************ Sermon on Psalm 139:13-18 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 18, 2004
"Fearfully and Wonderfully Made"
I would like to ask the students in 5th and 6th grade to come to the front to help me with my introduction. I am going to give you a quiz to see which grade knows more about the beginning of life.
1. You started swimming and doing back flips:
A. When your mom was 6 months pregnant
B. 9 weeks
C. 8 months
D. Forget the back flips, you can't even do a good belly-flop
[B. At 9 weeks you could swim a mean backstroke.]
2. If you kept growing all 9 months as fast as you did during your second month, you would have been born as big as:
A. Arnold Schwarzenegger
B. An M-1 tank
C. A pair of overfed elephants
[C. It's a good thing you slowed down after the second month, or your birth-weight would have been 14 tons.]
3. When did you most likely feel pain for the first time?
A. When they cut your umbilical cord
B. When your mom was 7 weeks pregnant
C. When your mom had anchovies on her pizza
[B. By 7 weeks all the structures necessary for pain sensation are functioning.]
4. By the time your mother found out she was pregnant, you were:
A. A tiny speck smaller than the period at the end of a sentence
B. A miniature human with arms, legs, and a heartbeat
C. A ball of cells the size of a marble
[B. At about 8 weeks, all systems were go: skeletal, nervous, digestive, circulatory, and respiratory.]
5. Your mother says you started to kick and poke her:
A. 3 months into the pregnancy
B. At 4 months
C. Never mind when you started, when are you going to stop
[B. At only a couple of months you started to shake, rattle, and roll, but you were too little for mom to notice. By 4 or 5 months, however, she swore you had a blackbelt in karate.]
6. 5 months into the pregnancy you got a lot of hiccups because:
A. Your mom was pigging out on pickles, ice cream, pizza, and sardines
B. You swallowed amniotic fluid
C. Your diaphragm was being formed
D. You couldn't find a paper bag to put over your head
[B. Not only does amniotic fluid make a cushy "water-bed," but it is also full of glucose (sugar). Swallowing the fluid was good practice for your digestive system and made you a healthier baby.]
7. When did you start using your brain?
A. When your mom was 8 months pregnant
B. When she was 40 days pregnant
C. Your parents are still waiting
[B. Brain waves have been detected as early as the sixth week. What do you suppose you were thinking about?]
8. When was the color of your hair determined?
A. At conception
B. 3 months into the pregnancy
C. Only your hairdresser knows for sure
[A. At conception, each parent contributed 50,000 instruction sets (or genes) that determined what you look like, your health, talents, tastes, athletic abilities, intelligence, allergies, and more.]
9. 5 months before you were born, your heart pumped enough blood every day to:
A. Overflow a coffee mug
B. Fill almost half a gas tank of a Firebird
C. Fill an Olympic size swimming pool
[B. 4 months after conception you were pumping the equivalent of 6 ½ gallons of blood each day through a body about as long as your hand is now.]
10. When did you first start looking like either a boy or girl?
A. The seventh month of pregnancy
B. The end of the second month
C. When the doctor announced to your parents, "It's a ..."
[B. You were either male or female from conception, but it took about 46 days to be recognizable.]
The point of this quiz? I want you all to recognize the truth of what David says in our Bible reading for this morning – that every baby is "fearfully and wonderfully made." Isn't it amazing the things modern medicine lets us know about conception and pregnancy and birth? Children truly are a precious gift knit together by God in the mother's womb.
Today is Pro-Life Sunday in Trinity. We want to celebrate God's gift of children. And, we want to renew our commitment to the fight against abortion.
I The Abortion Wars
It has been 31 years now since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of abortion. Many people commonly suppose that abortion is an invention of modern, technological medicine. Nothing could be further from the truth. Two previous periods saw lengthy contests over whether abortion would be accepted or prohibited. In other words, our age is not the first time the church has battled against abortion.
First, abortion was well known in Greco-Roman society. Plato's "Republic" made abortion or infanticide obligatory if the mother was over 40. In Aristotle's ideal society, abortion was compulsory for families that exceeded a certain size. Both Plato and Aristotle believed that the welfare of society and family were more important than the rights of a child. The Roman empire made the same assessment so abortion was common. Notice how 2000+ years later the same arguments are being used?
