Life Sunday #1 – 2015 LSB #761
Text – Isaiah 40:1-2
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem & cry to her that her warfare is ended that her iniquity is pardoned that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
MATTERS OF THE HEART
Today we’re going to focus on those things often referred to as “life issues” – crisis pregnancy, abortion, post-abortion syndrome, assisted suicide & euthanasia. A list like that might cause some red flags to go up. Maybe it did for some of you.
Words like ‘controversial,’ ‘hot-button’ & ‘political’ may come to mind & that leads to a conclusion held by many, “We should not be talking about that in church.” A conclusion like that would be true if indeed the life issues were only controversial & only political.
And yet, if these issues are also matters that touch a person’s heart, with life & death decisions, thus challenging their faith in Jesus as Savior, would we not be compelled to speak of them in the church? Are the life issues matters of the heart?
The word “heart” for the Hebrew man or woman described a person’s inner being or soul. Various Hebrew idioms reflect this. Joy may be expressed as a “leaping heart;” grief as “evil of the heart” & a guilty conscience as being “struck by the heart.” The author’s favorite is the idiom used in today’s sermon text to offer comfort to someone.
“Speak tenderly to Jerusalem” is literally, “speak to the heart of Jerusalem.” And what a message those hearts would hear! God’s people experienced much “evil of the heart” & they were “struck by the heart” because of their many sins & their constant rebellion. Yet God, in His mercy & grace, wants to give them a “leaping heart” once again.
Listen to the joyful message He brings: “Her warfare is ended,” “her iniquity is pardoned,” “she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” (40:2b) In other words, if they deserved X amount of punishment because of their sin, they instead were given 2X the amount of grace! They would not get what they did deserve, & they would get twice as much of what they did not deserve! You can see why the devil despises God’s formula. He wants you & me to suffer hell along with him, not mercy & grace.
Twice as much grace – we could use that as well. We are so much like ancient Israel – rebellious sinners, chasing after other gods such as love of money, love of possessions, love of self, love of pleasure. We could all make our list, for we know in our heart our sins, & we know in our heart our love of sinning.
Our sins flow from a corrupt heart – “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, & they defile a person.” (Mark 7:20-23)
And something else flows from a bad heart – nothing. Failing to do what we know is right, failing to love & help others, is not often a spur of the moment decision, but a deliberate one. John put it this way, “But if anyone has the world’s goods & sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17)
Now, if the life issues are merely political issues, then we have no need to discuss them in church. But if they are matters of the heart that touch a person’s eternal soul, putting our brothers & sisters in need, then what? If we have what it takes to deal with matters of the heart – the Gospel of Jesus Christ – yet close our hearts to doing so, how can God’s love abide in us?
Are the life issues matters of the heart or political issues? You be the judge. She is 16, pregnant & frightened. She knows she made a big mistake but doesn’t want anyone to know. Abortion seems like a quick & easy solution. Yet deep down she struggles with such a decision.
She is confused & feels so alone. Is that a political issue, or is it a matter of the heart?
Every single day in this country similar confusion & fear leads to nearly 3,000 babies being brutally destroyed through abortion. These are babies created by God, babies for whom Jesus suffered & died, babies God wants to call into an eternal relationship with Him. Are all of those situations nothing more than a political issue, or are they a matter of the heart?
Another situation: After the abortion she felt relieved that the problem was gone & she could get on with her life. But it didn’t work that way. Thoughts of the abortion haunted her. On the day her child would have been born she was physically ill & could not go to work. The guilt gnawed away at her conscience. Sometimes a drink or two helped, but only for a while.
As a Christian, she knew of God’s forgiveness in Jesus in a general way, but she had never heard anyone talk about being forgiven for this specific sin. Perhaps it’s too big to be forgiven, she thought. Are her struggles only a political issue? PAUSE
At first he panicked when his girlfriend said she was pregnant. This would ruin everything. He would pay for the abortion. Later, he realized this was his child. The circumstances weren’t ideal but how could he pay to have his son or daughter’s life ended? He vowed to do what he could to help his girlfriend & protect his child.
Then she called & told him the ‘problem’ was over. She had an abortion. Now, he was crushed, filled with guilt, & wept uncontrollably. A political issue or a matter of the heart?
