Life Sunday – 2021 LSB #’s 847 (tune 924), 842, 849
Text – 1 Corinthians 12:22
On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.
FROM INVISIBLE TO INDISPENSABLE
There are a thousand different reasons that something can be invisible. It may be hidden from sight by some barrier or across a vast distance. Sometimes things are just too tiny. An atom or molecule, even most living cells, cannot be seen with the naked eye. Sometimes things are invisible because they are camouflaged. They blend into the background.
Other things are hiding in plain sight. We look at it & see it, but not really, because our eyes are expecting it to look different than it does. Then, there is the mental block that has nothing to do with its size, location, or unexpected form. There are just some things we do not want to see.
The proverb goes: “There are none so blind as those who will not see.” All the other kinds of invisibility can be cured. This one cannot – not without a change of heart.
On Sanctity of Life Sunday, all these forms of invisibility are in view. At the very beginning of life, size is the issue. Your first moment was as a single cell – a zygote one tenth of a millimeter across. Barriers were also an issue. Layers deep in the body of your mother you were hidden.
Thirdly, there was your unfamiliar form. Even if we could peer through skin & into the womb, even if we could magnify your size, your shape was not at all like it is today. You would not look at all like our typical image of a human being.
As you grew in size, your form changed. From a round sphere, you came to resemble a mulberry. By the 5th day, you had a few hundred cells that looked like a balloon filled with water. It took five weeks of growing before the first hint of an eye or any protrusions that could be identified as arms or legs were visible. It took two more weeks before you had fingers & toes. By worldly standards, you were not recognizably human until this 7th week of life. But from your own point of view, through all these different appearances, you were still you. You could always say to God, along with Psalm 139:
“You knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (139:13). Invisible, yes – to the world, but not to God. And not invisible to your brothers & sisters who know Him – & you – by faith. In the Bible, to be seen is to be saved.
The Psalmist says, “My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth” (Psalm 139:15). When Isaiah prays for God’s mercy, he says, “Look down from heaven & see” (Isaiah 65:15). God told Moses, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people…” (Exodus 3:7). And so, He worked His salvation.
This is not only true of God; it is also true of our neighbors. When people do not see us, we are in grave danger. And when we do not see other people, we can accidentally hurt them or blindly withhold our love & care from them. That’s why, throughout our lives, we do things to make ourselves visible to one another.
We put orange flags on tricycles & bikes to make kids safer. Safety cones & strobe lights multiply all around. You & I do things to be noticed. Hair, clothing, achievements – even mis-achievements – are all motivated by a desire to be seen by our peers, by our parents, & by people that we value.
It should go without saying – but we must remind ourselves – that it is not only the small & young who can suffer from invisibility. The elderly, the poor, those who don’t speak our language, those struggling with sin right before our eyes can all be out of sight & out of mind. We see them, but we don’t see them – sometimes because they are good at hiding; sometimes because we do not want to see. That’s why King David began Psalm 41 with the words, “Blessed is the one who considers the poor!” (41:1).
To be a For Life people is to be a congregation that notices the smallest, the oldest, the weakest, & the neediest. We are called to notice physical needs as well as spiritual needs – the need to be protected from spiritual harm & physical harm. We should consider our neighbor’s need to be healed in body, mind & spirit – to be forgiven & restored.
The flip side of our obligation to “consider the poor” is that when we are blind to any person’s existence or need, we are sinning against that person & against Jesus who created them.
Whether she is a snowflake baby only two tenths of a millimeter across, frozen in liquid nitrogen, or a grown woman suffering the pain of a sin she cannot even admit to herself, God’s people see, & God’s people care.
Whether she is bereft of family & alone in a nursing home, or a young mother surrounded by children & struggling with depression, God’s people see, & God’s people care. And that means consciously taking off the blinders. Examine your own heart to find those sins that are preventing you from seeing your neighbor.
Are you self-absorbed & unwilling to be bothered? Our nation is filled with philosophies that deny the value of human life at its weakest stages – both old & young. It is easy to use empty rhetoric as a cover for disengagement from the struggle. We can shrug our shoulders & pretend that the question is just too complicated to come to a conclusion.
Does desire for the praise of men keep you from defending the lives of others? It’s a powerful temptation. We are well-acquainted with the social shaming that happens when we stand up for life & marriage. Many a Christian is drawn away from the faith through stifling his public confession of the truth of God. He thinks he can hold it secretly without getting into public controversy. Yet, bit by bit the truth is driven out until he no longer believes it, even in his heart. Unbelief seldom appears overnight, but grows slowly in the shadows & the darkness of fear. Maybe it is unconfessed sin in your own life that holds you back from speaking up to warn your neighbor against the same sin.
Maybe, your own dark episode that is too painful to confront keeps you from being a voice for those without a voice. God does not want you to live with that pain. Jesus earnestly desires for you to give it wholly to Him so that your guilt & shame are completely washed away, & you are healed. That’s why God’s Spirit empowers & enables us to repent.
Repentance is not a work of self-harm, but an opportunity for deep cleansing & transformative healing. Repentance seeks the blood of Christ to heal us from all sins. Jesus’ blood not only takes away guilt, it also takes away the shame of sin. Jesus heals everything about us, including blinded eyes that keep us from seeing our neighbor.
That’s why seeing your own sin is the first step in having your eyes opened to see your neighbor. When we frankly repent of ourselves, we recognize what St. John the apostle wrote about all of us: “Beloved, we are God’s children now, & what we will be has not yet appeared” (1 John 3:2). It’s true! We are not, yet, what we will be.
We are small, immature, twisted & broken. But we are also children of God! What an incredibly beautiful passage! We are God’s children even now! Even while we are so far from full maturity. God does not wait until you have reached full maturity as a Christian before He acknowledges you as His own child.
There is no threshold of Christian size or maturity before you have the full rights of the sons of God. There is no vague & fuzzy line between a “baby Christian” & a “real Christian.” Through Baptism God’s Spirit gave you life from heaven (John 3:3). That makes you a full member of the family of God immediately & without qualification, no matter what your struggles are. There is a direct analogy to members of the human family. Becoming human is not a matter of size, strength, place, or usefulness. People don’t grow from baby human beings into real ones. Nor do they gradually weaken into non-human “vegetables.”
People are created whole & entire by being born from above, & they remain people, created in the image of God, for eternity. When we look at zygotes or a blastocysts, we have a difficult time seeing the humanity of our neighbor. They are so extremely immature in comparison to our own body that their value is known only by faith in God.
But when we consider our elder brother, Jesus, so perfect & mature in comparison to us, our value can look awfully small as well. As wildly different as a zygote is from an adult, even more wildly different are we from Jesus. Yet, He sees you & cares for you as a full-fledged child of God. He does not devalue your worth because you haven’t appeared in full maturity.
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; & so we are” (1 John 3:1). So we are! Let that sink in. Though you are spiritually tiny & invisible by comparison to your older brother, Jesus sees you & recognizes you as His own. He gives you His full attention. He values you so highly that He gave His life for yours.
The Savior of the world knows that His Father knitted each of us together for a specific purpose out of “fatherly, divine goodness & mercy” (SC II.1). He gladly gives you His mercy & grace. He does not see you, nor anyone, as a life to be tossed aside. He nurtures you, protects you, heals you & attends to your every need. He sees you as utterly indispensable.
You are indispensable to the Father, therefore you are indispensable to His only begotten Son. If you had been the one sinner in the entire world, still Jesus would have seen you. Still Jesus would die for you. When you could do absolutely nothing to protect yourself from the evil assaults of the devil, Jesus offered Himself in your stead & died in your place. That is the foundation of your life in God, & it changes everything about how you see the world. Now that Jesus Christ is your true brother & you are a true Child of God, through the eyes of faith you are given to see the world as Jesus sees the world.
Every person who is alive, from the oldest to the youngest, is living for one reason & one reason only. God Himself wills that life. The Great I Am decided to bring that person into existence. Yahweh alone decides to give one more heartbeat, one more breath, one more day, one more opportunity for true joy. And whatever God wills is the best & greatest gift.
However, life is not only a gift to the one who lives. That person’s life is also God’s gift to you & God’s gift to the entire world. Just as you have gone from invisible to indispensable, God the Holy Spirit has given you new eyes to see your every neighbor. And when you see them as God sees them, they are no longer invisible but indispensable.
Satan is always trying to blind us to the manifold gifts of God. But the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see. On Easter Sunday, “As they sat down to eat, [Jesus] took the bread & blessed it. Then He broke it & gave it to them. Suddenly, their eyes were opened & they recognized Him.” (Luke 24:30-31a NLT)
So, also, are your eyes opened in the breaking of the bread. To partake of the Holy Body of Christ is to be given Jesus’ eyes. When God opens our eyes to see the world as it truly is, we no longer see our brothers & sisters as burdens & responsibilities. We see them as gifts – precious & indispensable.
Every time you see your neighbor in this way, you are reminded that God so sees you. You have moved from invisible to indispensable. From worthless to invaluable. From unseen to seen. God sees you. He sees you in your immaturity. He sees you in sickness & sin. He sees you in your guilt & shame & He does not avert His eyes from you but turns His heart toward you. He spends everything He is & everything that He has to protect you, to heal you, to forgive you. God the Father, Son & Holy Spirit gave you life & existence in the 1st place. He wants you to live. He made you to live. He is the one keeping you alive even today.
He sent His only begotten Son into the flesh to suffer, to die, & to rise again for your redemption, forgiveness & healing. He does so because He wants you to live with Him. The prophet Ezekiel wrote, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way & live” (33:11). Jesus died that you might live!
In Baptism Christ Jesus gave you His Holy Spirit & placed you into the Church because He wants you to live forever with His entire family. Life is holy because God is holy. So every life He gives, both now & in eternity, is a gift of the Holy God, the Lord & giver of Life. Amen.
Son of God, eternal Savior, source of life & truth & grace, word made flesh, whose birth among us hallows all our human race, You our Head, who, throned in glory, for Your own will ever plead: Fill us with Your love & pity, heal our wrongs, & help our need. As You, Lord, have lived for others, so may we for others live. Freely have Your gifts been granted; freely may Your servants give. Yours the gold & Yours the silver, Yours the wealth of land & sea; we but stewards of Your bounty held in solemn trust will be. Amen. LSB 842:1-2.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet