Sunday, January 26, 2020

Sermon -- Sanctity of Life Sunday (January 26, 2020)

This sermon was preached at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church of Monroe, Michigan.

1 JOHN 3:1-3


In the name + of Jesus.

     St. John addresses the church and reminds you that you are children of God.  It may not look like it.  You may not feel like it.  We don't always act like it.  But St. John tells us not to look to ourselves for evidence of this.  He points to God's love and promises.  “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3:1)  We take God at his word, and we are comforted by his love.
     This is what God has always intended for the people he has created.  Life is a gift, and God desires each life to reflect God's goodness and glory.  Mankind was created by God for his glory.  He hand-crafted them—Adam from the dust and Eve from Adam's rib.  They were created in the image of God.  Far above the level of the animals, Adam and Eve were blessed with intellect, reason, emotion, and will.  These were in perfect harmony with the Lord.  They reflected God's goodness and holiness in their lives, and they glorified God in their love and obedience.  They were created by God for his glory.
     But when sin entered the world through their disobedience, the image of God was lost.  That doesn't mean they suddenly became stupid, emotionless, or brutish, like animals.  It means that their intellect, reason, emotion, and will were all corrupted and turned in on themselves.  It means that now man trusts in his reason; we think that we know better than God.  It means that our emotions are driven by selfishness, envy, and revenge.  It means our desires are devoted to ourselves at the expense of our neighbor and in rebellion to God.  We do not behave like the children of God.  For without the image of God, we are not.
     This corrupt, sinful nature causes people to believe, desire, and defend terrible things. When parents-to-be are told that their child might have Down Syndrome or a birth defect, it is suggested that they should abort the child.  Why?  It's too much of a bother.  Parents don't want to be saddled with that kind of effort or expense.  This thinking extends all the way to the end of life.  When people are restricted to wheelchairs, have a terminal illness, or can't remember their own children because of Alzheimer's disease, we say they have a low quality of life.  It is argued that a low quality of life is not worth living.  While no one wants to live with handicaps, disease, or pain, they would not agree that death improves their quality.  This reasoning that life is not worth living unless it is exciting or easy has even caused young people to resort to suicide.  God never made people to be disposable. 
     Lest you think that this wickedness is only found in other people, ask yourself how many times you have concluded that some people don't deserve to live.  We judge people's worth based on what we can get out of them or what they can produce.  When a person is destructive or violent, do we pray they would be snuffed out?  If there is someone you just don't like, do you wish they would just die?  You see, we also hold a low view of life.  We just need the right criteria to prove it.  Repent.  Our Lord assigns value to all life.  And if you have ever thought that your life is not worth living for whatever reason, you can bet it is not your Lord telling you that.  You were created by God for his glory, and that is still true even when life is hard, when bodies break down, or when sinners act like sinners.
     When the image of God was lost, God went to work to restore it in us.  To do so, the Lord became one of us.  He was made man with reason, an intellect, emotion, and a will.  But all of this was in harmony with the Father's perfect will.  Jesus' emotions moved him to have compassion on people in their illnesses and hardships.  He healed the sick and consoled people with hard lives.  He subjected his reason to God's word, trusting that he would not be forsaken or forgotten when others sinned against him.  He even loved his enemies and prayed for them.  He submitted his desires to God's will, so that he willingly went to Jerusalem to be arrested without cause, tried without justice, condemned without evidence, flogged without mercy, and crucified without modesty or dignity.  And though the sufferings and death of Jesus were cruel and unjust, he did it willingly in order to be the ransom price that was paid to set you free from your sin, from death, and from the devil.  Jesus lived his life for the glory of God.  And God's greatest glory is revealed in the fact that Jesus' perfect life and innocent death was given to save sinners.
     You were created by God for his glory, and you have been redeemed by God for his glory.  Do you see the value that God has put on your life?  You are worth the payment of the holy Son of God.  Jesus has even atoned for your sins of thinking that some people are just not worth the space they take up or the trouble that comes with them.  Jesus was determined to take your space under God's judgment and to suffer for your troubles at the cross so that they would not be counted against you.  You were redeemed so that you would be children of God, so that you would inherit his kingdom, and so that you would dwell with him forevermore.  The Lord loves what he has created, and he has further redeemed it.  Therefore, you are his.  “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3:1) 
     You were created by God for his glory.  Through baptism, he has put to death the sinful nature in you to make you a new creation.  He has made you children of God, which is not only a status, it is also changing your reason, intellect, emotion, and will to be in agreement with God.  Think of the canticle we often sing after a sermon: “Create in me a clean heart, O God (that's your status), and renew a right spirit within me” (that's your new creation). (Psalm 51:10)  This right spirit recognizes that life is a precious gift of God—whether it is growing in the womb, handicapped through life, dealing with anxiety or shame, or feebly fading away.  All are God's creation, and therefore all of them are valuable. 
     What's more, Jesus went to the cross to save all people.  Even though all will not be saved, our Lord deemed them worthy of the sacrifice.  He has created in you a right spirit—with an intellect, reason, emotion, and will being conformed to God's—so that you will see people not according what you can get out of them, but according to the mercy which they need and which you can give.  All have quality of life, because all have been created by our God.  You were created by God for his glory.  And all were created by God for his glory, too.
     “Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.  And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (1 John 3:2-3)  St. John reminds you that you are children of God.  It may not look like it.  You may not feel like it.  We don't always act like it.  For, we are not in glory yet.  Yet.  Soon our Lord will return and will raise us up to what God had always intended us to be—the perfect reflection of his goodness and glory.  He will transform us to perfection so that our intellect, reason, emotions, and will shall be in complete harmony with his.  He will perfect our lives not only in our minds and hearts, but also in our bodies.  When he appears we shall be like him. (1 John 3:2)  We will be risen from the grave with bodies that are completely whole.  There will be no disabled or diseased.  They will be no frail or weak.  There will be relief from shame and anxiety.  We will all be incorruptible and imperishable.  In body, mind, and spirit, we will be the image of God.  That is what God had designed mankind to be at the very beginning and will bring to perfection at the very end.   
     Beloved in the Lord, now you are the children of God.  You were created by God for his glory; it is what life is for.  So now, you get to reflect the goodness and glory of God to others.  Now you get to have compassion on the suffering, the struggling, and the saddened.  Now you get to tell people what they are worth to our Lord who gives and sustains us in this life.  And thanks to God, the life he gives does not end in a grave, but through Jesus goes on into endless glory.  That is what he created you for.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

1 comment:

  1. I haven't seen a comment show up for years. I am curious if something has been blocked. This is a test.


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