- Order of Service: Matins
- Hymns: LSB #849, 644, 649
This sermon is more essay than sermon. It began last summer with a question: “When did you become pro-life?” The question sparked a sarcastic answer. I know, you can't believe I would answer a question sarcastically. But the question also sparked many thoughts over the months since.
What does it mean to be pro-life? The MCCL group in our area, as well as the national pro-life movement, seems primarily concerned with the abortion issue. Abortion is a big issue, but being pro-life isn't properly defined as just being anti-abortion. There are many facets to the pro-life jewel. Six of these facets are abortion, adoption, family, marriage, euthanasia and suicide.
Forty-four years ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the infamous Roe v. Wade decision, legalizing abortion in all nine months of pregnancy. Since then, nearly sixty million abortions have taken place. About nineteen percent of the current United States population. What would our country look like with these extra people?
The key question in the abortion debate is: When does life begin? Life begins at conception. The Bible is very clear about this.
- "As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything."
- "Your hands fashioned and made me ... You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. You have granted me life and steadfast love, and Your care has preserved my spirit."
- "For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. ... Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them."
- "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations."
- John the Baptizer was filled with the Holy Spirit in his mother's womb.
Abortion is murder. The Fifth Commandment condemns murder. When a child is forcibly taken out of his or her mother's womb, the heart stops beating. Any brain activity. Any movement of fingers and toes. Everything stops. And God doesn't want life to stop. He created life to last forever. Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden to live there forever.
But women continue to choose an abortion. On the average of more than one million per year in the last decade alone. Why do women want an abortion? For the most part, the child is inconvenient. Likely the child will interfere with the mother's life or career. The more prominent reasons used in the propaganda are rape and incest. Both of these reasons tug at the heart strings but these cases are rare.
The most audacious reasons should shame some of the most proud and staunch abortion advocates. Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, in her book Pivot of Civilization, refers to blacks, immigrants and indigents as “human weeds,” “reckless breeders” and “spawning … human beings who never should have been born.” She sought to get rid of all minorities because they were unworthy of taking up space on God's green earth. No wonder she was a frequent speaker at Ku Klux Klan rallies, where she spoke frequently about creating “a race of thoroughbreds.” Today's propaganda, although it has removed itself from its racist roots, still targets minorities and those who have genetic defects. If there is any sort of problem with the child, or the child is not the desired gender, then abortion is the only answer. But there is no justification for destroying a human life.
But being pro-life isn't just about picketing abortion clinics and staging big marches and rallies. Being pro-life allows you to dispense the only hope for those suffering from the effects of an abortion. Even in the presence of sin, God still grants forgiveness for sin. He delivers them for the sake of His steadfast love. God listens to their plaintive pleas in the midst of their anguish. God looks upon His creation with love. Love for all people. Especially those He has adopted as His heavenly children.
Adoption is a wonderful alternative to abortion. While not forgiveness for the thoughts of abortion, it is a very solid, godly alternative to destroying the life. Giving a child up for adoption is not an easy decision. However, adoption allows the child to live and be reached with God's love where abortion does not.
After all, you have been adopted by God through your Baptism. You are allowed to call God “Our Father” in the Lord's Prayer because God adopted you. Pro-life Christians began the first orphanages and adoption agencies because God had adopted them as His children and refused to leave them as orphans. You are part of His family. An heir of everlasting life.
The family is the basic building block of society. God designed the family to be a father, a mother and children. The family is the tie that binds together human society. The family's love binds them together so that parents and children and husband and wife know that each other is in their corner. God seeks for His creation to be one great, big family that includes everyone. Therefore, He calls the Church to welcome everyone. This is especially poignant when Jesus rebukes the disciples when parents wanted Jesus to bless their children. After all, “Children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.”
God has set up the family, and parents in particular, to be His basic and primary authority on earth. Luther details this greatly in his treatment of the Fourth Commandment in the Large Catechism. Through this establishment, God shows His overwhelming and truly incomprehensible love for His creation. Through this authority, God encourages parents to teach His Word to their children. Parents have children to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
This is God's purpose for the family. Families built upon His steadfast love. And Christians have the ability to bring God's steadfast love to broken families that are missing this love. Single-parent homes. Orphans. Families who have adopted. Barren families. Even two-parent homes where one parent is absent, physically or emotionally. Families where the children are in control. In each of these situations, God's Word gives comfort and strength to bear the burden of bringing their family into the way God desires their family to be.
The family is based on God's steadfast love. Love given and reflected through the marriage bond. What is marriage? Thanks to the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision, this question actually has to be asked. According to Obergefell, marriage is a fundamental right guaranteed to everyone without restriction under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. This initially allows for the legalization of homosexual marriages in all fifty states, overturning laws and amendments to states' constitutions. However, the Supreme Court's decision will have long-lasting effects that only a few are thinking of now.
