable. I don’t want people mad at me or leaving the church because of something I said in a sermon either. But as the Lord says, and as I promised Him in my ordination vows, I have an obligation to preach the entirety of Word of God, including words of warning, consequences be damned, so I’m not. This means sometimes I have to tackle tough issues, and today, that’s what I must do. I know some of you will disagree with what I say. My prayer is that you will hear these words about life and death as coming from God and not from me. You see there is no other God and He is the God of all people, from the womb to the tomb.
Martin Luther writes in his Large Catechism that idolatry is when you fear, love, or trust in anything more than you do God. Idolatry is shoving God out of His rightful place as God, it’s the number one sin in the world, and it’s been that way since the events of the Garden of Eden. Satan wanted to be God. Adam and Eve wanted to make themselves like God. When the people set out to build the Tower of Babel it was so they could make a name for themselves and take the praise that rightfully belonged to God.
Idolatry is making gods of ourselves or making what we want into gods and nowhere is this more evident than in life issues. People have usurped God’s role as the one who numbers our days by taking it upon themselves to determine whether a baby lives or dies. Idolatry is claiming the right to determine a baby’s life based on a set of factors like whether they can contribute to society or they’re convenient or inside the womb.
This isn’t just about abortion though. It’s about end of life issues as well. Idolatry is a person committing suicide to avoid the suffering that accompanies cancer. Idolatry is when a doctor administers a fatal dose of medicine to relieve someone, or their family, of further difficulties. Idolatry is when elderly person is deprived of food and water just because it’s time for them to go. This is pure and simple idolatry because we’re putting ourselves in the place of God. We want the choice, but that’s not up to us, it’s up to God. He is the God of life from the womb to the tomb.
When it comes down to it, at the heart of idolatry lies self-justification. Deep down we know we don’t really control life and death, so we attempt to justify our actions. And self-justification is always, always, contrary to the Truth of God’s Word. Think about the arguments made by the pro-choice lobby. The fetus isn’t a human until it’s born so it doesn’t have any rights. My body, my choice. It’s just a clump of cells that can’t feel pain. I’m too young. I’m not married. The baby has a disability that will make its life (or the parents’ life) hard. Nobody should be punished with an unwanted baby, not that a baby is ever a punishment, quite the opposite as God says in Psalm 127, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.”
I can’t deny there are certain circumstances when emotions pull against God’s word. What about rape or incest? Should a woman be forced to carry some monster’s child? Our emotional reaction might be no, that was my reaction when I was younger. But how can it be pleasing to God to compound sins? Can the psychological and physical wounds of rape be fixed by a murder? They can’t! Firsthand, personal stories have revealed this to be the opposite, that abortion makes everything worse.
New York’s new law says that abortion is permissible when the health of the mother is at risk. What New York law also says is that a baby up to nine months can be aborted because health also includes age, economic, social and emotional factors, rather than the biological definition of ‘health’ that normally comes to mind.
Sometimes, a woman is confronted by a situation where an abortion is necessary to save her life. In those cases, we pray for the Lord’s guidance and the wisdom to make the right decision. However, there are will never be a time in the third trimester which would require the baby to be killed to save the mother’s life.
When it comes to end of life issues, can we ever know for sure what’s going to happen? Of course not! Someone in a coma can wake up. An elderly person weak and on hospice can make a recovery. Cancer can be held at bay. Pain can be controlled. When we “play God” by trying to see the future, it’s never going to work. People have been wrong before about what they thought for sure was going to happen, and people are going to be wrong again. Whether it’s abortion or end of life issues, when we dictate life and death, it’s idolatry.
But let me ask you this, how well as idolatry ever worked? Not well at all! Satan was cast out of Heaven, Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden, the builders of the Tower at Babel cast out into the far corners of the world, the Israelites were cast out of Israel, and the Jews out of Jerusalem. Hosea says, “With their silver and gold they made idols for their own destruction.” Abortion and end of life issues are the idols of today. The idols we make, the idols we worship will only lead to our destruction and the collapse of our society. Idols lie, idols offer the supposed goods of abortion and life issues and ignore the reality of pain, grief, and sin.