His beloved wife had a stroke. Recovery seemed so slow. She could eat, but needed assistance. The wheelchair helped with mobility, but with only one usable arm she found it difficult to do much on her own. Her speech was slurred & had not improved for a long time. This wasn’t the quality of life he knew she wanted.
Assisted suicide was legal in their state so he wondered if he should bring it up. Being
Christians, what could be so wrong with sending her home to be with Jesus? Is this a political issue, or a matter of the heart? You know, whatever your political leanings are, these are clearly matters of the heart, & God designed His Gospel message to reach them. God’s people deal with these circumstances. We have what it takes to speak to them & to help them.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is tailor made for issues of life & death, suffering & pain, grief, guilt & regret. The Gospel speaks to the heart of that pregnant teen. It speaks forgiveness & offers the presence & the strength of Jesus. The Gospel speaks to the heart of that post-abortive woman & man. It speaks of forgiveness that is big enough for any & for all sin.
The Gospel speaks to the heart of those in situations involving disease, pain & suffering. It speaks of a God who, as long as He gives life, also gives that life meaning & purpose. The Gospel speaks of a God who demonstrated His ability to bring good out of suffering through the crucifixion of His own Son.
How can we possibly label these “political” & withhold the only thing that can speak to such matters of the heart? Politics does not heal. The Gospel is designed to speak to hearts, to your heart, my heart, the heart of every man, woman & child. The Gospel calls us to repentance, because the Gospel has the power to cleanse our heart, & to forgive the sins that flow from it.
The Gospel speaks to our heart these wonderful words, our “warfare is ended.” Through Christ God is at peace with you. He loves you & nothing can take away that love. We can trust Him & turn to Him, rather than to death, as the solution to our problems.
The Gospel speaks to our heart, our “iniquity is pardoned.” Please note that is past tense. The forgiveness of our sins is an objective fact of history! It does not depend upon whether you “feel” forgiven. It does not depend upon whether you can forgive yourself. It depends upon trusting in the atoning work of Jesus that is already accomplished. The Gospel speaks to your heart. Instead of the punishment we so richly deserve, we receive from the Lord’s hand twice as much grace that we never deserve! We receive it in overflowing waters of baptism. We receive it through His abundant & Holy Word. We receive it in His lavish & holy Supper. We live surrounded by this “double grace” & nothing can touch our lives without passing through it.
The Gospel speaks to your heart & calls you to action: “Comfort, comfort my people says your God.” “Speak to My people & the matters of their heart.”
How do you do that? First, be informed about how God’s Word speaks to the life issues. Lutherans For Life can help with resources that are always Bible-based & Gospel-centered. Be informed & then speak to people’s hearts. Speak through your prayers for those you know who are dealing with matters of the heart.
Pray for our country that we might be restored once again to a respect for the inherent dignity of all life, black or white, young or old, healthy or ill. Speak to fellow Christians & show how these issues are indeed matters of the heart. Speak with your actions. Walk beside those who have made mistakes, in order to strengthen & encourage them.
Forgive them, love them & help them in real, practical ways. Support local pregnancy centers. There’s one about a mile from our church. Speak through your compassion for those dealing with end-of-life concerns. Visit our shut-ins & those in nursing homes. Help them see that the body of Christ does care. Support the families of these people.
Lutherans For Life has a booklet entitled How You Can Speak (SHOW SLIDE) which gives over 200 practical ways you can speak to these matters of the heart by sharing the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus, in word & in deed.
Many congregations, when they recognize the importance of applying the Gospel to these matters of the heart, form Life Teams to assist in this on a regular & ongoing basis. Perhaps that is something this congregation needs to consider. If anyone is interested, let me or Rich Greiner or Dorothy Zink know of your interest & concern. Lutherans For Life can also help establish & train such teams.
I pray we have all grown in our understanding that the life issues are more than political issues. They are matters of the heart that touch real people’s lives very deeply. But the good news is, well, the Good News! The Gospel of Jesus Christ is tailor made for matters of the heart. May it speak to your heart today with its message of forgiveness, comfort & hope. Amen
Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee; let the water & the blood, from Thy riven side which flowed, be of sin the double cure; cleanse me from its guilt & power. Not the labors of my hands can fulfill Thy Law’s demands; could my zeal no respite know, could my tears forever flow, all for sin could not atone; Thou must save, & Thou alone. Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee. Amen.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet