Harrison encourages Lutherans to 'kneel before the Crucified One'
"By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers" (1 John 3:16).
Last month, thousands of people gathered at Planned Parenthood locations across the United States. Together, they participated in a National Day of Protest, speaking out against the murder of tiny babies still within their mothers' wombs. It is our hope that the media and the government took notice, and that they will begin a rigorous and honest look at the horrors that occur each day at Planned Parenthood and, one day soon, put an end to abortion altogether.
While many of you may have participated in that event, we also invite all members of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod to take part in a Day of Remembrance on Sept. 12 — not just at Planned Parenthood locations, but at your churches, outside your schools, in your homes and by the gravesides of children who have been aborted.
Why pray? Why take time to remember? Because our Lord has promised us that He hears and answers prayers! When we pray for the protection of these little children, when we ask Him to send comfort and peace to mothers whose choice to abort their children haunts them, when we tell Him of our desire to care for moms and babies in our midst, and when we beg Him to help us speak for life, He hears.
And He does not let our prayers go unanswered.
What the world — and places like Planned Parenthood — intends for evil, God works for good. And He is still at work even now, reconciling the world to Himself, not counting our sins against us as He made Him who had no sin to be sin for us. We remember and pray because we are forgiven. The outcome is already certain.
Through the wood of the cross, joy has come into the world! Death has been put to death, and Satan's evil work against the smallest of children will only continue for a time.
That's why we pray: Because Christ is risen, and not just for us but for all people. That's what we tell those who stop outside our churches and ask what we're doing, who yell as we pray outside Planned Parenthood clinics, who are curious about why we care. We pray because as the Church, our "message is a call to be reconciled with God," as the sainted Lutheran pastor Hermann Sasse reminds us. We "have no other Gospel than the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins. … What [Jesus] alone and no other person brought, and still brings, is … forgiveness."
The days are indeed busy; your various vocations fill your time, as they should! But pausing to remember the deaths of these babies, to pray for those who are plagued by guilt over the deaths of their children, to come alongside women in crisis pregnancies is worth it because each one of them is of worth to Christ. His forgiveness and His love are worth it! Reminding the world of the One who died and rose for 10-week-old babies even as He died and rose for 10-year-olds and 100-year-olds is worth it.
On Sept. 12, please join us in a Day of Remembrance. Let us together kneel before the Crucified One who yet lives, who is working all things — even death and suffering and hardship — for good. He causes us to pray and — wonder of wonders! — has seen fit to remember us day in and day out, no matter who we are or what we've done.
Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison President, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
P.S. While we expect more information regarding Planned Parenthood to be released, we as the Church will simultaneously put forth a concerted effort to share good news that upholds life, telling the stories of our Recognized Service Organizations, congregations and individual members who are working — in big ways and small — to care for the unborn and their mothers. Please visit lcms.org and the LCMS Facebook page routinely to learn more.
And so we meet the
Good Samaritan again. I’m not going to pretend that this is the first time
you’ve heard Jesus’ parable. I will ask you to consider anew the questions that
led Jesus to tell the parable.
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him [Jesus]
to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
The man’s primary
concern—at least the one he verbally presents—is eternal life. Perhaps there’s
a question behind the question. Maybe he’s been in an argument with a friend, a
family member or even his own rabbi. Why does he want to know? His question
leads to our own questions.
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to
the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He [Jesus] said to
him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”
Jesus is a faithful
prophet. He is Son of God and still has the vocation of proclaiming God’s Word.
Jesus proclaims both Law and Gospel. We begin with the Law.
26 He [Jesus] said to him, “What is written in
the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And
he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all
your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor
as yourself.” 28 And
he [Jesus] said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will
Yes. Do this and you
will live. Good luck.
The Law, written on
the heart, tells us what we are to do (and not do). It promises eternal life
but ONLY if you are perfectly obedient 100% of the time. No lee-way here.
Failure means death. And eternal death. Functionally, the law tells us what to
do but gives us no power to comply. How do we respond to the law? Ultimately,
we end up in rebellion, rejection, hypocrisy, and self-righteousness, or in
terror, revulsion, hopelessness, and self-destruction. Secure sinners need to
hear the law so that they lose their false sense of security.
It has been said
that preachers are given to afflict the comfortable and to comfort the
afflicted. In Christ, that can be understood in an edifying and true way.
Consider the rest of
the story, the other main teaching of Holy Scripture, in fact what is to be the
predominant, pre-eminent and unique Christian teaching: the Gospel.
The Gospel is made
known to us only by the revelation of God in His Word—not nature, nor reason,
and certainly not experience. The Gospel tells us what God does for us in
Christ. There are no demands. Jesus words, “It is finished!” sum this up well.
The Gospel promises Eternal life by grace, through faith, in Christ alone, as
proclaimed in God’s Word alone, to God’s glory alone! And what is the threat of
the Gospel? None. Zip. Nada. The Gospel gives what it demands: faith. Faith is
a gift of God (and so is repentance). In place of the effect of the Law,
rebellion and terror, the Gospel produces in you faith, comfort, and salvation.
And isn’t that just what alarmed sinners need to hear?
What did this fellow
in the text need to hear, Law or Gospel? Perhaps his last question will give us
insight: 29 But he,
desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
He wanted to justify
himself. Let’s put that in plainer language: he wanted to be right. Being right
is not always pretty. You’ve met plenty of folks who have paid great costs in
order to merely be right. Who is your neighbor?
Allow me to offer
some answers. Your first neighbors brought you into this world. If you are
married, your spouse is your neighbor. The children you brought into this world
are your neighbors. And, of course, the people who live next door, attend your
school, and work and play with you. Neighbors inhabit your community and
congregation and country.
A pastor’s neighbors
include his family, congregation and community, in addition to his brother pastors
and sister congregations in the Synod. A congregation’s neighbors include all
the members of the congregation, its pastor and his family, the community
around it, as well as its brother pastors and sister congregations.
Your neighbor may be
sick, poor, lonely, in prison, or even hungry. Your neighbor may look just like
you. Or not. Your neighbor may speak English. Or some other language. Your
neighbor, simply put, is a person in need that you are given to help and be a
neighbor to. And that is why Jesus told the parable. A fellow with many
questions may well have wanted to get out of being neighborly to somebody he
didn’t want to help.
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to
Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus
replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among
robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a
priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other
side. 32 So likewise
a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as
he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and
bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal
and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and
gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you
spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which
of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among
the robbers?” 37 He
said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do
Samaritans and Jews
were “neighbors” in the proximity sense, but not neighborly. Who was a neighbor
to the man who fell among the robbers? Even the man with all the self-justifying
questions was compelled to answer correctly: the one who showed him mercy.
Lord, have mercy on
us. Christ, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.
Jesus had mercy on
us. He, the true Good Samaritan, did a Good Friday and Easter Sunday work of
mercy we could never accomplish so that we would forgive those who have
trespassed against us, have mercy on those who need our help, and to share the
Word of life, peace, and mercy to a world in desperate denial that it even
needs God or the Word. Lord, help us to have mercy on our neighbors. Generously,
faithfully, consistently, and always. Amen.