March 25 & 26, 2017 Sanctity of Life Service
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
A hand-crafted cabinet. A handmade quilt. A heart-touching painting. These and others works of human craftsmanship and skill draw out our deep appreciation and admiration. But none of them compare with the wonderful works of our God. And you don’t need to go to a museum or search countless shows to find an example of his skill. Just look in a mirror.
In Psalm 139 David marvels at God’s wisdom and power, which is at work for us, his creatures. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; you works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:13, 14).
To me it’s amazing how someone can take a rolled up ball of yarn, and from this single strand they knit or crochet an afghan or sweater. But how much more so has our God done as he took fundamental atoms and strands of DNA and knit them together to make you and me! And he made us not simply as biological machines put together from various parts. He made us who we are, our individuality, our personhood, our soul and spirit, our emotional and mental makeup, our inner most being. He knows the hidden connections between body and soul, between brain and mind. Nothing is hidden from him. “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body” (Psalm 139:15, 16). “Secret place” and “depths of the earth” are poetic pictures to bring home that only God truly knows how we are formed. All the knowledge of science will never measure up to God’s wisdom even in just this one matter. He knitted each one of us, individually. How wonderfully our God works!
Today we want to reflect on what God has to say about the matters of life. As we reflect on the life of babies and children, there are those who want them, those who do not want them, those who have them and those who can’t have them. We can wonder why the Lord would let such who don’t want them to conceive and why some who want children cannot conceive. At the other end of life we can wonder why a healthy 200 pound man can suddenly die in the prime of life and a 22 ounce baby can survive. To us life can be a mystery. But not to God. Today we want to look at the fact that From Conception to the Crown, Life Is Special.
Not one of us chose to be conceived, much less were able to choose the day on which we were born. When we start at the issues of beginning of life in the womb, we turn to God’s word. In the story of the wives of Jacob we read: (Gen. 29:31) When the LORD saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. In the story of Hannah we read: (1 Sam. 1:5) But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the LORD had closed her womb. These verses and our text are clear reminders that the Lord gives life in the mother’s womb. Thus the Lord claims for himself the privilege of determining life issues, as he has said, (Deut. 32:39) “See now that I myself am he! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.”
Since he has created and given life, he puts a fence around life itself. In the fifth commandment he says, “You shall not murder.” God protects the life he has given. There is one place in the Bible he even speaks about protecting the life of the child in the womb, (Ex. 21:22-23) “If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life.” God protects life, even in the womb.
The life God gives an individual is a time of grace. This is our time to come to know the Lord. We are told in Isaiah 55:6, “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.” As we come to know the Lord Jesus as our life giver and life saver, we also realize we are to live for him. The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 6:19-20, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”
That brings us to the very personal question: “What have you done or accomplished with the gifts, talents and time God has given you here on this earth.” The psalmist says, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” When we realize each of our gifts and abilities is what God chose to give us when he knit us together in our mother’s wombs, then we can recognize his wisdom in what he chose for each of us. We need not be envious of what other gifts some received or underestimate the gifts we do have. Some of us were meant to sit at the end of the bench in a basketball game, others have gifts to start. Some may have gifts of ministry, others of serving. Sometimes God makes people who need help, and then provides people to give help. When God made us, he gave us the gifts we need in life.
If we are honest, though, with what we have done, we would have to admit we have neglected, wasted, and ruined many opportunities to use our gifts to serve God and others. Think back then to how often we have abused our bodies, neglected our bodies, put things into our bodies and minds, only to the shame and disgrace of our Savior. How about the times we have made other people’s lives miserable with our words and actions? How about the times we closed our eyes to people in need and refused to help? How we have sinfully misused what God has given us. What is the answer for the guilt and shame that can rest upon our hearts and minds when we look back over our past sins? What is the answer to the eternal death in hell which we deserve?
God’s answer is that he is the God of life. His answer: Jesus is the life of the world who came that we might have life and to the full. He too was formed in a mother’s womb, knit together, with a purpose in this world. He took on flesh and blood. His purpose was to live a perfect life to win righteousness for us. And his purpose was to pay our punishment for our sins on the cross. He fulfilled that. Thus in him is the forgiveness of sins. As each one of us reflects on the life issues and our own failures of the past, in Jesus we find that forgiveness of the past.
But there is something else. Jesus changes hearts and minds. We can pass laws outlawing abortion and doctor assisted suicide, but what a difference when Jesus comes into the heart and it is changed. Here is where the Christian church, with the power of the Gospel, does what no congress person can do with another law. Jesus can change people’s hearts and minds to see that all life is precious.
But there is more. When a child is born, the Christian not only rejoices in the new life in this world, but he realizes that the child will need more than food, clothing and physical care. What good does it do, if a child is brought into the world, only to be lost eternally? So the Christian heart is concerned about the baby’s body and soul. As you rejoice at the birth of a child of a friend or family member, talk to them about bringing the child to the baptismal font. The blessings of baptism and joys of being a forgiven Christian needs to be shared with mother, father and child.
There are times when families are confronted with another life issue. A body is being kept alive by machines. Is it right to turn off the machines? Do we have to do everything just to live in this world? Do we want our loved one just for ourselves, or should they be free to go home to heaven? As Christians, the goal of our lives is heaven, to live with our Lord and Savior in paradise. The goal of our lives is not to stay here on this earth as long as we possibly can, or in this case, to artificially keep someone alive as long as we possibly can. To remove a machine that is artificially keeping someone alive who has no hope of recovery is not wrong. Removing such a machine simply allows the disease or illness to take its natural course. And what can we do to help our family members in situations like this? Mothers, fathers, children need to talk about health care declarations, powers of attorney, what we want and do not want when it comes to end of life issues. In the back of church we have funeral preparation packets that have Christian declarations of life and powers of attorney to help you in this. Use them. To talk about death is not morbid for Christians. We say together with the Apostle Paul, (Phil 1:23) “I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.”
So from conception to birth, to our coming faith, to our life in Christ, we have a special promise from the Lord, (Rev. 2:10) “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Yes from conception to the crown, life is special. Amen.