Now, it’s tempting for Christians to not get involved. If you don’t like abortion, don’t have one, but don’t stop someone else from having one. Live and let live. Don’t push your beliefs. Remaining silent is not an option. The Lord says, “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” If we’re silent, if we leave the battle to others, if we endorse the shameful treatment of human life, we’re complicit in the idolatry. As Christians, we must speak for and defend the weakest among us, the unborn, the sick, the frail, and the elderly. We cannot do anything else for to do so is to sin, against the true God, the God of Life.
There is only one God and He is the one who made, bear, carry, and save. He says, “Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.” God alone breathed into Adam the breath of life. God alone brings forth the unborn. God alone determines when we take our last breaths. These are His rights as God and Creator, and He will not give His honor, His glory, or His rights to anyone else, and certainly not to the idols that fill our world and lives. And really, we should be happy about this. Idols will let us down, idols will hurt us, idolatry leads us from eternal life, but God never will. He has made us, He will carry us, and He will save us.
He says again, “Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth.” You, me, this world, our sin are heavy burdens for our Lord. We cause Him grief and suffering. We break His heart as we stop the hearts of the innocent. But still He continues to carry us along. He never puts us down. He never casts us aside because we’re worthless or unwanted. Instead, He carries us on His back to the cross, where He bore the punishment for our all sins. He has paid for our idolatry, He was punished for our abortions, our assisted suicides, our sins of euthanizing people who are a “burden”.
Listen to me closely: abortion is not an unforgiveable sin, neither is hastening the death of a loved one. Those who repent are forgiven! No matter what! Christ died for everyone’s sins, not everyone’s but yours. If you’re in this position, if you’re feeling guilt or sorrow over events in the past, that guilt has been atoned for by Christ’s death. Your sins have been washed away, just as little Griffin’s were today. You are forgiven and loved, regardless of what has happened in the past. You cannot sin more than God forgives. He suffers gladly, for He alone is the one who can save us.
Our idols can’t do anything for us. They’re worthless, powerless, they’ll let us down in the end, every single time, but not God. What God promises He does. What God purposes, He achieves. He says, “Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.” He’s telling the Israelites to remember what He has done for them, to remember all the times that He saved them. He calls on us also to remember what He has done for us and what He has promised to do for us. This includes His promise to help those who are experiencing or an unwanted pregnancy. Some situations seem hopeless, but God will provide a way. He bends His ears to those who seek His help and mercy. We can’t carry our burdens, but He can, and He has. His promises are also for those who have had an abortion or been involved in one. His promises are for those who seek His forgiveness and comfort as they regret the sins of their past.
His promises are for those who are struggling as their lives come to an end. Those who are dying may feel abandoned, they may feel like they just want it all to end. It will, when God determines the time is right. Until then they can trust Him when He says, “When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
God’s promises are for those pained by their loved one’s suffering as they draw near to the end of their lives. They can be assured that God has a purpose for every, single person, and He will call our loved one home when it is time. I didn’t want my sister to suffer, my parents were torn up watching her cancer change her brain and behavior. They hated the pain that the cancer caused her, but we trusted God. We had too, who else was going to help? The idols? Not even. God has His reasons for everything, even if we don’t see them at the time. We might never see them. We simply trust that God is God, we are not, and He’ll do what He desires when He says the time is right. If God kept His promise to send His Son, if He promised to forgive all our sins, will He not also keep His promise to be our God, to be the only God who will be with us from womb to tomb?
Way back in 200 AD, a pastor named Clement of Alexandria lamented the prevalence of abortion. He wrote that people cared more for their birds and exotic animals than their unborn children. In 2000 years, nothing has changed. Bald eagle and sea turtles eggs are protected by fines of thousands of dollars and the threat of prison, but not babies and not the sick or elderly. Idolatry has corrupted what should be common sense. Let us repent of our idolatry. Let us speak for the unborn and the dying. Let us speak for all those who cannot speak for themselves. Let us turn to the Lord and let Him alone bear us, carry us, and save us. He has promised to do this and He will. Remember what He has done. He’ll carried us from the womb to the tomb for He alone is God, there is no other.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen