The Second Sunday after Epiphany (A)
“Before We Were Born”
January 15, 2017
Peace be unto you from the One who is God incarnate, our Savior, Christ Jesus. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The Prophet Isaiah declares, “The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name. He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away.” (Isaiah 49:1-2)
Isaiah paints the picture of a divine quiver or case strapped to the Lord God Almighty and filled with arrows of His making, people of His making, each one there for a purpose, yet unknown, until the Lord God sends it out… sends him or her out.
God hid His servant Isaiah away until the right time when He would call him to service. The right time when He would draw Isaiah from His quiver, take aim and hit the people of Israel right in the heart with what they needed to take to heart, all for their physical, but more importantly, their spiritual good… their eternal good.
God had a plan for all of Israel, for Isaiah… as He does for us… each of us. The question is are we following His plan or have we ventured off… set off… on our own… pursuing the desires of the self?
Have you ever wondered, “Am I doing what my Lord would have me do in this my life right now… in the here and now?” When was the last time you asked of the Lord, “What would you have me do? How would you have me serve you and serve others?”
It is so easy to have one’s focus turn inordinately on one’s self, one’s personal desires and needs where we forget about pleasing God and helping others, especially those who are not in a position to help themselves, care and defend themselves… look out for themselves.
As the Lord, for a little while, hid Isaiah away… so He did, for a little while, hide you away in your mother’s womb. Before you were born, while still in the womb, and further back than that at the moment of your conception and even before… in fact, even before there was the first day on earth… God knew you.
And this, not in just some general sense, but in a “right down to your DNA” and in an even more detailed and perfect way. You are known and always have been.
Friends in Christ, the Lord your God knew you long before you were born and had a plan for you that began the very day you were born (granted, you probably didn’t do all that much the first day… but eating, sleeping, crying and pooping is a start).
The first time held, cuddled, rocked and kissed. Whom God had hid away, now becomes known and is known… is given a name… and… is loved… if not by parents or even anyone else on earth, than most certainly by the Lord who has a plan for us… for all.
None of us can say that we are here… that we were born… for no particular reason… for no good and salutary reason… no divine reason. It simply is not true. Did I mention that God has a plan for you?
Today, we recognize with fellow citizens here in this country and around the world the sanctity of life. In so doing and especially as Christians, with every passing year, we become more and more in the minority and more and more opposed by the majority out there who has the audacity to actually consider us the unkind, unloving, and mean-spirited ones.
No… instead of us hailing and applauding a person’s freedom to do what they want to do and especially with their own bodies… we mourn the loss of countless unborn babies, and people of all ages including the aged and infirm… or those with disabilities… every man, woman, teenager, child or infant whose life was cut short, ended by sinful individuals who may have even been their biological mother or father… or a supposedly close family member.
We are talking about lives ended sometimes by one’s own hand in the case of deliberate and desired suicide… to which society now says “We will even assist you in that!” Because it is, after all, the “merciful thing to do,” or the convenient thing to do… the expedient thing to do… the financial thing, smart thing, the right thing. And what is very sad and disconcerting is that more and more people are shaking their heads not in disgust, but in agreement and whole-hearted support.
Many people who once took a strong stance against such things, have now weakened, softened and acquiesced regarding the same. How is it with you? And this in light of the fact that God’s Word and will have not changed nor will they ever.
Unlike in previous sermons where I have shared with you, for example, the number of abortions performed last year or the number of lives snuffed out since Roe vs Wade was decided and it became open season on little babies… there will be no numbers or statistics given this time and probably not in the future.
Why? Because the numbers are simply too large to really mean anything… to really wrap one’s mind (and more importantly, one’s heart) around. And because… you know what? We are not talking about numbers or statistics here. Not at all.
We are talking about human lives, precious lives to whom God breathed the breath of life and man saw fit to end the same… another perfect example of him or her playing god. Oh yes, what we are talking about is just as much a First Commandment issue as it is a Fifth Commandment one.
Getting back to the analogy that Isaiah puts forth, how many arrows has man seen fit to take from God’s quiver… arrows… people… who should have been, but never were… at least not for long.
Well, why didn’t God hide them as well? Why didn’t He protect them? Why did God, does God allow such killing to go on? My friends, we cannot look into the eternal counsel of God or know the mysteries of God, the ways of God, He who has said,
“My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways… For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9, NKJ)
We do though, know a lot… all that God has graciously revealed to us in Holy Scripture. We know that the reason the Lord allows this world to continue is to mercifully give more time for people to come to faith, return to the faith… for them to repent of their sins and be spared from eternal torment in hell… that the full number to be in heaven is reached, that which is known only by God.
We do know that vengeance is His… is God’s… that the innocent blood of Abel and all who have been killed down through the centuries cries out to the Lord and He will repay a thousand times over all who do evil, that which is wicked, unkind, uncaring and unloving.
Which… when we look within and examine our own lives, our own hearts and minds… when we consider what we have said, thought, done and left undone… includes all of us. We too, are sinful and unclean.
Just on the topic of life, we may not have taken another person’s life, but we may nevertheless be guilty of murder. God’s Word says, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” (1 John 3:15 NKJ)
Thoughts and feelings are just as damning as actions in the sight of the Lord… as is inaction… of failing to do what we could have done, but didn’t do. When we just stand by, turning a blind eye, looking the other way, even though we have the wherewithal to help or, at least, say something.
How true it is where in Scripture we read, that “there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:22-24)
How wonderful! We are “justified” … that is, “made right” with the Lord our God by His own doing… by His grace… His free gift to us in Jesus.
Redemption… our redemption… in Jesus… “the very Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) as we heard in our Gospel lesson and which we cannot be reminded of enough.
All of our sins, laid on Jesus… the sacrificial Lamb offered up on the cross at Calvary. All of our sins paid in full on the cross at Calvary… that we, whoever we are, whatever we have done… including taking a life or allowing a life to be taken… are forgiven. That sin, any sin, all of our sins are gone. They are no more!
I don’t know about you, but I cannot hear that enough or be told it too many times. Why? Because Satan is always accusing me and God’s Law always rightly convicting me. I find myself again and again longing for the sweet message of the Gospel. I long to take into my mouth Christ’s Body and Blood given and shed for me for the forgiveness of my sins. I long to have someone point out to me again and again the precious Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world… the very Lamb, Jesus, who receives me unto Himself and will never let me go.
Such is your longing as well, dear friends. And together we find peace and satisfaction, comfort and solace right here in the sanctuary of the Lord. Here, where our life, all life, is precious and sacred. All we need do is look to the cross and be reminded of that… and we are at peace. Amen!
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.
“Before We Were Born”
1/15/17 The Rev. Mark H. Hein
St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL