Presented on The Lutheran Hour on October 7, 2018
By Rev. Perry Hart, Guest Speaker
(Q&A Topic:God Created)
Copyright 2018 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: Genesis 1:27
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from your Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Our sermon text for today is found in the beginning of Scripture, Genesis 1:27: "So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them."
Let us pray: Almighty God, Heavenly Father, Your generous goodness comes to us new every day. By the work of Your Spirit, You lead us to acknowledge your goodness, to give thanks for Your benefits, and to serve You in willing obedience. Help us to see the world as You see it, to see others and remember that they, too, are Your beloved children. Give us the courage to see Your hand in all people: in the farmer, the migrant worker, the store clerk, the butcher, the baker, the refugee, the CEO, the politician, the yet to be born, and in all those whose work makes it possible for us to gather here today to sit at Your feet in Your Word. Bless us and keep everyone in Your care; through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
It's right there at the start of history, the start of it all, the genesis as it were: "In the beginning, God created." That is our Heavenly Father's will, to create, to give life where none existed, or exists. It's there where God, from nothing, brings everything into being. You know the history. You've heard it many times before. From darkness, comes light, then water, then land, then vegetation, then sun and moon and stars, then sea life followed by life on land. We see God's handiwork bringing life into its very first existence.
"And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock· according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good." This account alone would be a magnificent event to watch, epic for sure. But God wasn't done. No, His crowning achievement was still to come. Then God said, "Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness." Again, God brings to life that which never was. It's the Creator, the One who is life, bringing into life ... us. It begins first with one man, then being the loving Father, seeing how sad man is with not having a fitting partner, He puts man to sleep and takes from the man a rib and, from it, makes a woman. Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man." Here it is where two become one again. Adam is completed as his wife, who was made from his side, is at his side again. And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth."
The Giver of life now gifts the couple with the ability to create more of what God loves so much. And let's not misunderstand, as even though man and woman have the ability to create a life together, it is only when God gifts it to them that a life is actually created. He is Lord, after all. So, where once no life existed, now life in many forms exists today, and God's crowning achievement, that of mankind, has since grown to over seven billion people. In such a huge number, it is hard at times to not feel a little insignificant. I think of families who are blessed with three, four, five, or ten children, and how some of the siblings feel as if they aren't even noticed among so many others in their own home, vying for the attention of their parents. And as a parent, it can be challenging to give equal amounts of time to each child. Some demand more than others, and it isn't wrong, it just is what it is.
That said though, our Heavenly Father has no such time limitations. No, He is greater and has kept a watchful eye on His entire creation, and each individual He's created with the attention as if we were the only one on earth. "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you," says God. Each life, before even coming into existence, God has cast His gaze upon, delighting in having us hear His voice and that we would be led home to Him.
Now, if you don't know the story, it isn't only about the good stuff. No, there is the part where death entered where God had created so much life. God's enemy, the devil, the great liar and deceiver, came to destroy that which God loves the most. You see, the devil cannot beat God, nor take His place. In fact, when the devil tried, God banished him and sent him away from the heavenly places. Hating God as the devil does though, knowing he is powerless at beating God one on one, the devil targets God's crowning achievement, seeking to hurt God by hurting those He loves.
Just as he did with the first man and woman in the garden, the devil continues telling lies that "we can be like God, creators of our own destinies, that we should focus on what we want and try to get it at any cost. Don't worry, be happy, for that is what you seek, and trust me I can show you how to get it."
Once created in the image of God, our lives got twisted and turned upside down and where once we walked with God, now our natural inclination is to walk to the beat of our own drum. Where before we would have seen the value in everyone who is created in God's image, we now see them as means to our ends, obstacles to our goals or simply inconveniences. Wars now exist among peoples, tribes, and nations as we seek to get our own wants met. We may lie and cheat or speak poorly of others to get the promotion we want or something else of value that we have placed the lives of others over.
We may see those who are born with physical or mental challenges as of less value than those born typical. Maybe we think that there must be a curse from God at play there. The parents must have done something wrong in their lives to be given such a great burden. Yet, to think this way, we'd be wrong. The disciples were, so you'd be in good company. In the Gospel of John, we recall the account of where Jesus healed the blind beggar. In their travels, they (Jesus and the disciples) passed by and saw a man who had been blind from birth. And His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him."
This account serves to show how wrong we may be in our thinking, for this man had a God-given purpose. When a life is created, when we are blessed with such a great gift, we may see it as merely inconvenient, not worthy of having right now as this new life is in the way of the plans we have made for ourselves.
Throughout the world, about 55 to 60 million God-given lives are taken by abortion each year. The arguments for abortion range from not wanting to raise children with birth defects to those conceived due to rape. Yet, those cases are the absolute rarity among those who choose abortion. Twisted in the devil's lies as we are, we may no longer see the value in lives created by God, His children no less, as worthy of protecting. Sin has caused us to become callous of seeing "life" as having great value from the One who gives it.
