From the Pulpit

From the Pulpit 

Sermon on Psalm 139:13-16
Second Sunday after Epiphany
January 17, 2021

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Dear Children of our Living God! It is not a stretch for me to state that you hold life to be as precious as I do. And as we face the deaths of family, friends and neighbors in this pandemic, I think life has become even more precious to us. But as we struggle with Covid-19, friends, let us not forget those who have not yet drawn breath, or those "golden agers" who wait on the Lord, for their lives are precious, too. None of us are beyond the compassion of our God, for we are all wonderfully made. Created by God! Created by God to Live!
The psalmist, King David, affirms our creation by God. He writes:
            You knit me together in my mother’s womb – a spinner takes cotton or flax and spins it into thread, then a weaver weaves it into cloth, and a tailor or seamstress cuts and sews it into a garment. God is the spinner, the weaver, and the tailor. All the processes that worked together to make you—conception, development, birth, growth and development from child to adult—all are God’s work.
            I am fearfully and wonderfully made – I know I've used the hand illustration before, but bear with me, please. Look at it: 27 bones—14 in the fingers, 8 in the wrist, and 5 metacarpals. A healthy wrist can rotate a full 180 degrees. You have an opposable thumb to grasp things. The hand is sensitive and agile enough that it can swing a hammer, find all the keys on your keyboard, and offer the comfort of a tender touch. You have a completely unique set of fingerprints. Your hand can point, push the tiny buttons on your cell phone, give a “thumbs up” or say “hang loose.” All of this, from one piece of flesh and bone designed by your God. Do you feel fear and wonder at this creation of God and the power and wisdom that designed and built this magnificent machine, your body?
            You created my inmost being – he's talking about the soul, or course. You can’t see it or touch it, but it is there. Though tainted by sin, it was made in the Image of God, which sets you apart as the crown of his creation.
You know what God’s Word says – but the world denies the sanctity of human life. Despite its reaction to Covid-19, the world shows that it hates life. It describes human life with words like zygote, inner cell mass, and blastocyst. It uses these words to try to hide the plain fact that legalized murder is being committed every day. And during the pandemic, "abortion care" as they call it, is classified as essential health care.  And it hides more murder behind “nice” words like “elective termination” and “euthanasia.” Euthanasia – Greek for “good death.” Good death? Dying well is good, but apart from God’s promise of life in heaven, there is nothing good about death. We were created to live forever. Sin destroyed that and brought us death: an unnatural abomination. No, the world does not speak for the unborn, nor for the terminally ill, except to tell them that we have no use for you; you are a burden, please go away. The world kills children and the old, and calls it choice.
Speaking of the Last Days in Matthew, Jesus said, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.”
Beloved child of God, has your love grown cold? Do you speak for those who cannot? When the world reduces human lives to numbers, or growths, or “quality of life,” do you speak the truth in opposition to its lies? Our love for God and his creation and his Word about life compels us to speak – do you speak out for life?
The world cannot create –God created all things. And the Creator of the Universe also created you, dear Christian. Your life, from conception to death, your human life is God’s handiwork. This psalm is God’s answer to all those who would cut this life off, by whatever means. We are not created for death, but for life. You are wonderfully made. Created by God! Created by God to Live!
What does David say about his God-given life?

            My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. Even before a mother knows she is pregnant, God knows everything about that child.
            When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. Weaving, again – he carefully put you together, so that the "you" who sat down at the computer, or in the pew today is exactly what you need to be. God shaped you as he shaped Adam, from the dust of the earth. You came from the dust and will return to it. But all of this, all your life, from dust until dust, takes place under the watchful eyes of the Lord.
            All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Before time itself, your entire life was written down – he knows everything you will do, before you have done it.
The Lord said to Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Amazing! There are organizations and even churches that justify abortion by weighing the “potential for personhood” of the unborn against the wishes of those who are legally "persons." But God through David and Jeremiah tells you that you were a person at conception, and God knew you even before that. He knows you; he knows all your days; he has ordained them. Words of comfort, not fatalism! Our all-knowing, all-seeing eternal God governs and rules all your days, so that all things will work together for your good – for your eternal salvation.

Yes, believer, the day you began to live in Him—in God—was written before it happened. Take comfort in that! Your faithful God, despite your sin, despite the fact that you were dead in sin, made sure that you would live in him. He wrote down the day he would give you life, and the day he will take you to live with him in heaven.

            Your works are wonderful – all of God’s works: your creation, conception, birth, and growth as a human being. But still more wonderful: your new life, as a redeemed, blood-bought child of God. There is no greater expression of love: he who made you and loves you, gave you new life through his son, Jesus Christ. New life, free from the burden of your sins and the stain of the evil you have done and the good you have not done. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
That’s the life we hope for, the one we wait for and eagerly expect when we die. But what of the life we have here? Is it meaningless because eternal life is our destination? Absolutely not! Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it to the full.” He’s talking about life in heaven, AND a full, Christian life here on earth!

Well, what is a full, Christian, life? Plant an apple tree, and you can reasonably expect to harvest apples. A tree produces fruits in keeping with its nature. Likewise, fruits of faith: these are not things that we should do, but things that come from our very nature as Christians – we are simply being what God has made us to be!

David says of all the wondrous works of our Lord: I know that full well. That is a fruit of faith – the knowledge that I am a saved child of God, redeemed by the blood of Christ, and the hope that knowledge brings us shines forth in our lives. It shines so brightly in everything we do, that Peter rightly tells us “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” That knowledge and hope comes to us in one way: through the Word, which is always on our lips and in our hearts, as we share our love of God, and our love of life, with the world.

            I praise you, he says – another fruit of faith, praise for God who gave us life, and who gave us new life in Christ. Not just praise in worship services, but in our daily lives, for we love God and his whole creation – we respect and hold in awe the great gift of life God has given us, and we are not afraid to praise our God in the hearing of everybody.

Our lives as Christians are a celebration of life and of hope in eternal life. How true this is, even, or especially, at the end of life. Most of you have known a terminally ill Christian, who lived in illness for a time, then died in the Lord. Would you deny the “quality of life” of that Christian, living as he or she did, hoping in Christ, waiting on the resurrection? When retired MLC professor Daniel Deutschlander lay dying of Covid-19 last Fall, he told us, in a nutshell: "Thank you for your prayers; but my suffering will end soon; I am going to meet my Lord, and I am happy to go." Such a life of faith is a blessing for us, too; an example of unshakeable faith and hope in the Lord.
Dear brothers and sisters: You are wonderfully made. Created by God! Created by God to Live! All men, women, and children, including the unborn and the aged, are God’s precious, wondrous Creation, made to live, and made to live in Christ on earth, and when we reach that last day ordained for us, our frail bodies will be made new and perfect, and we will live, truly live, forever, with the Lord.
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. Amen.

The Holy Bible, Evangelical Heritage VersionTM (EHVTM) copyright © 2016 The Wartburg Project. All rights reserved.
Lectionary listings from Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal © 1993 Northwestern Publishing House. All rights reserved.