2nd Sunday after Epiphany/Life Sunday
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. John 2:1-11
January 18, 2015
Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. It’s today because this is the closest Sunday to January 22nd, which was the date in 1973 when the Supreme Court of the United States handed down its decision legalizing abortion. This year abortion will have been legal for 42 years in our country. People who are my age have never lived in a country where abortion wasn’t legal.
Some estimate that in the years since 1973 one third of babies conceived were aborted. That would be something like 56 and a half million lives that ended before the baby ever left its mother’s womb. 56 and a half million human beings put to death without the interference of the government, whose calling it is to protect innocent lives. 56 and a half million people who died as though they were not human beings, not allowed the most basic of human rights—the right to live.
If we reflect on this a little bit, it will change our whole perspective on what the mission of the church is in this age. We are living in a society that has killed 1/3 of its children. How can we think that its just a matter of being nice and friendly or packaging our message the right way to make people want to come to church? How can we imagine that in a society that murders 1/3 or its children, we can expect our living children to remain Christians if Christianity is something we do on the side but is not at the center of our lives?
The Church isn’t called to win over society. We are called to bring light into the darkness. We are called to preach the forgiveness of sins from God to a world that is evil, that is under the power of the devil. And we are first called to receive that same Gospel ourselves—that we are by nature sinners and wicked before God, but that through the death of His Son God forgives us and counts us righteous.
The good news we bring to the world is that even now, with the blood of 56 million babies rising around us like a flood, the God who authored those lives does not want to destroy us. He comes in peace, to give us life and peace and pardon. See Jesus going to the marriage at Cana in Galilee. He was the same holy God that He is now, and human beings were just as corrupt then as they are now. But Jesus is among them as a brother, not as a judge. He goes to the wedding. He doesn’t stand apart from human life and human joys, even though human beings are sinful. He isn’t above it. He goes to the wedding and participates in the joy of the bride and groom.
That’s because human life, despite being fallen and corrupt, is still God’s creation. He does not want to destroy it, but to redeem it. Life and the institutions that create and protect life are God’s, even though they are stained by the sin of the people who enter them. Marriage is still God’s good creation, despite our abuse of it. The bearing of children is still God’s work, even though children are conceived in sin. Sex is God’s good gift and Jesus does not scorn or despise it, but blesses it when it is used as God ordained it, between a man and a woman who are united together for life in holy marriage. Jesus doesn’t scorn or disallow the pleasure of eating and drinking, not even drinking wine, but creates gallons of the best wine for the wedding party to enjoy.
All this Jesus does even though He is dealing with the descendants of Adam and Eve, who are born corrupt and wicked, just like us. Why does He bless marriage and the eating of food and the drinking of wine and life in this fallen world for those who deserve God’s punishment and not blessing?
Because God has come to earth not to destroy human life but to redeem and save it. He came to reclaim human nature from sin and death and the devil. That’s why God is at the wedding of Cana as a true man. He has united human nature to Himself, to God.
Thhis is the great hope that we hold out to a world that has killed its own children. It is the hope by which we ourselves live. All the darkness and depravity of human nature and all our wicked deeds God comes to forgive and clear away, not to torment us for.
When His hour has come, He will take all the darkness and depravity of our hearts and our bodies on Himself. He takes the sexual impurity, the murder of the innocent, and the failure to love and trust God on Himself when His hour has come. And He bears God’s righteous wrath against all the sin s of the world so that His wrath might not rest on us.
All of God’s wrath that is hanging over our country for the murder of those 56 million babies and all the wrath of God against every sin of thought, word, and deed from the first sin of Adam all fell on Jesus and was paid for by Jesus.
In place of the shame and guilt and regret that follow us for our sins, Jesus gives us the wine of joy. It is the toast that celebrates our new life with God. For God in Christ has wedded Himself to us, as the alternate epistle from Ephesians says. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her with the washing of water by the word…” Jesus is the bridegroom, and all who believe and are baptized into Him are the bride.
