Monday, January 24, 2011

Epiphany 3 Sermon - Abortion Is Evil

What follows is the sermon I preached yesterday.  I rarely preach "topical" sermons, but I was inspired by all the news surrounding the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and decided to pitch the sermon I had prepared and write a new sermon focused on the evil of abortion.  The traditional readings from the historic lectionary were kept in tact, mostly because it was too late to turn yesterday into a "Life Sunday" Service with more appropriate texts (I may do that next year, since if there was ever a good reason to stray from the lectionary, doing so to address this important topic would be it).  The beginning of the sermon and a few thoughts throughout were borrowed from an excellent sermon written by one of my favorite preachers, Fr. David Petersen of Redeemer, Ft. Wayne. 

23 January Anno + Domini 2011
“Abortion Is Evil”
Matt. 8:1-13 (2 Kings 5:1-15a; Rom. 1:8-17)

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

All decent Americans are against child abuse.  A couple of years ago there was a story in the news about a toddler whose step-father had burned a vulgar word into the child's back with a cigarette, dot by painful dot.  That was evil.  It was wrong.  No one in their right mind would say otherwise.  No one in their right mind would say that it was merely unfortunate, or that it was simply a poor choice made by the step-father.  NO!  It was demonic, disgusting, despicable!  Of that we must be quite dogmatic.  There are no excuses for such wicked behavior.  It doesn’t matter if the child was bad or the step-father suffered from psychological trauma.  It was evil and wrong.  Period!
We should be no less clear about the violent murder of babies that, as of yesterday, has been legalized by our own government for thirty-eight years, and is carried out with cold, Nazi-like efficiency in clinics and hospitals. The mothers receive anesthesia and are made as comfortable as possible.  But, there is no mercy for the babies.  None!  And it is far more painful and traumatic than cigarette burns.  It is evil.  It is wrong.  It is disgusting and disturbing.  There are no excuses for such wicked behavior.  It is evil and wrong.  Period!  
To stamp that “Period!” on abortion being evil and wrong may sound incredibly intolerant and even radical to ears that have long listened to the lies put forth by those who describe themselves as pro-choice.  So be it.  The devil is not chased away by philosophy, but by dogma, by calling things what they are, by the Truth.  Abortion is murder.  Murder is evil.  That’s the truth that no amount of cleverly-devised lies will ever be able to overcome. 
And you’re all well familiar with many of those cleverly-devised lies, for you have listened to the debate which should never have begun raging on now for two years shy of a Biblical generation.  You have heard that the baby in a mother’s womb is not yet a human being, but just a collection of cells, an embryo, a fetus, and so forth.  That’s a bald-faced lie that science itself refutes.  What is inside a mother’s womb is a unique human being with unique DNA which begins the moment the cells begin to multiply at conception.  And once this lie is revealed as the lie it is, all the other popular lies immediately fall by the wayside, the most popular of the bunch being that a woman should have the right to make decisions about her own body, as if the baby in her womb is a part of the woman’s body.  False.  That baby has its own body.  The mother hosts the baby and feeds the baby, but the mother and the baby are two entirely distinct human beings. 
And when the lies don’t convince us, we’re bombarded with supposed ethical dilemmas put forth by those advocating for the right to murder babies.  “What about in cases of incest and rape?” they ask.  “Abortion should be made available to the victims.”  No, it shouldn’t.  Our mothers were right, “Two wrongs do not make a right.”  Murdering a baby is murdering a baby, regardless of the circumstances of a baby’s conception.  “What about when the amniocentesis reveals that the baby will be born retarded or deformed in some way?”  Again, murder is murder.  If a mother is too psychologically traumatized to care for a baby who was conceived through the heinous acts of incest or rape, or a baby who is born retarded or deformed, she has options – she can put the child up for adoption, allow family members to care for the child, or even abandon the child and let the state determine how to care for the child.  But, abortion is never an acceptable option. 
Ah, but then there is this one:  “What about when the life of the mother is threatened if she goes forth with the childbirth?”  Even Christians have contended that in such an unfortunate scenario, abortion is an acceptable option, which is something I have never really understood.  What gives us the right to play God and determine who lives and dies?  If a woman and her two-year-old child were both drowning at sea and only one of them could be saved, who among us would defend the mother’s decision to save herself and let her child drown?  Don’t get me wrong.  I do realize what a difficult situation it would be for a mother to be told that she may not survive childbirth, and certainly there are a host of other issues to be taken into consideration in such a heart-breaking scenario.  But, still, abortion, even in this very tough situation, is wrong.    
But, dear friends, we need not get too bogged down in all these exceptional ethical dilemmas.  They are put before us as mere smokescreens, as red herrings to divert our attention away from the real issue at hand.  The truth is that there are more than a million abortions performed in our country annually and less than 5% of those abortions fall into the category of these supposed ethical dilemmas.  Besides, were we to agree that abortion should remain legal for cases of incest and rape, birth defects, and when the mother’s life is threatened, it would not deter those who vigorously defend the right to murder babies in the false name of choice one iota. 
Some of you may be wondering whether it’s appropriate to preach about this from the pulpit.  Not only is it appropriate, but it is absolutely necessary.  We are obligated to speak out against this evil, first as citizens of this country and second as Christians who obey God rather than men.  Do not let anyone convince you that this is merely a religious or political issue.  This is primarily a moral issue and a civil rights issue.  When we read the stories of those pastors and priests in Germany who preached against the holocaust being carried out under Hitler’s reign, does the thought of whether or not that was appropriate even attempt to enter our minds?  We must preach against this evil; to fail to do so would be inappropriate and quite sinful. 
I began this sermon with the example of the child who was abused by his step-father.  Everyone agrees that such is evil and wrong.  The holocaust under Hitler I just mentioned, where more than six million Jews were put to death – everyone agrees that such is evil and wrong.  Only a very depraved mind would think otherwise.  The slaughter of the innocent male children of Bethlehem under Herod – everyone agrees that such is evil and wrong.  But, then we come to the greatest, most heinous holocaust of all – the slaughtering of over 53 million babies right here in America, the self-professed home of the brave and land of the free, where we boldly claim:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” – and not everyone agrees.  Somehow, murdering over 53 million of our citizens, depriving them of the very things we claim they possess by right from the endowment of their Creator – Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness – is amazingly open for debate.  It is not.  There is no debating this.  There couldn’t be anything more crystal clear than the most certain truth that abortion is evil. 
But, we are all culpable, my friends, every single one of us.  For you have heard it said that abortion is wrong, but I tell you that anyone who has not prayed fervently that this evil be stopped, and anyone who has not spoken out against this evil at every opportunity to do so, and anyone who does not support the efforts of those who are fighting against this evil, and anyone who does not exercise their rights as a citizen of this country to petition their elected servants on a regular basis to stop this evil insanity, is guilty of abortion in their hearts.  Repent!  We have been far too silent and far less active in the fight that demands our continual presence on this particular battlefield.  We have hidden behind the false notion that it’s none of our business.  We have tried to make ourselves feel better by convincing ourselves that because we don’t support abortion, we do not share in the guilt of allowing it to continue among us, or by telling ourselves that there’s simply nothing we can do to stop it.  And so, we continue on with our lives, ignoring the great evil being committed among us, often forgetting, or pretending, that it’s happening, losing ourselves in our own little worlds where we never miss our favorite TV shows or the chance to socialize with our friends or to surf the internet, and so forth, but have no time or desire to join the fight against abortion. 
In the Introit this morning, we prayed:  “O you who love the LORD, hate evil!”  Do we?  Do we hate evil?  Repent!  It is not enough to be against abortion; we have an obligation to stand against abortion however we possibly can, to oppose this not just in our hearts, but with our voices and actions however and wherever we are able, within the restraints of the law of the land and the Law of our God. 
Repent, dear friends, but also take heart, for the same Jesus who healed the leper and the servant of the Centurion in the Holy Gospel today is here among you to heal you.  Let us not forget that He lived and died for all people, even the abortionist and those who lobby and fight tooth and nail to keep this evil legal in our country.  He died for all those women who have chosen, for one reason or another, to abort their babies, and for all those men, who have supported that choice, for whatever reason.  He died for all the babies who have had their lives snuffed out before ever seeing the light of day in this dark and dreary world.  And, He died for you who have not done enough to oppose this evil.  The solution for all of our ills, social and otherwise, is the satisfaction of Justice in the cross of Jesus where He took the sins of all people upon Himself.  In Him, and only in Him, there is forgiveness.
Come, then, dear brothers and sisters, and be cleansed in the Blood of the Lamb.  Have the white baptismal gowns you received when the leprosy of your sin was washed away - just as Naaman’s leprosy was cleansed in the Jordan - cleansed anew in the Blood that was shed on the cross for you.  Come in repentance and faith to the holy altar, confessing with the faithful Centurion that you are not worthy to have your Lord come under your roof, but that at His Word, you will be healed.  For His Word is clear:  This is My Body and Blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of all your sins.  Come, receive this Holy Sacrament, this Medicine of Immortality, and be strengthened and preserved in the faith, that you might leave here renewed and ready to be His servants in this dead and dying world, standing and fighting on the side of life.  For the same Lord Jesus who Feeds you with Himself here sanctified all human life by entering the womb of His Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, in order to redeem humanity and open the door to everlasting life to all who believe.  For Jesus is the Lord of Life, the One through Whom all things were made, the One who knows every single human being before He even begins to form them in the womb.  He knew you before He knitted you together in your mother’s womb.  He is most definitely Pro-Life, and so must we be, too.   

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

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