According to Obergefell, marriage is based on the human concept of love. Those in a loving relationship may get married. This allows for traditional marriage, homosexual marriage, but it also allows for the eventual repealing of the laws against polygamy. In the not-too-distant future, the laws against bigamy and polygamy will be repealed if Bible-believing Christians don't step forward and say, “This is wrong! This is immoral!” But the growing acceptance and interest in plural marriages, as they are called, will drown out the voices of the faithful. Just as it did with the many churches and individual Christians standing up against homosexual marriage. We must stand up and make our stand even louder. To scream over top of the screams and whines of society. To take back what God has established and to show the great blessings given through God's definition of marriage.
The other problem with marriage these days, a problem that has existed for as long as many people can remember is common law marriage. A legal justification for sex outside marriage. This also makes adultery, the one definite ground for divorce in the Bible, obsolete. Another situation where feelings get in the way of what God has decreed in His Word. People would rather listen to their feelings instead of God's Word. That's the sinful nature in each one of us.
What does God say about marriage? “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed." "Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous." "Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor theives, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."
If God is so definite in His Word, why does all this stuff still happen? Why doesn't He stop all of these sinful activities? "God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator ... For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error."
God hands hardened sinners over to their desires so that they might repent. Very rarely does this repentance come through the continued sinful actions. Repentance comes through Christians showing their love for life. Reaching out to them in their darkness to bring them into God's light. This only comes through love. Genuine love. God commands you, "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful." God has chosen you to be His light shining in the darkness around you.
The rest of the pro-life facets focus on the end of life. Those decisions that must be made when death looms near. The term euthanasia is a wonderful term. Literally, it means “good death.” Society has picked this up and ran with it for euphemisms like “death with dignity” and the supposed “right to die.”
Both of these euphemisms are designed to make people believe that death is natural. Death is not natural. God did not create Adam and Eve so that they would die eventually. Even Adam's 930 years of life was not God's plan. Adam and Eve were created to live forever. Death was never a part of God's plan for humanity.
But death is the last reality we must face in this world. “It is appointed to man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” How are we to look at death? We focus on St. Paul's words, “For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living." The Christian lives life in the loving knowledge that his or her life is in God's hand. The same hand where your name is engraved in the palm through the cross.
Those who advocate for easier access to euthanasia are not much different from the abortion advocates. They seek to making death easier on the person dying. As if death is ever easy! Death is death. There is only one reason for it. Sin. "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
What does God say to those who promote and try to de-criminalize euthanasia? "There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” All seven of these abominations relate to euthanasia. The haughty eyes and the wickedly-devising heart look to the perceived contribution this person can make. The lying tongue and false witness seek to make the unnatural completely natural. The feet hastening to commit the deed declares the person to be unnecessary any more. And the discord sower meddles in the emotions of the dying person and their family to encourage them to make “the loving decision.”
Killing a person isn't loving. Cain wasn't loving Abel when he killed his brother. The children of Israel weren't loving the Canaanites as they were commanded to obliterate them from the Promised Land. The Pharisees, Sadducees and the elders of Israel weren't loving Jesus when they brought Him to Pilate to be crucified. Willful killing is never loving because love is based in life. Not the absence of pain and suffering. Pain and suffering will only be removed when Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead.
What are Christians called to do for those facing death? "Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute." "Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter." In the moments of decision, Christ's Gospel must remain foremost in your mind. What is the best thing to do for my loved one? This is the question. Unfortunately, there is no right or wrong answer. But the Christian looks forward to everlasting life with Christ in Heaven. This serves as the basis for making these hard decisions.
There is no dignity in death. Everyone who has ever lived has lived in fear of death. Death doesn't give freedom from anything. Not even the pain and suffering of your sin-filled life. Only Jesus' blood ends pain and suffering. Not in this life. Pain and suffering will end in the next life. In Heaven, there will be no sorrow. This is the image we should look at when we face death. The Easter proclamation comes out in these moments: "He lives and grants me daily breath; He lives, and I shall conquer death; He lives my mansion to prepare; He lives to bring me safely there." Or our Baptism: "There is nothing worth comparing to this life-long comfort sure! Open-eyed my grave is staring; even there I'll sleep secure. Though my flesh awaits its raising, still my soul continues praising: I am baptized into Christ; I'm a child of paradise!" We may look forward to death, not as masochists, but as faithful children of God who believe their heavenly Father's promises.
As we get to the last facet of the pro-life platform, we must ask the question, “What is your life worth?” “Do you not know that your body is a Temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.” The price of the Son of God's blood.