He doesn’t shame or criticize or beat down His bride. He takes all her shame and sin on the cross. He puts on us the wedding garment of His perfect righteousness in Baptism. He invites us to the wedding feast of heaven, where He gives us the bread and wine of heaven—His own body and blood. In them He gives us life in a dying world.
We often complain as we see the church seeming to weaken and the world becoming more godless.
But whether we are great or small, few or many, we have Jesus with us.
He gives us life through His death. Life in a murderous world. Righteousness in place of our sin.
We may be too small individually to turn back the tide of falling away and the lack of regard for life in our society.
But we have His assurance that He is pleased with us. He is our bridegroom. He comes to us and give us what is His—life, victory, righteousness.
He doesn’t ask us to overcome the world. He has overcome the world. We receive His victory and live in our callings as those who have already won the victory even though we may seem to be losing, trying to do an impossible task.
If married, we love our spouse, welcome children, and rejoice that He is well-pleased with ur lives through faith in Jesus.
If single, we live in chastity and rejoice that He is well-pleased with the life that He has called us to.
Our bridegroom Jesus gives true meaning to our lives in a world that is trying to steal paradise for itself.
He gives us the joy of God’s favor and good pleasure through His suffering for our sins on the cross.
The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria
Transfiguration Sunday [Life Sunday]
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Matthew 17:1-9
January 20, 2013
“The Father is well-pleased with Jesus’ cross”
[The Father is well-pleased with Jesus’ cross.
- 1. We are pleased with our work and think it brings life.
- 2. The Father is well-pleased with Jesus’ cross because it does bring life to you.]
“I was single, living with some friends, had a good job, and was having a good time. Having a baby just wasn’t in the cards. I told the father, and he said he had no intention of marrying me. He made his intentions quite clear right from the get-go. I had no desire to marry him either. I didn’t think a child was the right reason to get married. He said he’d pay for an abortion. Adoption was, quite truthfully, not an option I ever considered…At the time I thought that I could never give a child up, but now I look back and wonder how I could have done what I did. Giving it up would have been so much better. I didn’t really think of this as being a little person. It was a purely selfish decision. All I thought was, “What am I going to do now? This is a problem, and I have to take care of it.” I went to the doctor, and he suggested a clinic. It all happened so quickly. Looking back, I didn’t agonize. I had to make a decision; something had to be done.”
Those words come from a collection of stories told by women who have had an abortion, and you can find them at the top of the bulletin. Further on the same woman explains how she has tried to deal with the regret and guilt that came to her later as she looked at the children God gave her in her marriage, wondering whether the child she aborted would have been a boy or a girl, whether the child is in heaven. “I just don’t think about things that trouble me. I push them down.”
She goes on to describe what she thinks about God’s forgiveness: “I hear the pastor saying that it doesn’t matter how great our sins are, that God forgives us. But I think, ‘But mine are really bad.’ I guess I believe that my sins are forgiven, but a lot of times I have a lot of trouble feeling that they are forgiven.”
There will be people hearing this sermon who have had an abortion or paid for a woman to have one. Others have been involved in other sins against God’s gift of life. They should hear at the outset of the sermon, now: God put away your sin on the cross of Jesus. Don’t despair. Listen to God’s beloved Son who says “Do not be afraid.”
Others know someone who has had an abortion. And there are those who do not. Tuesday is the 40th anniversary of legal abortion in the United States, but it has been done in this country for much longer than that.
Regardless, the confession of this woman is not only her confession, and not only the confession of people who have had an abortion. St. Peter could relate with it. Like her, he also followed the wisdom of his flesh, called God’s work “bad” and tried to replace it with his own work. Like her he also tried to gain life for himself in his own way, apart from God’s word. He also fell into grave sin and would have despaired if Jesus had not restored him with His absolution.
What was true of Peter is true of all of us. Apart from the Holy Spirit
- 1. We are pleased with our work and think it brings life, but
- 2. the Father is well-pleased with Jesus’ cross because it truly brings life to you.