Jan. 18, 2015 – Sanctity of Human Life Sunday Text: Isaiah 40:1-2
Dear Friends in Christ,
Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. Our focus is on life issues, like crisis pregnancies, abortion, post-abortion syndrome, assisted suicide and euthanasia. For some these topics are “hot-button”, or “controversial”, or “political.” For the Christian they are more than that. These are issues that touch people’s hearts with life and death decisions and challenges their faith. Should we be talking about them in church? Yes, of course, because they are . . .
“MATTERS OF THE HEART”
The word “heart” for the Hebrew described someone’s inner being or soul. Hebrew idioms expressed this. Joy may be expressed as a “leaping heart.” Grief as “evil of the heart” and guilt as being “struck by the heart.” In our text we have “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.” It is literally translated “speak to the heart of Jerusalem.”
God’s people experienced much “evil of the heart” and they were “struck by the heart” because of their sin and constant rebellion. But God in His mercy and grace wants to give them a “leaping heart” once again. What a joyful message He gives, “Her warfare is ended,” “her iniquity is pardoned, “she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” (v. 2b) If they deserved X amount of punishment for their sin, they instead were given 2X the amount of grace from God. They didn’t get what they deserved but received twice as much of what they did not deserve.
Twice as much grace – we could use that as well. We like ancient Israel are rebellious sinners. We chase after other gods – love of money, love of power, love of self, love of pleasure. You have your own list in your heart. Our sins flow from a corrupt heart. And something else flows from our heart – nothing. Yes, nothing, failing to do what is right, failing to love and help others.
If life issues are just political, we don’t need to discuss them in church. But if they are matters of the heart that touch people’s souls and put our brothers and sisters in need and we have what it takes to deal with matters of the heart – the Gospel of Jesus Christ – but close our hearts to doing so, how can God’s love abide in us?
Are life issues matters of the heart or political issues? You be the judge. She is sixteen, pregnant, and frightened. She knows she made a big mistake and doesn’t want anyone to know. Abortion seems a quick and easy solution. But deep down she struggles with the decision. She is confused and feels so alone. Is this a political issue or a matter of the heart?
Every day in the US of A confusion and fear leads to nearly 3,000 babies being brutally destroyed through abortion. Babies created by God, babies for whom Jesus died, and babies God wants to call into an eternal relationship with Him. Is this a political issue or a matter of the heart?
At first he panicked when his girlfriend said she was pregnant. This would ruin everything. He would pay for the abortion. But then he realized this was his child. The circumstances were not ideal but how could he pay to have his child killed? He vowed to help his girlfriend and protect the child. She called and said the problem was over – she had the abortion. He was crushed, filled with guilt and wept tears of pain. A political issue or a matter of the heart?
His beloved wife had a stroke. Recovery was slow. She could eat, but needed assistance. She had some mobility in the wheelchair but only one arm worked. Speech was slurred and no improvement had been made in a long time. This was not the quality of life she wanted. Assisted suicide was legal in their state. Should he bring it up to his wife? They were Christians and what was wrong with sending her home to Jesus? Is this a political issue or a matter of the heart?
Brothers and sisters, you and I know these are matters of the heart. We have lived them or are living them. The gospel of Jesus Christ is made for such issues of life and death, pain and suffering, grief and regret and guilt. The Gospel speaks to the heart of the pregnant teen. It speaks of forgiveness and offers the presence and strength of Jesus. The Gospel speaks to the heart of that post-abortive man. A forgiveness big enough for all sins. The Gospel speaks to the hearts of those in situations involving disease, pain, suffering. It speaks of a God who, as long as He gives life, gives life meaning and purpose. It speaks of a God who demonstrated His ability to bring good out of suffering through the cross of His own Son.
How can anyone think they are just political? The Gospel is designed to speak to your heart and my heart and all hearts. It calls us to repentance and the cleansing of our hearts. Look at the wonderful words of our text, our “warfare is ended” and our “iniquity is pardoned.” Through Christ we have peace with God. We can trust Him and turn to Him, not death, as the solution to our problems.
We receive from the Lord’s hand twice as much grace that we do not deserve. We receive it in the overflowing waters of Baptism. We receive it through his Holy Word, and we receive it in his lavish meal. We live surrounded by this “double grace” and nothing can separate us from this.
The Gospel speaks to our hearts and calls us to action. “Comfort, comfort my people says your God. Speak tenderly…” (vs. 1-2a) How do you do that? First, become informed about how God’s Word speaks to the life issues. Speak through your prayers for those dealing with matters of the heart. Pray for our country that respect for life is restored. Speak with your actions. Walk beside those who have made mistakes. Support local pregnancy centers, like my family and I do. Speak compassion. Visit the home bound and those in care centers. Help them see the body of Christ cares. Support the families of these people. Learn other ways to help through lutheransforlife.org.
My prayer is that you understand that life issues are more than political issues. They are matters of the heart that touch people deeply. The Good News is that the Gospel of Christ Jesus is tailor made for matters of the heart. May it speak to all of our hearts today with its message of forgiveness, comfort, and hope.