Avoid “Life Righteousness” this Sunday!

This Sunday is actually going to be the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, which has in recent history become an occasion for some congregations to have “Life Sunday” or “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday” on the Sunday nearest to Jan 22nd.  Another great suggestion for celebrating the Sanctity of Life would be on March 25th, the Feast of the Annunciation.

First of all, Lutherans for Life does a good job with Life issues, but as I was thinking of my sermon for this Sunday I thought of some things that are tempting and some things which may cause trouble.  As I have been one to criticize “Missional Righteousness” from those who make everything about missions and how much witnessing we are doing, I would apply the same caution to those who start to establish some form of “Life Righteousness” based upon things that they have or haven’t done and also the views which they hold in relation to Life issues.

That being said, preachers this Sunday will have to deal with the temptation to preach against specific actual sins while not making sure that all hearers are cut to the quick rather than pinning medals on one another’s chests for being “pro-life”.  By this I mean that this Sunday still needs to be about sin and grace, and yes there are specific “anti-life” sins that are out there, but the problem with specifics is that someone who has not done them will not feel guilt from it, but actually may begin building their ladder into heaven on their works.  There should be always a good dose of Original Sin so that all may be laid low.

For all of the preaching and talking against things that we find ourselves doing this weekend, we need remember that there are wounded souls sadly misled by the devil, the world, or sinful flesh to commit sins against God with respect to His gift of Life.  We need also remember that Life issues go beyond abortion, euthanasia, eugenics and other end of life issues.  They go to the very attitude we carry towards life itself, the attitude we have towards children, towards the elderly, the incapacitated, and various other things.  Life issues can include medical treatments, forms of birth control (in fact birth control as a concept is a life issue), advanced directives, and so forth.  All of these things are involved in “Life”.  Other more seasoned preachers/hearers may add other specific life issues in their comments below.

So this Sunday, as you celebrate the gift of physical Life, remember that the only Life you have before God is made possible by the righteousness of Jesus.  Even your “Life Righteousness” is a filthy rag without Jesus.  Remember Augsburg IV!



About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.


Avoid “Life Righteousness” this Sunday! — 12 Comments

  1. “We need also remember that Life issues go beyond abortion, euthanasia, eugenics and other end of life issues. They go to the very attitude we carry towards life itself, the attitude we have towards children, towards the elderly, the incapacitated, and various other things.”

    Life issues also include our attitude toward unwed mothers and those who have had abortions. Is the way we treat them encouraging others to consider secret abortions? When you consider the full demand of “Thou shalt not kill,” more of us than we like to admit are also guilty of abortion.

    “Abortion breaks a mother’s heart.”

    Here’s one thing the Roman Catholics are doing right: http://hopeafterabortion.com/.

  2. This is a good point. Too many conservative churches only preach the law in two ways: 1) The generic sins we all commit (i.e. not loving God with our whole heart) and 2) The “really bad” sins (like abortion) that “those” people commit. On the other side of it, those liberal churches that still believe in sin are hypersensitive to any notion of “those people” and end up only preaching #1.

    Of course, both kinds of churches are suffering from the same error: rather than preaching the Law, they generally only preach about the Law. They want everyone to know the abstract fact that it condemns everyone, but they specifically want to avoid anyone ever being cut to the quick. After all, when we’re cut to the quick, the law written on our hearts makes us feel in danger of hellfire. This is supposed to propel Christians toward the Gospel. Unfortunately, too many of us think that certainty of salvation means that nobody should ever question their salvation at all (rather than letting the question be formed by the Law and then providing the glorious life-giving answer in the Gospel).

    The problem is that Original Sin doesn’t cut people to the quick unless they’ve also been cut to the quick on specific sins. The only way anyone understands it as more than a legal technicality (which is not particularly cutting) is to understand their many compounding specific failures that make up a pattern of utter depravity before God.

    Accordingly, Pastors should regularly preach on specific sins that some but not all of their congregation have committed. If he does this every Sunday from the lectionary (rather than hovering around his pet peeves on a few special Sundays), then every congregant will have many Sundays where they are personally cut to the quick. As a result, they will actually understand their sinful nature every Sunday.

    So “Life Sunday” is indeed dangerous if that’s the only time one addresses a specific sin (which happens way too often in our churches). Instead, any “Life Sunday” should come after the Sunday where you preach that gossip is a sin, before the Sunday where you preach that divorce is a sin, and in the midst of a year of Sundays in which you preach against non-marital sex, wives refusing to submit to their husbands, husbands not loving their wives, sloth, gluttony, envy, etc, etc. Then, when you preach original sin every Sunday, we really get it. That way we can all be cut to the quick and all understand the great gift we’ve been given.

