2nd Sunday after Epiphany- Life Sunday
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, do you remember who Paul Harvey was? I’m guessing the older people for the most part can still here his distinct voice in their heads. The younger people here probably don’t even recognize the name. And then there’s probably some people here who are like me. I know who he is and I’ve heard him occasionally but mainly only remember what he was famous for. Well, Paul Harvey was an American radio broadcaster who would give bits of news and comments at certain times during the work day. He had this kind of monologue voice with opportune pauses and perhaps one of the things he is most famous for is his special line: “Hello Americans, I am Paul Harvey, you know what the news is, in a minute you’re going to hear…the rest of the story.” In his “rest of the story” there would inevitably be some sort of twist to the news story that kind of changed the whole perspective.
Well, in many things in life it’s good for us to know the “rest of the story,” isn’t it? Being misinformed about something is never a whole lot of fun, you make mistakes, you do things you later regret, you feel tricked and deceived, left in the dark, if you don’t know the whole story.
Well, the devil has mastered the art of NOT telling the rest of the story. Really the name “devil” is a very fitting name for him. Why? Because the name devil literally means “liar” or “he tells lies.” The devil loves to throw sin or sinful behavior before our eyes and try to make it look pleasing and delightful and “fun,” but he won’t tell you the rest of the story. Today we’re focusing on God’s gracious gift of life. It’s God’s intention from the very beginning, even before the fall, to bring human beings into this world in the context of a family- that through a husband and a wife- children are brought into this world and have a dad and a mom. That’s God’s good design. But what does the devil say? He’ll flash sleeping together outside of marriage- whether premarital or extra-marital- before our eyes and say, “Look at how much fun it is, exciting, thrilling! Imagine the fun! The thrill! Nobody will know about it! Everybody’s doing it! In fact, if you don’t, you won’t know what life’s all about, you won’t experience a full life!”
But the devil is the thief. He comes only to steal, to kill, and to destroy sheep. And so he conveniently leaves out the rest of the story. No one tells you about the thousands of nasty diseases that come along with sharing your body with just whomever. No one tells you about the pangs of guilt that you just can’t seem to suppress, that accusing finger telling you that you’ve done something wrong and God is angry with you. No one tells you about the heartache. No one tells you about the hole carved out of you that you just can’t seem to fill again.
So, imagine being that woman in that situation. Now you’re pregnant. The child’s father abandons you. Why? He cares nothing for you, he was just in it for a good time, he amounts to as much as the hired hand who cares nothing for the sheep and runs away. You’re frightened, you’re desperate, you know what people are going to say, you need a solution to your problem and fast. And even though you feel it might be wrong you turn to abortion because you just feel, “I’ve got no other choice.” The abortion counselors tell you, “It’s just a fetus, it’s just tissue, you’ll get over it” but you know in your heart of hearts there’s a life inside of you. Why do people say those things? Because they’ve swallowed the devil’s lies. They amount to nothing more than sheep thieves who come to steal, to kill, and to destroy.
Then you find out the rest of the story that the devil has cleverly kept hidden from you. Maybe you feel somewhat relieved for a short period of time; after all, your “problem” has been “solved.” But then come the haunting thoughts, the sleepless nights, the worry, the anxiety, you can’t undo what’s been done, and then the sobering truth settles in: you killed your child. Then it hits those who told you to get an abortion- your parents or grandparents- will be walking in the mall and be flooded with guilt and tears as they see that cute little outfit in the store and think about what might have been. Those thoughts just don’t go away, they stick with a person, they eat them up inside, they carry that baggage with them wherever they go. Is that a full life? Is that really living? “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”
But what about us? Does the devil hide the rest of the story from us? Do we see people who’ve had an abortion or people who advocate for abortion as the enemy? “How could you do that? What kind of a horrible person are you that you would kill your own child! How could you?” Do we eat the devil’s lies and see those people as the enemy? Like to watch them suffer from the consequences of their sin? It can be tempting, right? But finally they aren’t the enemy. They are victims of the Enemy, the devil, the Liar. If they don’t see the sinfulness of abortion and their need for a Savior, they will die in their sins. If they die in despair over the guilt of committing the sin of abortion and think God couldn’t possibly forgive them, they will die in their sins. And that’s what the devil wants. But that’s not what we want, right?
You see, Jesus sees people who want abortion or who have committed abortion as souls for whose sins he bled and died. He sees them as people in desperate need to hear the truth, to hear the rest of the story about a Savior who forgives sins, a Good Shepherd who doesn’t want them to suffer in hell forever, who wants them to turn from sin’s lies and the devil’s schemes to enjoy a full life here and a life hereafter. Let us view all human life the way our God does: as precious. Let us see people caught in the sin of abortion as souls who need to hear the truth, let us see people who are in despair over the sin of abortion as souls who need to hear the truth. Let us see unborn babies as souls who God our Savior wants to live and hear about their Good Shepherd.
What a God we have! What a Good Shepherd we have! Not a God who wants just life for some, not a God who wants life for only the fittest and the strongest, but a God who wants life for all- babies, adults, elderly. That’s at God’s very heart. God could force us to do what He wants like robots, God could thunder down from heaven and command us to obey him, but that’s not our God. Our God has a heart of love, He wants people, every person, to want to respect life, to want to see life in every stage as something special and precious and a gift from Him, in other words, God wants people’s hearts. And so what does He do?
With a devil who never will, with a world that never will, with politicians and abortion activists who never will, GOD tells the rest of the story. He wants ALL people to have life. So, He came. If Jesus hadn’t come, you and I might as well have been aborted as unborn children. If Jesus hadn’t come, we would be facing eternal destruction in hell. If Jesus hadn’t come, our lives would be meaningless. But the rest of the story is…Jesus came! Your Good Shepherd came to lay His life down for the sheep, sinful sheep all of them! He took our spot by going to the cross, laying down His life for you, suffering for you, rising from the dead for you! Why? So that you might have life and have it to the full! God our Savior wants all people to have life. Why? Because He wants all to have the opportunity to be brought to faith in Jesus as the Savior. He wants all to receive His grace and love through the Gospel in word and sacrament.
A person who’s wandering around out there and doesn’t think abortion is a damnable sin doesn’t know the rest of the story. A person who is loaded with guilt about a past abortion of some other sin and just wants to die, doesn’t know the rest of the story. I once heard about a WELS member who attended our church in El Paso, TX. She was still struggling with feelings of guilt, she was still getting know the rest of the story about her Savior’s love for her, but she came to church and left the church in tears. She had read the back cover of the Forward in Christ magazine which had an article which featured the imaginary diary of a pre-born little girl. Here are some entries. “October 2: Today my life began. October 23: My mouth is just now beginning to open. Just think — in a year or so I’ll be laughing … My first word will be ’mama.’ December 13: My eyes are almost fully developed … More than anything I want to see my mother. How do you look, Mother? December 26: Today my mother killed me.”
People need to know the rest of the story. By and large someone considering an abortion or someone suffering the guilt of a past abortion won’t come to a church to hear the rest of the story. But they might come to you. Maybe it’s a co-worker, a friend, an acquaintance, a cousin, tell them the rest of the story!
While thieves come to steal, kill and destroy, while hired hands come and abandon the sheep, run away, and care nothing for the sheep, that’s not the end of the story. The rest of the story is that there is a Good Shepherd who cares for the sheep, a Good Shepherd who has laid down His life for every sin of each sheep, a Good Shepherd who is the gate of salvation for all, a Good Shepherd who has come that His sheep might have life and have it to the full! That’s the rest of the story!