Monday, July 31, 2017

Personhood of the Unborn


I question the appropriateness of legislating Christian morality in a non-Christian, secular society such as ours.  What is happening instead,  however,   non-Christian morality is being patently legislated upon Christians.   A vivid example is abortion on-demand, which is and has been for quite a while now the law of our land.  Abortion on-demand is morally, biblically, sociologically and scientifically wrong. It is an affront to God's law (“Thou shalt not murder”) and, from a human rights standpoint, a violation of the right to life of pre-born children.  

What drives my view on this?  Three things:
·   First and foremost is my biblical worldview:

Psalm 139

You knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you, for I am fearfully

and wonderfully made. 

Wonderful are your works;

that I know very well.

15My frame was not hidden from you,

when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. 

In your book were written all the days

that were formed for me,

when none of them as yet existed.
·   Secondly, scientifically we know that a human being’s unique genetic code is established at the moment of conception; therefore, conception is both reasonably and scientifically the beginning of an individual person. (What the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision functionally did was declare the unborn child not a person.) 

·   Finally, sociologically the abortion issue is enmeshed in the half-century old sexual revolution and the resulting liberalization of sexuality.  This has been the major contributor to the deterioration of the indispensable building block of any healthy society- the healthy, intact, nuclear family.  It seems to me that God knew what He was doing when He established marriage, family and His boundaries around human sexuality. 


Simply stated, the value and sacredness of the life of the unborn child needs to be recognized in the decision-making on the termination of a pregnancy.  None of this negates the rights of the mother, but, at least for me, places it all in a Godly, scientific and sociologically healthy perspective. Christians, like everyone else, have a voice in asserting this and helping to chart a morally proper direction for this country on abortion.  We, as a church, need to not be silent on this issue.  Our bishops and many in the ACNA have definitely not been.

(By the way, I struggle with this strange notion of “independent viability” of the unborn child as a definition of personhood.  That could equally be applied to when a child is weened, or even later when they can provide food and shelter for themselves.  This makes a strange argument!)


One initiative you should know about that is taking place in South Carolina is the Personhood Constitutional Amendment (S.719 / H.4093) presently in committee in the SC Legislature.  The amendment seeks to define the status of the unborn child as a person in the eyes of the law.  You can read more about it at  www.personhood.sc.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Sanctification: A Sermon for the 4th Sunday after Pentecost, 2017

Sermon, July 2, 2017

Readings:  Jeremiah 28:5-9      Psalm 89:1-4,15-18       Romans 6:12-23         Matthew 10:40-42

We here at Holy Trinity this past Wednesday evening had the opportunity to share the stories of our journey in Christ.  My thanks to all who did so.  I wrote down some of what I heard:
·       These were stories about leaving the brokenness of this world behind- our childhood traumas, life’s disappointments, despair, depression, addiction, anger, unforgiveness, bitterness, self-willed living, all the stuff this world throws at us and wants to use to define us.

·       We heard about lives turning to Christ and being filled with the Holy Spirit, coming to be defined by fresh direction, purpose, growth, learning, self-giving, generous living, power to overcome, hope, joy, security, inner peace, victory over addiction, surrender, obedience, and more.

·      What was true in each story is that they are not yet complete- God has more.  Everyone who spoke expressed a trajectory for their lives- a forward movement.  All the stories were about a growing relationship with God.


These Wednesday evening sharings were about spiritual pilgrimages toward victorious living.  Not all stories in this life, however, are about victory.  We all know people who are being crushed under the weight of this world and under their own sins, dysfunctions and addictions.  Some of us, even in this church family, are on no journey at all, parked in some less-than-God-pleasing place in life… yet comfortable, familiar, where we choose to stay.

But in our Romans 6 reading today Paul writes, “19For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.”  Paul uses the word sanctification here and again in verse 22.  Let’s focus on this word for a moment.

In the original Greek in which Paul wrote, the word that we translate as sanctification is hagiasmos: hagi meaning holy; asmos meaning process.  To Paul, sanctification, is the process of becoming holy, a day-by-day process, a journey, like the stories that were shared this past Wednesday evening.  For us Christians, life becomes a pilgrimage into the sanctified life, a journey into wholeness and holiness.

The Christian Pilgrimage begins with repentance, conversion and (pardon the big theological word) regeneration.  The biblical Greek word for repentance is metenoia, which literally means to change one’s mind, to turn, change directions, walk a different path.  Conversion is, simply stated, Jesus becoming our Lord and Savior.  Regeneration is, by virtue of God’s Holy Spirit taking up residence in us, we are a “new creation.”  In 2 Corinthians 5:17 Paul writes, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”  God has given us a sacrament to mark this point in our spiritual journey, the beginning of our journey of sanctification; it is called Baptism.

Our journey into holiness, however, is not just about the Holy Spirit working in us, it is also about the Holy Spirit working with us.  God does not override our free will; we have to want to grow in Christ and be willing to surrender to what God is doing in us.   We have to want what God has always wanted for us, a journey in wholeness and holiness, a life redeemed and sanctified by Him, a life with the grime of this world washed away.

This is what our Christian Pilgrimage is all about.  What does your pilgrimage, your journey look like?  What is your story?  Are you on a journey into Christlikeness?  Is your journey bearing fruit? (i.e. Fruit of the Spirit- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control Gal 5:22-23).  Or is your journey toward health, wholeness and holiness stalled?  Are you parked on eh side of the road somewhere? Are you failing to be intentional and proactive in seeking what the Lord has for you in this life?  Are you today pretty much where you with the Lord yesterday, last year, last decade?  God has more for you than what defines your life today.  
  
So, what can we do to seek the sanctified life?  
·     Cooperate with His Holy Spirit who is at work in you.  Be intentional about growing in Christ.  Do not let the world decide for you if you are going to be a new creation or not.  Choose Christ!

·    Be immersed in God’s family and a part of what the Holy Spirit is doing in this place.

·    Seek a holistic spirituality of worship, spiritual growth, learning, service and generosity.  Don’t leave any part of your life for the devil to carve out as his own.  You belong to Christ- all of you. 

·     Even if you have in the past let sin tell you what to do, you now have a new master, One who sets you free and transforms you into His sons and daughters.  He gives you an inheritance which is eternal life with Him.  Start living eternal life today.

A closing prayer based on 1 Thessalonians 5:23:  O Lord, it is you who places our feet upon the path that leads to eternal life.  We thank you for sending Your Holy Spirit into our lives and making us a holy temple, a sanctuary, totally acceptable to You.  May You, the God of peace, sanctify us entirely; and may our spirits, souls and bodies be found sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.