Dead as we are in our sinfulness, we place little value in lives that are no longer able to contribute to society, or to us, more rightly stated. What good could bringing a disabled child into this world possibly bring? What purpose does grandma or grandpa in their frail bodies offer or one with a disease that will keep them requiring care for a long time, stripping them of their ability to be active citizens?
Even though it was my actions that caused a life to be created, my life isn't ready to share with another, so I'll just make this problem go away. It isn't really a life until it fully enters the world, we hear today, and until then, we have a "right" to choose to do whatever we want with it. We need not look hard at a mirror to see how broken we are. Our thoughts may even shock us at times. Looking at strangers, seeing how they are dressed or thinking of what little value they contribute, judging their life as worth less than our own. But what if we are wrong? What if our sin-ridden reason cannot be trusted, and we were to give God the final say in our lives? Remember how we were once "created in His image"? Oh, that image has since been shattered, but it is helpful to see how our natural inclination to hold self-value above others in this world should be seen as a sign of sickness.
You see, all were and are created in His image, albeit a shattered remnant of it. And God loves us so much that He wants that all would be saved. And if His value for all of us is so great, even broken and sinful as we are, there must be something to each life that He grants to exist and therefore we have no business pronouncing a "right" to choose its existence or not. And as Christians, we cannot be complacent about this issue. We cannot claim to see God by His Word, to be followers and to not speak out against the hatred towards His creation that exists today. Pro-choice is sitting in God's throne and making decisions that only He should make. Euthanasia is also the same.
Sure, things are broken in this life, and we can expect some tough stuff to enter our lives. Yet using evil for good as God does, all lives have purpose. We may not see it as clouded as our eyes have become by swallowing the devil's lies, but there is much to be gained by knowing the one true God as He is.
You see, God is a Servant King. Each action is one that is meant to draw us into a deeper understanding of who He is and how valued His creation is to be seen. Thinking we know better and seeking control, we'd be left looking at an eternity of darkness, death, and torture in choosing the devil as whom we should follow. Yet wanting none of that, God in knowing how we could never perfectly fulfil the laws that are best for us, sent His only begotten Son to save us. And with Him living His most perfect life, Jesus then traded His life for our dead ones, ones that deserved nothing but God's wrath and separation from Him.
To see how loved you are, you must see how, enemies as we are, God still loves us enough to provide the fix to show us that even our lives still hold precious value to Him. All lives do. And when we begin to understand how we have a Father who still loves us and wants us in spite of our own defects, maybe then we can see how His love extends to everyone, everywhere and they too are valued and deserve to know of His love also.
Those who God creates, are no accident, regardless of how they arrive in this world. The blessings that we may see in loving those lives that we may expect to be burdens are precious in eyes of God. Those who need our compassion and service are there to teach us, and they exist as lives that we may grow in love by, and that is the real gift. God grants us to learn of how we too may love, and in doing so, may receive love in return. Following Him, we can expect this sinful broken world to bring with it trials and hardships. Yet we are made stronger and blessed to be in closer communion with Him, trusting as He draws us into deeper understandings of His plan and purpose, amidst the chaos.
Now, if you are listening and you have gone against that which God wished for you to have, taking a life and now find yourself surrounded by the darkness of that decision and feeling the pain. I encourage you not to hide in the shadows where the devil wants you, but instead to bring that to the One who loves you the most, your Lord and Savior, who seeks to save the sinner, the lost, the broken--the One whose forgiveness known no limits and seeks to embrace you again in His love.
Amidst darkness, storms, and trials, Jesus says, "I am with you always, even to the end of the age." In that, there is much to be thankful for. The Life-Giver, our Lord and Savior, seeks to give us life eternal in Him. He wants to share of His love that you would share His love with others also.
May we always think of God's created children--however they arrive in this world and wherever we find them in the age of this life--as full of value and purpose as God declares us to be. For "Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward."
May we thank the Lord always for valuing our lives enough to save them. For there is nothing greater to be thankful for today than a Father who spared not even the life of His Son, to save ours. And trusting in this most precious work of Christ, we will arrive home again to share in a life that never ends.
May that peace which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in your Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. In His Name we Pray. Amen.
Reflections for October 07, 2018
Title: God Created
Mark Eischer: Next our colleague, Lisa Jackson, director of Lutheran Laymen's League of Canada, talks with Rev. Perry Hart and his wife, Tara Lyn Hart.
Lisa Jackson: Thank you, Mark. And Tara Lyn, that was your son Ashton singing with you.
Tara Lyn Hart: It was, yes.
Lisa Jackson: Thank you, very much. Even in the message, we heard that the disciples, they questioned whether the parents of the blind beggar had done something wrong to cause his blindness. Have you faced that kind of doubt in your own lives?
Tara Lyn Hart: When I found out that I was pregnant with our youngest daughter, Noel, I was not thrilled to be pregnant, and embarrassed to admit that to people. I had two kids that were getting ready to graduate high school, and I was just at a point in my life where starting over with midnight feedings and diaper changes-that wasn't really what I had in mind for myself at that point.
So, for the first few months that I was pregnant, I actually really was struggling with, "I know this is a blessing, but it doesn't feel like one," and of course, then I obviously did come to terms with it. I was very excited when Noel was born. She was beautiful, but when we received her diagnosis of Down syndrome and Edwards syndrome, there was guilt and a little bit of fear and wonder, "Oh, is this God punishing me for being so ungrateful and for not accepting His gift right off the bat?" Yeah, that was something that I did have to struggle with for a little while before I finally found peace.
Perry Hart: I can think of times where I looked at my past. When I was young, it's kind of like Solomon. "Lord, forgive me for my rebellious youth," but there are instances where things come into your life and you'd be like, "Oh. I wonder if God is punishing me for that." But that's really not how God works, right?
Speaker 1: So, it sounds like both of you had an opportunity to come to a point in your lives when you learned to submit to God's will.
Tara Lyn Hart: Certainly, plans that I had for this season in my life have been changed dramatically by Noel's arrival, and ideas that I had for myself once all of my older four children were in school, finished school, or leaving home even, all of those things have been put on the back-burner, because now I am not only mothering a small child again, but also a child that has some added needs.
Perry Hart: I think if there's anything that we know by reading God's Word, it's not that you become a Christian and all of a sudden, your life is perfect, but in fact, you can expect suffering, you can expect trials, because you are literally going in the opposite direction that the world wants to take you. That's going to create some friction, great friction.
Tara Lyn Hart: There have been our fair share of trials, but there's also been a lot of joy and a lot of blessing. I think specifically speaking to Noel and her surprise arrival, but also her surprise diagnosis, I think that when we received that diagnosis, we all reacted in a very human way. We were scared because we didn't know what that meant. We were sad because we grieved this idea of the life that our child was going to have. There were elements of uncertainty and the fear of what are other people going to think and how is this going to impact our family long-term?
I started thinking about the fact that Perry and I may never have an empty nest, and that's a huge thing to deal with and to come to terms with. What I didn't realize, and what I didn't think about, was the huge blessing that we were going to get through her. That was one of the greatest lessons that I learned through this whole experience so far of God blessing us with her, was just that once we got to know her, and once we recognized how amazing her differences make her, how kind and how unconditionally loving, and how amazing she is, like she has to work so much harder than everyone else to achieve the same tasks that we all achieve quite easily.
There is so much rejoicing, rejoicing over little, tiny things that you would normally take for granted. Those are the things that I feel like God has taught us through Noel. When I watch the way that our children, our older children, are with her, and the patience and the acceptance that they have learned, and the ways they have grown in their opinions of people with differences, I just feel incredibly blessed.
Perry Hart: What's been incredible for me to realize, and I think it's a good reflection on our sinful condition, is we get very caught up in looking at the dark clouds of the potential of something that's happened. So, you can get very focused on the challenges of bringing up a child who has Down Syndrome, and really just get so wrapped up in that, that that's all you're thinking about. What we fail to see is that there could be more going on than meets our eye. So, some people might not see having a child come into their home as a blessing, but she was an absolute blessing for our home and continues to be today because she became the sunshine that we all were able to revolve around and be blessed by, and this little person who is just beaming love, she has her ...
Tara Lyn Hart: her moments. (laughs)
Perry Hart: ... where she's fighting with her brother or something like that, but more often than not, it is just about "I want to love you. I want to be happy with you. I want to smile. I want to make you happy." And we all were there for her to help her with the challenges, and so we've learned more compassion and care, and all these things. That's what God was giving us-was this opportunity to love and to serve, and we may not have realized that at first, but wow, what a blessing we've been given. We're so thankful for it today.
Tara Lyn Hart: Yeah, and even the blessing now of being able to share our story with other people, and hope that we might somehow encourage someone else who's at the beginning of their journey-just finding out that they have a diagnosis of Down syndrome with a child, prenatally or after they're born, or someone they know that's going through this-that hopefully it would just help people to open their minds to reframe things, think about things a little bit differently, that this isn't a burden or a tragedy-this is life. It's a little bit different, but it's a blessing nonetheless, especially with all of the talk lately about prenatal testing and eradicating Down syndrome in certain countries in the world. Of course, that's not what they're doing. They're just killing all of the babies that have Down Syndrome before they're born, which is just heartbreaking, so to have the opportunity to go and speak at women's events or to speak at things like Lutherans for Life, and share our experiences and our stories, and we just really hope that we may be able to connect with someone.
Lisa Jackson: Noel sounds like a beautiful gift.
Tara Lyn Hart: She is.
Lisa Jackson: I want to thank you both for sharing a little bit of your story, sharing your family, your beautiful family, with us today, the gift of your voice, the gift of the message that you brought, Pastor. Thank you very much.
Tara Lyn Hart: Thank you. It's our pleasure.
Perry Hart: Absolutely.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"O God, My Faithful God" public domain
"Our Father, by Whose Name" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)