Sermon for January 31, 2016

Jeremiah 1:4-5 (4th Sunday after the Epiphany—Series C)

“I Knew You”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

January 31, 2016


In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Our text is from the Old Testament lesson, from Jeremiah 1:

4And it happened that the word of Yahweh came to me saying, 5″Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you went out from the womb I consecrated you; I gave you as a prophet to the nations.”

             On January 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court voted 7-2 in favor of legalizing abortion in its decision in the landmark case Roe v. Wade.  Since it’s legalization, some 57,760,000 babies have been killed.  As a point of comparison, total American losses in all wars and military conflicts is about 1,355,000.  It’s mind boggling, the senseless loss of life.  Almost 58 million people never got to live, never got to create music or art, never got to try to find a cure for cancer, never got to love or be loved.  “The concept that the lives of some people are not worth living leads to the death of newborns with disabilities and infanticide.  This concept also leads to the continued devaluation of the lives of people with disabilities and people with chronic and other vulnerable conditions.”[1] 

            As Christians, we are convinced by Scripture that all human life is precious.  From the moment of conception until the last breath is drawn on this earth, that life, that person, is eternally valuable. It is a life created by God.  “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.”  How amazing that all people, before they ever were, are already known by God!  The God who is all-knowing, actually knew us, knew about us, before we were ever a thought in our parents’ minds.  This isn’t like you and I knowing about Abraham Lincoln because we’ve read books.  This knowledge of God is an intimate knowledge of who you are as a person and what you will be for His Kingdom.  Jeremiah’s divine purpose as the Lord’s prophet reached back before his birth.  God’s deep commitment to Jeremiah reached back before his birth. 

A professor of ethics presented his college students with a hypothetical problem: “A man has syphilis, and his wife has tuberculosis.  They have already had four children: one died, the other three have what is considered to be a terminal illness.  Now the mother is pregnant again.  What would you recommend that she do?  Should she proceed and deliver her unborn child, or should she abort the child and spare everyone, especially the child, a lot of grief and anguish?”  Well, following a spirited discussion, the majority of the class decided that the mother should abort the unborn child instead of risking the possibility of bringing another sickly child into the world.  Following the conclusion, the professor added, “Fine, abort the child!  But you do realize that you’ve just killed Ludwig von Beethoven?”  That’s right, Beethoven!  Just how different our world would be without his artistic contribution! 

Thankfully, Beethoven’s parents didn’t abort him—they didn’t do such things much in those days—and our world today has been greatly enriched as a result.  Even before Beethoven’s conception, God knew him and all he would accomplish, just as He knew Jeremiah, just as He knows every child He allows to be conceived, just as He knew each one of us.  God’s purpose and commitment to every one of His human creations reaches back before their birth.  “I knew you before I formed you,” He says. 

            Human beings are valuable because we are human beings, God’s creation, whom He knew even before we were conceived and born.  And before our birth, God knew our station in life, our vocation, our calling.  In our text, we hear that Yahweh set Jeremiah apart, consecrated him to the specific task of being His prophetic voice proclaiming the Word of God to the nations.  You and I and all people have been set apart by God, even before He formed us in the womb, to His people in Christ, to serve Him in His Kingdom.  Ephesians 1:3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Eph. 1:3-4 ESV).

            The great grace of God is that He has chosen all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth that “Jesus Christ is Lord!” (1 Tim. 2:4).  He has set all people apart to come to saving faith in Jesus through the waters of Baptism, through the hearing of the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins and victory over death won by the cross and resurrection of Jesus the Savior.  The Lord desires that all people serve Him in their daily vocation—father, mother, son, daughter, grandparent, employer, employee, butcher, baker, or candlestick maker.  From the womb to the tomb, all people, their lives, are precious and special to God. 

            Even when the life of a person is deeply affected by the consequences of sin in the world, that life is special: those born with birth defects, those who live with mental challenges, those who suffer physical disabilities and emotional struggles.  They are people for whom God sent His Son to be their Savior.  They are people who can love and serve God in faith by His grace.  They are people with whom all believers will share the glories of life eternal. 

            But the world doesn’t always treat them as such.  Abortion ends life, a life that God knew before He formed it in the womb.  Euthanasia or so called “mercy killing” ends the life and service of those for whom Jesus died, all in the name of the right to “choose death.”  What little worth so many give to their fellow people—drivers hit pedestrians and run from the scene without calling for help; folks stand idly by while neighbors struggle to do daily chores and make ends meet; fights and anger lead to murder. 

            Christians also are not exempt from the accusing finger of the Law.  “We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need.”  How often do we fail to be merciful and kind and forgiving toward others, even in our families?  Do we always avoid ourselves and assist others in avoiding the abuse of drugs and the use of any substance that harms the body and the mind?  Remember, God says of you and them, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.”  You and your neighbor, anyone to whom you can show love and mercy, are God’s creations, eternally loved by Him.  You have value; they have value. 

            Even though we humans are corrupted by sin and do hurt and harm one another, God loves us.  Every person is special to Him, even before their conception and birth, and throughout their earthly life until God allows the moment of their death.  The Lord demonstrates His love for all people in the sending of His Son, Jesus, to be the Savior, not of the perfect, not of the pristine, but of the broken, the deformed, the anxious and the depressed, the pre-born and the elderly.  He knew us all, and loved us all from eternity.  Jesus died on the cross for you, for me, for all, to save us from sin and the punishment of death.  He died so that we might live eternally, living for Him now in this life, serving Him in our every-day callings, supporting life at all stages and all ages. 

            What does the cross and the empty tomb say about the fetus in the womb?  What does the cross and the empty tomb say about the homeless person on the streets of Enfield?  What does the cross and empty tomb say about the sick, the mentally ill, the handicapped, and the elderly?  It says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you and I loved you.  I have given you my Son to be your Savior and you will live forever with me in the joys of eternity because your sins are forgiven.  No matter your station in life, your calling, I am with you.  I give you the members of My holy Church to support and to help you, to be a voice for those who cannot speak, to be the hands of mercy to those hurting and helpless.” 

            As Christians, redeemed and forgiven in Jesus for our failures to always help and support life, we are empowered by the Word of God through the Spirit to speak for the speechless.  Our words and our actions give value to people considered by this world to be disposable.  “As we speak words of life in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, to this culture of death, God’s purposes will be achieved.  Our days are filled with matters of the heart, and God’s Words speak to them.”[2]  “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.”  God grant us to value all life as God’s precious and valuable gift.  His Holy Spirit enable us to serve our great God and Savior in our daily callings as we promote life and support the lives of those whom we can serve, especially giving them the life-giving, life-saving message of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen again, to redeem them from sin and death forever.  Amen. 




[1] Alex Schadenberg, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition—A Life Quote from Lutherans for Life

[2] Lynette Auch, president of Lutherans for Life—A Life Quote from Lutherans for Life

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