Second, abortion was very widespread in America during the mid 1800s to that point that they were freely advertised in virtually every newspaper. The average American woman bore seven children in 1800, three and a half by 1900. Estimates of abortions ranged between one-fifth and one-third of all pregnancies. Before 1850 abortion had been the refuge of desperate, unmarried women; after 1850 most abortions were by married women, using it as birth control. The increase in abortion led to a counter-reaction. The most visible group opposing abortion was the American Medical Association. The rising feminist movement was against abortion as being an instrument of male domination. Most churches ignored the issue. Today, positions have been reversed. The AMA and feminists are in favor of abortions while some churches, at least, are no longer silent.
II Why Women Choose Abortion
A This past week I reread a 1995 article in "Christianity Today" on "WHY WOMEN CHOOSE ABORTION." I was surprised (again) by what I read. Most of us have heard about women choosing abortion because of career, school, money, housing, and lifestyle. Yet, as I found out, these are not the only reasons why women choose abortion.
B Why do women choose abortion? In the case of nearly every woman interviewed for the "Christianity Today" article, the abortion was undertaken to fulfill the demands of another person. Instead of me explaining this to you, listen to the stories of different women.
BECKY in Los Angeles. When Becky became pregnant, she had at first resolved to have her baby. Becky's mother took her to a counselor. She ordered Becky to wait in the reception room while she conferred with the counselor. They then called Becky in and informed her of their decision: Becky would have an abortion. Her mom added, "If you continue this pregnancy, you can't live in my house." Becky was stunned, but at a loss for alternatives. She had the abortion. Eight years later, she is still grieving: "I was already attached to that baby."
PAULA in Los Angeles. When Paula told her mother about the pregnancy she was informed that "you have a choice": the baby or the family. She recalls crying convulsively on the abortion table. The doctor said, "If you don't stop crying we can't do this, because maybe someone's forcing you." So she choked back her sobs. But after the abortion, she took drugs, found it hard to accept love, and even attempted suicide three times. Tears form in her eyes as she talks about this.
DEB in Los Angeles. She submitted to her boyfriend's demands for sex ("Say yes or I'm gone"). [Any guy or girl who says this to you is not worth it.] Deb gave in again when he "forced me to have an abortion."
ELIZABETH in Washington, D.C. Her abortion took place in 1968 when she was 16. "It was my mother who set it up. I fought her on it, but she was adamant. She had seen girls have their lives destroyed by gossip. My mom said, 'That's not going to happen to you.' How can you fight that?"
I received an email from Tulare/Kings Right to Life this past week. Some of you might have received it to.
Just over ten years ago, the world's attention was focused on the bizarre case of John and Lorena Bobbitt. Lorena stood trial for the "malicious wounding" of her husband's manhood with an eight-inch long kitchen knife. Following an eleven-day trial, Lorena was acquitted on grounds of temporary insanity.
Now, an organization that monitors the physical and psychological effects of abortion is releasing a new report explaining that Lorena wasn't simply an abused wife striking back at her husband.
Instead, according to the Elliot Institute, Lorena was suffering post-traumatic stress from a forced abortion.
"All the evidence presented at Lorena's trial supports the view that her psychiatric symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder were precipitated by a coerced abortion three days before their first wedding anniversary," explains David Reardon, author of the report.
"Lorena pleaded to keep her child and gave in to the abortion only because she was pressured into it by John," Reardon said.
Why do women choose abortion? In the case of nearly every woman interviewed for the "Christianity Today" article, the abortion was undertaken to fulfill the demands of another person: sometimes the father of the unborn child, sometimes her own father, but usually her mother. When a girl is pregnant, the disapproving frown of a loved one does more to hasten abortion than do housing, jobs, money, or education.
This shocked me. How can any mother force her daughter to have an abortion? How can any woman who has borne, nurtured, and suckled a baby at her breast force her own daughter to abort a baby?
Mothers and fathers, let me speak to you. Never ever force your daughter to choose between family and an abortion. Along the same line, never ever say to your daughter, "You are out of the house if you get pregnant." That's almost the worst thing you can say because this could force them to choose between family and an abortion.
III Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
A Those mothers interviewed by "Christianity Today" also said they didn't know. They didn't know that what was inside of them was really a baby. They didn't know the facts of fetal development. They didn't know how the baby grows in the womb. They didn't know the stuff I talked about with the grade 5 and 6 students. If they had known they would have done anything to give life rather than death.
