Sanctity of Life Sunday + MLK Monday

Yesterday, our church family observed “Sanctity of Life Sunday” – an unofficial landmark of the church calendar which falls on the Sunday closest to January 22 (the date on which the Supreme Court affirmed Roe v. Wade in a 7-2 majority decision in 1972).

The thrust of Sanctity of Life Sunday is usually aimed at raising awareness towards the evils associated with induced abortions. Christians rightly point to Scriptures such as Psalm 139:13-16 to advocate for the reality that all people are made in God’s image – from the moment of conception:

13 For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.

Fittingly, Sanctity of Life Sunday always falls in close conjunction with the national holiday commemorating the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. When we think of the deep-seated racism which Dr. King combatted – and all of the work which remains to be done on that frontier – Christians have reason to mourn yet another way in which the fallen state of our world is deeply apparent.

In conjunction with both Sanctity of Life Sunday and MLK Monday, our church participated in this corporate lament and confession during yesterday’s worship gathering. The unbold sections were prayed by the leader, while the congregation responded with the bold sections. We offer it to you as a reminder: both of the deep fallenness which sin has inflicted upon us and our world, and of the amazing hope which is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

A Litany for Sanctity of Life Sunday

“Sanctity of Life Sunday” is grounded in the truth revealed in Scriptures such as 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.

Being made in God’s image doesn’t first and foremost have anything to do with what a person has or does. Being made in God’s image describes who each person is – starting from the moment of conception, and continuing throughout life. 

Today, on Sanctity of Life Sunday, we confess and lament the ways in which we – as people, as families, as cultures, as a nation, as the church – have fallen short of honoring all people as being image-bearers of God:

We cry out on behalf of the unborn – because the World Health Organization estimates that an average of over 150,000 induced abortions occur each day throughout the world – and that 25% of pregnancies end in an induced abortion.

Lord, have mercy on our world.

Forgive us for devaluing the unborn in our own lives:

Directly contributing to abortion – through our advocacy, through our donations, through undergoing an abortion, through pressuring someone to undergo an abortion, or through performing an abortion.

And, indirectly contributing to abortion – through treating young and unwed mothers with indifference, skepticism, and coolness; through remaining silent or indifferent on the evil that is abortion; and through adopting a cultural values-system that often devalues raising children by placing worth and meaning on how a person can build a life for himself or herself, rather than making it a priority to give life to others.

Lord, have mercy on us.

We cry out on behalf of those society has deemed “inconvenient” and “unproductive – those with unique genetic manifestations, those with special mental and physical limitations – the chronically ill – the elderly frail – and others.

Lord, have mercy on our world.

Forgive us for our tendency to value people based on whether or not they are made in our culture’s image, not whether or not they are made in your image.

If someone doesn’t measure up with society’s measuring-stick – independent, upwardly mobile, productive, and able to make others likewise – we tend to find it difficult to sacrifice our time for a visit; to make time for play; to slow down so that we have energy to pour ourselves out for someone who cannot do the same for us.

Lord, have mercy on us.

We cry out on behalf of people-groups who are systematically marginalized, oppressed, and persecuted. Division is deep throughout our world.

Lord, have mercy on our world.

Forgive us for our roles in these divisions.

For the times we have placed the agendas of our families, our cultures, and our nations over the agenda of your Kingdom.

For the times in which our shared heritage as your image-bearers is clouded by differences in skin color; in culture-of-origin; in language; in habits; and in socio-economic factors.

For the times in which we forget to oppose demons, and instead make demons out of those who oppose us – those with different opinions, different political persuasions, and different worldviews. 

Lord, have mercy on us. 

Now, in silent confession, let us continue our lament. May we see our own shortcomings, and may we humbly repent.

[Pause for a moment of silent confession].

We shouldn’t have to remind ourselves of these things – to not kill children, to not make second-class citizens out of the frail, and to not demonize or hate people who are made in God’s image.

Lord, have mercy on us.

Even so – the gospel is good news for folks like us.

Our Savior Jesus is not only the image of the invisible God – he is also the firstborn of all creation (Colossians 1:15).

He is familiar with the evil associated with abortion – as a child, Herod sought to take his life.

He is familiar with the shame, loneliness, and pain felt by those whom society devalues. In his crucifixion, someone had to carry his cross; someone had to give him a drink; and he was stuck in one place. For companionship, he was at the mercy of those who would stand by him and dare to risk being associated with him.

He is a victim of systematized prejudice. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46).

The Lord Jesus Christ was born in our place – lived in our place – took on our brokenness – and died in our place. Then, he rose from the dead in our place!

And the hope of his resurrection is not that we would bear less of God’s image – but that we would be restored to fully bearing God’s image!

No longer will babies die at only a few days old (Isaiah 65:20)! Lame bodies will be full of life; mute tongues will shout (Isaiah 36:6)! Every tribe and tongue will dwell together (Rev. 7:9-10), and all broken things will be made new (Rev. 21:5)!

That’s because we who are in Christ will once more bear God’s image with integrity, for we shall see him as he is, and we will be like him (1 John 3:2).

This is good news! Come, Lord Jesus!

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