  3. Haven’t done any special Sundays…other than when our missionary visits…. for years.

    I remember visiting Hohenschwangau (LCMS Headquarters) as a 4th year seminary student. They set us down in super-articulated chairs made by Porshe (we were told) and one guy listed off all the special Sundays that we were encouraged to do. I remember sitting next to my buddy and laughing like a loon at how nearly every Sunday of the year was dedicated to a particular cause. The one that really got us going was PMS Sunday (later changed to TIM: Together in Mission) We lost it…regained our composure… looked at each other and lost it again….you know the cycle. I like to imagine that that incident led to the change of the name.

    Then when I became a Pastor, the endless flow of special Sunday bulletin inserts started arriving. They were almost as bad as the three-ring binders. At least the three ring binders could be reused as confirmation notebooks. What to do with all the special sunday inserts? I did use some of them to level a wobbly table once; another time I shredded them and added them to my compost pile; but most of the time, they went over the shoulder and into the bin unopened. I really appreciated when they’d have a sticker “important blah blah blah sunday materials inside!” That made it easier to file them properly.

    I’ve always seen “special sundays”… as outside forces seeking to insinuate themselves at the front and center of the most precious time that congregation has: Jesus serving us in word and sacrament.

    I agree with Matt that staying with the Lectionary gives ample opportunity to address various sins including abortion. That’s a much more organic approach which does not violate the call of the pastor and make him into some sort of huckster.

  4. I would also encourage us not to forget to address “sins of omission” on Life Sunday. Don’t forget that the woman or couple who chooses life is very likely to require support beyond that decision, and who better than The Body of Christ to provide that support?

  5. @Rev. Michael Trask #3
    I’ve always seen “special sundays”… as outside forces seeking to insinuate themselves at the front and center of the most precious time that congregation has: Jesus serving us in word and sacrament.

    Some things deserve mention; others, like this one, can certainly be included in the general prayer as well; still others are best served with a bulletin insert only, so as not to minimize the time spent on the readings for the day and the sermon. IMHO, of course!

  6. Too late! Just saw the bulletin for our church this Sunday … Sanctity of Life service … I have another question … our pastor is following the lectionary as in the LSB, but for the past six weeks his sermons have been a steady diet of preaching on the Old Testament lesson … is this normal for an LCMS pastor who says he is confessional? I don’t remember it being done this way before but we are becoming more and more contemporary in our services … even to the point of mixing Divine Services … Thanks and forgive if this isn’t the proper forum for this question!

  7. @Cradle Lutheran #7
    A pastor may preach from any of the three lessons, or even the appointed psalm. Free texting is also useful on rare (RARE) occasion. Some men strive to preach only from the Gospel lesson, but there is no such law or rule. Your pastor may be trying to preach Christ from the Old Testament, a very worthwhile thing.

    I am not sure what you mean by the mixing of Divine Services? You may have to explain further.

    I would suggest taking your concerns to your pastor about these matters.

  8. Pastor Scheer, Thank you for the response! What I mean by the mixing of the Divine Services is he will start out using Divine Service I and, especially if it is communion Sunday (we have Communion twice a month) switch to Divine Service III … not that I mind that much (at least he’s staying with the Divine Service on traditional Sundays) but it is very confusing for those attending that are not familiar with Lutheran services … Have tried to talk to him about issues in the past but have learned he listens but doesn’t correct his errors even if pointed out to him (and not just from me either). Have tried going to Elders as well. No dice … they don’t see anything wrong with what he is doing … alas …

  9. @Cradle Lutheran #9
    The mixing you mention is pretty standard fare for the LCMS. LSB introduced five different divine services, which was meant to allow for the various diversities in our Synod.

    Does your church have “non-traditional Sundays?”

    Switching services can be very confusing…

    I don’t know if I would call what he is doing “errors”. They are a part of our Synod’s hymnal.

    Sorry that you have felt that you have no voice on the matter any longer.

  10. Point of order, just because something is a part of the synod’s hymnal does not make it error-free.

  11. @Cradle Lutheran #9

    First, I didn’t think the five services in the new hymnal were all that different form each other. Yes they have variety, but I feel they have a certain ordos that runs through them. I guess I don’t see it as such a sytem shock that going from a traditional to a very edgy contemporary would be.

    Also, my congregation, therefore my pastor’s direction, is to use four of the services (not using #5) and rotate them seasonally, so that during different parts of the church year you follow the one service for a few months, and then the next, and then… Maybe that can be a suggestion to your pastor.

    At my previous congregation they did use all 5 for the lone traditiaonl service, but they ran through them all, so every fifth week you hit the service again. A slower learning curve, but eventually more memory retention so after maybe a year, you just never really thought about a different service each week. You just knew them all.

    In the end, I guess a bit of adiaphora. I hope you can find a method that works best for your congregation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.