With such wonderful value, why do people, even Christians, consider suicide? It's a very important question with a very simple answer. I suffered with bouts of depression that lead to suicidal thoughts and even attempts at suicide when I was younger. Throughout this time in my life, which isn't all that far in the past, I didn't see my life's value from God's perspective. I firmly believed that everyone would be better off if I weren't around any more. Renee was never very happy when I would vocalize these feelings. A person who has never struggled with depression doesn't understand the issues. They don't understand how to deal with depression and the feelings it causes. They don't understand how they can help. A great resource for understanding depression is Rev. Todd Peperkorn's I Trust When Dark My Road. Valerius Herberger, a seventeenth-century Lutheran theologian, wrote thus:
To have a sick heart is the greatest trouble on earth. Many may have not a single sick soul in the house, but in the breast there is a sickbed in which an ailing heart lies, letting out great groans. There laughter is stifled. Hence St. Paul calls it “Satan’s messenger”; for “the devil truly avails himself of the melancholy of the pious.” Melancholia balneum diaboli. [Melancholy is the devil's bath.] He climbs on top of what is cast down, and pours out more onto what is already soaked, just like a true sadist. He turns a little infraction into a great, terrifying sin unto death. He has to do everything to the extreme: out of a speck of dust floating in the sunbeam he makes a huge mountain. He sharpens all thoughts into daggers and spits for the heart, making man to despair of bringing out the best of the situation.
Suicide can also be the result of demonic possession. In the Gospels, a father whose son was possessed by a demon begged Jesus, “Teacher, I brought my son to You, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. … And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him.” This demon, much against the boy's wishes and desires, sought to destroy him. This demon sought to make his life, if you will, a living hell.
So, what can you do for those who are considering suicide or have attempted suicide? Point them to Jesus. The devil tries to steal their life and their value from them. But Jesus came to give life and value through His life. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
God wants us to live and love life. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” The troubling thoughts that lead someone to contemplate suicide need to be voiced and heard. They are not easy to hear. They are not easy to speak. But the thoughts also need to be answered with God's steadfast love through which He satisfies us and shows His pity for us. And pity here is positive. God can sympathize with our mental afflictions as He can with all our afflictions. Words of comfort and care need to lace these conversations. Especially prayers for and with the suicidal person, using words like the psalm, “Let Your work be shown to Your servants, and Your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!"  These words need to be repeated because no one can snap out of the thoughts and desires. They have to be drug out gradually.
But isn't suicide the unforgivable sin? Over the years I've been here, several suicides have taken place. Different ages. Different circumstances. Different reasons. But it is the same problem. “You shall not murder.” Suicide is murder. However, it is not necessarily unforgivable. After all, very few suicides are done in willful rebellion against God. They are conflicted inwardly. Luther says it this way, “I don't share the opinion that suicides are certainly to be damned. My reason is that they do not wish to kill themselves but are overcome by the power of the devil.”
What can you do for those left behind? Mourn as they mourn. The mourning over a suicide is no different than a person who is murdered or an infant that dies from SIDS. There is nothing anyone could have done to prevent it. And they shouldn't blame themselves. Satan was at work. “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.” Satan has convinced the suicide of his lies. No differently than when he spoke with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The lie is still the same. “Did God really say?" Yes, God has really said. And He has said it many times and in many ways. “This is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life." "We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies." And probably the greatest of them all: "I have called you by name, you are Mine."
There are several facets to being pro-life. These might not be all of them. They surely weren't treated exhaustively. But pro-lifers have a wonderful blessing to give to the world. Especially to the suffering. Because we have been rooted in Jesus Christ, the author of life. Amen.
- Ecclesiastes 11:5
- Job 10:8-12
- Psalm 139:16
- Jeremiah 1:5
- Luke 1:39-45
- Margaret Sanger, Birth Control Review (November 1921), 2
- Psalm 6:4
- Psalm 6:8-9
- Romans 8:14-17
- Matthew 6:9
- John 14:18
- Galatians 4:4-7
- LSB #649.1
- Mark 10:13-16
- Psalm 127:3
- Psalm 103:11-13
- Deuteronomy 11:18-21; Psalm 78:1-7
- Ephesians 6:4 KJV
- Matthew 19:9
- John 3:19-21; Psalm 127:1
- Genesis 2:24-25
- Hebrews 13:4
- 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
- Romans 1:24-27
- 1 Peter 2:9; Ephesians 5:8; John 8:12; 12:35, 46; Acts 26:18
- Colossians 3:12-15
- Matthew 5:14
- Genesis 5:5
- Hebrews 9:27
- Romans 14:7-9
- Isaiah 49:16
- Romans 6:23
- Proverbs 6:16-19
- Genesis 4
- Exodus 23:23-28
- Matthew 27:15-26
- Proverbs 31:8
- Proverbs 24:11
- Isaiah 25:8; Revelation 7:17; 21:4
- LSB #461.7
- LSB #594.5
- 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
- Mark 9:17-22
- John 10:10
- Psalm 46:1
- Psalm 90:13-14
- Hebrews 4:15; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4; Romans 8:26-27; 1 Corinthians 10:13
- Psalm 90:16-17
- Exodus 20:13
- Quoted from Matt Wurm, "Murdered in the Wood by a Robber," Lutheran Witness (January 2017), 20
- Romans 12:15
- John 8:44
- Genesis 3:1
- John 6:40
- 2 Corinthians 4:7-10
- Isaiah 43:1
- Acts 3:15