I want to tell you, congregation, something that David knew some 3000+ years ago. I want to tell you that what is in the womb is a human being. I want to tell you that what is in the womb is a work of God's hands. David puts it this way:
(Ps 139:13-14) For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. (14) I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.Let's take a look at what it means to be fearfully and wonderfully made.
B Consider the matter of conception. David knew that a baby is the result of a joyful union between a husband and a wife. He knew that when the seed of a man entered a woman the result was a precious little baby. David knew that he was the result of the love felt and expressed between his parents. "I am fearfully and wonderfully made."
Yet, David knew nothing about conception as we know it. He didn't know any of those things I quizzed our grade 5 and 6 students on. "I am fearfully and wonderfully made."
C Spend some time marveling over your body. The human body is a masterpiece of exquisite design. Beautifully "engineered," it is governed by several hundred systems of control – each interacting with and affecting the other. The brain has 10 billion nerve cells to record what we see and hear. Our skin has more than 2 million tiny sweat glands – about 3000 per square inch – all part of the intricate system which keeps our body at an even temperature. A "pump" in our chest makes our blood travel 168 million miles a day – equivalent of 6720 times around the world! The lining of our stomach contains 35 million glands secreting juices which aid the process of digestion. And these are but a few of the involved processes and chemical wonders which operate to sustain our life. "I am fearfully and wonderfully made."
In A.D. 399 Saint Augustine said, "People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars – and they pass by themselves without wondering." St. Augustine realized the truth of what David said: "I am fearfully and wonderfully made."
D Throughout the Bible we are told that man is a special creation. A special creation means four things.
First, I think of what Genesis 1:26-27 says to us about man's creation:
(Gen 1:26-27) Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." (27) So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.Man is a special creation because God made Him – from the smallest baby to the oldest man – in His image. "I am fearfully and wonderfully made."
Second, I also think of what Genesis 2:7 says about man's creation:
(Gen 2:7) ... the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.Man is a special creation because God made him into a living soul. Every parent has the breath-taking privilege of sharing with God in the creation of new life. They help bring into existence a soul that will endure for all eternity. "I am fearfully and wonderfully made."
Third, I also think of how the Bible portrays man as self-conscious, willful, innovative persons. As persons we can think, analyze, and reflect. As persons we have purpose. As persons we can and do make moral judgments. As persons we are the only flesh and blood creature with the freedom to say "no" to God. "I am fearfully and wonderfully made."
Fourth, man is not an evolutionary accident. Every person – every single one – is made by God. From God's point-of-view there is no such thing as an "accidental birth" or a "surprise pregnancy" or an "unwanted child." Each one is made by Him, belongs to Him, and is assigned by Him to parents. "I am fearfully and wonderfully made."
E Practically speaking, on this Pro-Life Sunday, what does it means that every person is "fearfully and wonderfully made"? It means two things.
First, it means that every life is the possession of God. Every person ever born belongs to God: whether you are in or out of the womb, whether you are rich or poor, young or old, male or female, black or white, you all belong to God. No one but God has the right to end a life.
Does this mean there is no hope for those who have an abortion or do an abortion? The message of the Bible is that even for this sin there is forgiveness:
(Eph 1:7) In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace God gives this forgiveness to all who sincerely repent of their sin. Anyone and everyone can claim this gift of God if they, by grace, admit their wrong and change their ways.
(Jer 31:34) ... For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.
(Is 1:18) "Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.
Back to those young women who said they didn't know. Christians must get across the message that every person is "fearfully and wonderfully made" so that life cannot be taken. But we have to deliver this message with love and compassion. Consider the case of anti-abortion activist Paul Hill. He was executed in Florida this past Fall (2003) for killing two people outside a Pensacola abortion clinic in 1994. Paul Hill was not pro-life; rather, he was only anti-abortion.
Second, to be "fearfully and wonderfully made" by God means every life, as the gift of God, is to be lived in His service and for His praise. David realizes that. He says, "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made." From every life God wants and expects praise. The chief end and purpose of every person is to praise God and fully to enjoy Him forever. Again, this is true whether you are in or out of the womb, whether you are rich or poor, young or old, male or female, black or white. Listen again to our call to worship of this morning:
(Ps 8:1-2) O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. (2) From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise ...It is ordained. That is the way God has planned it. That is what all of us have been made for – including the baby in the womb.
Listen again to what David says in our Bible passage about the beginning of life:
(Ps 139:13-14) For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. (14) I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
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