Pastor Sherry’s Message for January 17, 2021
Scriptures: 1 Samuel 3:1-20; Psalms 139:1-6, 13-18; 1 Corinthians 6:12-20l John 1:43-51
I was fairly outraged yesterday when I received this bumper sticker in my mail. It reads, “We Won’t Back Down,” and it’s from Planned Parenthood. They were soliciting funds and suggested I contribute anywhere from $20-$100 for their cause. (They must have gotten my name from a list of Florida psychologists; they clearly didn’t realize I am also a pastor.) I wondered why they are asking for money when Planned Parenthood is already heavily supported by our federal tax dollars. In fact you may know that some of their local offices qualified for government Covid-19 relief money, claiming they were a “small business.” They insist they exist to provide quality health care for those unable to afford it. Using current-day buzz words, they couch their appeal as…a way to address “racial inequity and justice”; and a means of providing nondiscriminatory, “sexual and reproductive healthcare.” They strongly suggest that they are the primary advocates of those who suffer “systemic discrimination in the health care system.” Now, to be clear, I have known of women who have gotten low cost mammograms from them. But what is also true is that they exist primarily to provide abortions.
What they neglected to mention in the accompanying solicitation letter is that while white women have 37% of abortions annually, black women have 36%. Since Black women make up only 13% of the American population (vs. non-Hispanic whites at 60%), this puts their number of abortions disproportionally much higher than whites. At the current rate, there will be more black babies aborted than will be born by 2050. In fact, in 2020, more black babies were aborted in New York City than were born. Rather than being supportive of racial equity, or racial equality, Planned Parenthood seems to be contributing to eugenics, the eradication of the race.
This is Right to Life Sunday, or Sanctity of Life Sunday. We Christians tend to be pro-life because our God is the author and giver of life. We believe that God created humankind, and called us “very good,” the pinnacle of His creation. He formed humans from the dust and He breathed into us the breath of life. We are pro-life because our God is pro-life. Now let’s be clear, we are not against those who have had abortions. No, not at all. However, we believe aborting a child is a sin. So anyone who has had one (or more) need only tell God she is sorry and ask for His forgiveness. This should put an end to any lingering guilt, and reconcile the woman once again to God. We are repelled by the sin but love the sinner.
Let’s examine our Scriptures for today to see what they tell us about God’s attitudes toward human life.
Psalm 139: 1-6, 13-18 affirms that God knows us, each one of us-from “stem to stern,” top to bottom, inside and out….He knows what we think—who else can perceive our thoughts?—regardless of whether or not we express our thoughts verbally. He knows what we do. We cannot hide any of our cognitions or our behaviors from Him. When we face Christ at the Throne of Judgment, there will be no jury of our peers and no defense Attorney using any means possible to plead our case. Neither spin-doctoring, nor omitting some facts, nor outright lying will do us any good. Our God is omniscient. He knows.
He created us and He knows us intimately—whether we acknowledge that fact or not. He called us into existence. We are here because God wanted us to be, whether our folks delighted in us or not! My stepdad was constantly critical and disapproving of me. My mother told me she didn’t like women which explained a lot about our troubled relationship. So, when I first read and understood Psalm 139, I rejoiced because I realized it almost didn’t matter what my earthly parents thought about me. God Himself called me into existence. He wanted me. He wanted you. I find this very reassuring and hope you do too.
Given that God knows us so well, it’s also true that He knows in advance how best to use our gifts and talents to advance His Kingdom here on earth:
(1) Consider 1 Samuel 3:1-20 His mother, Hannah had begged God for a son. She promised the Lord she would dedicate her son to God’s service if the Lord granted her request. God did, and so she brought Samuel to Eli, the priest at the Tent of Meeting in Shiloh when he was weaned at 3 years old.
In our passage today, Samuel (who was probably 12-13 YO by now), is sleeping in the Holy Place to ensure that the eternal flame did not go out. He hears a man’s voice calling him and thinks it’s his mentor, the priest Eli. By the 3rd time Samuel gets up to see what Eli wants, the old priest realizes it is God who is calling Samuel. He tells him (vv.9-10) …”Go and lie down, and if He calls you say, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.” Samuel is ready to do whatever God asks of him. The Lord gives Samuel a word of judgment against Eli, his mentor (& probably his friend). He is to tell Eli that because he didn’t discipline his two sons, Phinehas and Hophni, his role as chief priest will be taken from him.
Phinehas and Hophni had been taking the best portion of the meat sacrifices—meant for God Himself–for themselves, and they had been seducing women coming to worship. As per God’s judgment, the two die together, on the same day. Additionally, Eli has been training Samuel for about 10 years but has not helped Samuel to develop a close relationship with the Lord. Eli failed God in several significant ways. Probably realizing this, Eli accepts God’s judgment. God then appoints Samuel to take Eli’s place as priest and prophet of Israel.
Our God knows who is faithful to Him and who isn’t. He rewards those like Samuel who are. Those who aren’t are either punished or killed off (either in this life or the next). This is a difficult lesson, but a true one.
(2) In our Gospel lesson (John 1:43-51), Jesus calls His 1st Disciples:
(a.) Andrew, a disciple of John the Baptist’s, follows Him and
(b.) Brings his brother, (Simon) Peter, telling him Jesus is the longed-for Messiah.
(c.) Jesus calls Philip, who declares that Jesus fulfills the Old Testament prophesies.
(d) Then Jesus spots Nathanael. Nathanael is skeptical at first but correctly discerns—under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit—that Jesus is the Son of God and the true King of Israel.
Jesus says Nathanael is a “true Israelite,” remarking that Nat has “no guile,” unlike Jacob (the patriarch whose name meant “deceiver”). Jesus thus reveals His prophetic abilities and forecasts that Nathanael will see many miracles as he lives and works with Jesus.
Jesus references Jacob’s Ladder, the stairway to Heaven, which had appeared to Jacob in a dream as he was fleeing the Holy Land ahead of his murderous twin, Esau. The dream reassured Jacob that God would be with him as he saw the ladder to heaven and angels rising and descending upon it. Jesus brings up this ladder because He wants Nathanael (and us) to know that He is the ladder. Jesus is the ladder or the bridge between God the Father in Heaven and humankind on earth. Later, in John 14:6, He will make this plain when He says, … I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
Jesus, as God, knows our natures, our thoughts from afar, our abilities and our behaviors. He knows us. He loves us.
(3) Finally, in our New Testament lesson (1 Corinthians 6:12-20), Paul warns us to be careful stewards of our bodies. The context for this teaching is the Greek philosophy of the day rampant in Corinth, a Greek city. Unlike the Hebrews–who believed that mind, body, and spirit are all connected and all good–the Greeks believed that only spirit was good, and that our bodies are evil. This left the Corinthians with two choices: Punish or deny the evil, sinful body (a tenet of the Stoics);or indulge in any and all sinful desires because what we do with our sinful, corrupt bodies doesn’t matter/isn’t important (a tenet of the opposite philosophy, the Epicureans).
But Paul says both attitudes are wrong! He asserts that our bodies, as God’s creations, have dignity (God pronounced them at Creation to be “very good!”). Paul maintains, additionally, that we are to honor God with our bodies. YIKES! This is an astonishing way to think about gluttony and sexual sin, isn’t it? We may be thinking they are just ways to indulge our sinful desires—who do they hurt but ourselves? But Paul teaches us that–since our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (dwelling places of God)–they are to be kept pure. Gluttony becomes a means by which we dishonor and hurt God. Similarly, sexual sin (fornication, adultery, pornography, etc.) becomes a means by which we dishonor and offend God.
This week, I read an autobiographical account by a biracial man named Ryan Bomberger. He had been given up for adoption shortly after his birth. Later on, at 13 years old, he learned that he was the product of his biological mother’s rape. At first, he reports he was devastated to think he came about due to violence. Then, he says, “…because I was so loved by my [adoptive] parents, I turned that pain into something very constructive.” His shock was transformed into gratitude. Gratitude that his biological mom didn’t abort him; gratitude that God placed him in a loving, Christian family in which he was the 1st of 10 adopted kids; gratitude that God called him into existence and that, despite being the product of a rape, his life had meaning and purpose. (Again, Psalm 139àGod calls each of us into existence, regardless of the motives of our earthly parents.)
Ryan and his wife, Bethany, have cofounded the pro-life, nonprofit organization known as “the Radiance Foundation.” He says he belongs to the 1% that is used to justify abortion 100% of the time. He is now a brother, a husband, an author, a singer and song-writer, a pro-life speaker, and an Emmy award winning designer. If his birth-mother had aborted him, we would have lost his influence and his gifts. Remember, Tim Tebow’s mom, a missionary, was told she should abort him in order to save her own life. She would not do it. Praise God because Tim, also, has had such a wonderful impact on people. Each life is God-given. Just as we see portrayed in the Christmas movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” when the angel shows the Jimmy Stewart character how each person he values would have been impacted had he not been in their lives, each life has a ripple impact on the social environment. Who are we to question the purposes of God?
This Right to Life Sunday, let us remember in prayer potential mothers and fathers everywhere. Let’s pray that they would honor God with their bodies. Let’s pray that they would be responsible about birth control, prior to pregnancy. Let’s pray that they would honor the lives of their unborn babies once they learn they have conceived. Let’s pray that they would trust in God to see them and their unborn child safely through. And may they all come to believe that our God is the God of life!
©2021 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams