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Sermon for Life Sunday

January 20, 2010 Leave a comment

2010 Life Sunday Sermon

Text:  Ephesians 4:14-16

Theme: The Truth of Life

Rev. Dr. James I. Lamb, Executive Director of Lutherans For Life

(Note: This was the sermon preached at the Life Service at Augustana this year.  As noted above, it was written by Dr. Lamb, and I preached it.)

Sermon for Life Sunday 2010 – MP3 audio

Introduction

Keeping truth alive is important.  The eighteenth century poet, James Russell Lowell, wrote, “Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne.”  If we forever lead truth up on the scaffold, if we try to do away with truth or ignore the truth, then we will forever be clearing the way for wrong to ascend to the throne and rule the day.  Keeping truth alive is important.

It’s important in the Church. Paul recognized that in his time.  To keep from being tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine, to keep that which is wrong from ruling in the Church, Paul says speak the truth, the truth of Christ and His Word.  It’s important in the Church today.  We need to speak it to one another, to help each other grow in the knowledge of God’s truth so we will not be so easily influenced by the latest falsehood.  Yes, we need to speak the truth, but not in a way that condemns or condescends.  Rather, Paul says, we are to speak the truth in love.

So often we only get that half right.  We either forget the truth or we forget the love.  Just speaking in love is not enough.  Trying not to say anything that would offend or trying to be tolerant of false teaching so you won’t rock the boat leads truth to the scaffold and wrong to the throne.  Just speaking the truth is not enough.  Yelling and screaming truth at someone sets up walls of defense.  Truth might as well be on the scaffold because it is never heard.  Wrong continues to rule the day.  But when we speak the truth in love, Paul says we “grow up”!  We “grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ” (15b).  Ignoring falsehood and wrong does not make the Church “one big happy family.”  Lovingly confronting falsehood and wrong with the truth on the other hand, unites us as the Body of Christ with Him as our head.

Today we observe Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.  Keeping truth alive in the Church when it comes to the sanctity of human life is important.  Of course, we stir things up a bit in the Body of Christ when we talk about the life issues, things like abortion and embryonic stem cell research and assisted suicide.  These issues can be divisive.   Some may think such things are political issues that we should not be talking about in the church.  Some may think the opposite—that Christian participation and action is needed to influence society.  Others might think they are personal issues and decisions and we shouldn’t be judging.  For some it may indeed be very personal because they have been involved in such decisions in the past and it hurts to hear it talked about.  So talking about the life issues in church can stir things up, but our purpose is not to divide.  It is just the opposite.  We desire to “grow up,” to be united more and more into our head, Jesus Christ.  In an effort to do so, we take Paul’s advice.  Let’s speak the truth of life as revealed in God’s holy Word, and let’s speak it in love.

Every Life is the Handiwork of God

The first truth of life is that every life is the handiwork of God.  From the very beginning, it seems that God’s hands were involved in life.  He formed Adam from the dust of the ground.  He made Eve from one of Adam’s ribs.  The word “made” literally means “to build.”  So with the first two human beings you get this picture of God intimately involved with His hands forming and building.  That involvement continues in the biological process for procreation God set into motion.  The Psalmist says that God “knitted” (Psalm 139:13) each of us together in our mother’s womb.  Job and Isaiah talk about God shaping and forming us in the womb.  Yes, the truth is, every life is the handiwork of God.

Maybe some of you have one of great grandma’s old quilts displayed somehow in your homes.  It may be too ragged and thin to be useful.  It may not even look all that good because of fading and tears and stains.  Nevertheless, there it is proudly draped for all to see.  You know the quilt’s value does not come from its usefulness or its looks.  It comes form who made it.  So it is with every human life.

Every Life is Bought with a Price

The second truth of life we want to discuss today is that every life is bought with a price.

What if great grandma’s quilt, instead of being passed along, got put on the auction block when grandma died?  How much would you be willing to give for that quilt that always laid at the foot of the bed in that spare room, that kept you warm on winter nights when you visited, that, with a couple of chairs, made into a tent for you and your cousins?  I’m guessing you would be willing to pay quite a price.  When you did, that quilt would be doubly valuable.  Valuable because it was great grandma’s and valuable because you had to pay dearly to get it back.

Even though we are the Handiwork of God, sin separated us from our Maker.  He had every right to abandon us, to turn us over to “human cunning” and “deceitful schemes” (14).  But the truth of life is, God loved what He made with His hands so much that He was willing to pay dearly to buy us back. He paid the price by becoming one with us, conceived in a womb as we were.  He paid the price by becoming our sin on the cross.  He paid the price by taking our punishment and suffering the forsakenness of Hell.  He paid the price and now we lost and condemned sinners are purchased and won through His innocent suffering and death.  And it’s not just us.  Jesus paid the price for every sin and for every sinner.  Every life was bought with a price.  Not everyone knows that, of course, and that is our task as Christ’s Church to share this Good News, but every life is a life for whom Jesus paid the price.

Let me pause here a minute to interject something.  As we said earlier, talking about the life issues can stir things up.  It can be particularly difficult for someone burdened with the guilt of a past abortion.  There are over 3,000 abortions every day in our country. The majority of those having an abortion are Christians.  That means there could very well be someone here today who has made that decision.  If there is, I just want you to understand that your sin, like all the sins represented here today, was paid for by the blood of Christ.  You, too, were bought with a price.  Your life has value to God.

Every Life God Desires to Call as His own

A third truth of life is that God desires a relationship, both now and forever, with those He created and redeemed.  He wants every one to be saved and to come to the knowledge of His truth (1 Timothy 2:4).  He wants to adopt every human being, through faith in Christ Jesus, into His family, lead them, walk with them and accomplish His purpose for each human life.  It’s like when great grandma used to wrap you up in that quilt and hold you close.  You felt loved and protected and safe.

Every Life Has Value

These three truths point us to a single truth—every human life has value.  That value does not come from its usefulness or how it looks or how big or healthy or productive it is.  The value of human life does not come from certain “qualities” we think it should have.  The value of human life comes from the One who made it.  Every life is the handiwork of God.  The value of human life comes from the One who bought it back.  Every life is bought with a price.  The value of life comes from the One who desires to call us for His eternal purpose.  The embryo in the Petri dish, the baby in the womb, baby Sally in the neonatal intensive care unit, Uncle Ralph in the Alzheimer’s unit, grandma in the nursing home bed, you and me—we all have value because each of us is someone created by the hand of God, someone redeemed by the blood of Christ, and someone God desires to call according to His purpose.

The truth of life is that every life has value because of what God has done. It is a truth that raises the life issues way above being mere political issues and even above being just moral issues.  When you destroy life at any stage of development, under any condition of health, you are destroying the blood-bought handiwork of God.  You are messing with “grandma’s quilt.”

Growing In and Sharing the Truth of Life

The truth of life is that every life has value because of what God has done. That is a truth we need to understand here in the Body of Christ.  We need to grow in that truth.  For I’m afraid our silence about this truth and our failure to apply it to the life issues has helped it along onto the scaffold.  When this truth is ignored, it allows the terrible wrong of the destruction of vulnerable human life to ascend to the throne and rule the day.  More and more in our society we turn to death as a solution to the problems of life.

We need to reverse that.  The flow of influence needs to change.  We need to be influencing society rather than being “tossed to and fro” and riding the waves of whatever our culture deems right. Our society desperately needs us to teach them how to welcome every life and to care for every life and to value every life.  We can do that because we have a God who, through Christ, welcomed us, who cares for us, and who gives value to us.

So let’s begin right here.  Let’s speak the truth of life more among ourselves, and let’s do so in love.  Let’s educate ourselves, not just on the life issues, but on what Christ’s Word of Truth has to say about them.  [Here you may want to list some specifics if you have some special “Life Events” planned.  If not, maybe you can plan some!]  Let us pledge to grow together in this so that our Head, Jesus Christ, may be glorified.

Then let’s take this truth about the value and dignity of human life out there into our society and share it, boldly and courageously but always in love.  By the things we say and the things we do, may we speak the truth of the value of each and every human life.  By the things we say and the things we do, may we speak the truth about the source of that value.  Like great grandma’s quilt, the value of life comes from the One who made it, the One who bought it back, and the One who gives it meaning and purpose.  Amen.

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