Created, Redeemed, and Called by the Lord

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“But now thus says the Lord, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).
Grace and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ!
We are in the second week of the new year, a couple of days past Epiphany, the end of the twelve days of Christmas. Are you experiencing a little bit of a letdown? The Christmas decorations have been packed away and there’s a bit of a holiday hangover? Or maybe the credit card bills have started coming in and the reality of just how much you got in the commercial spirit of Christmas has come home to roost? Perhaps your struggle to keep this year’s New Year’s resolution reminds you of your miserable failure last year? Maybe your family gatherings were not so much like those painted by Norman Rockwell, but more like an episode of Jerry Springer? And then there’s the weather that’s generally so cold and dreary this time of year. It’s no wonder counselors and psychologists say they see increased signs of depression and anxiety just after the first of the year.
What better time, then, to clarify what is the value of our life than this Sunday in which we observe the Baptism of Our Lord? Our value is not found in the “new me” because of the weight I lost as a result of my New Year’s resolutions. Our value is not wrapped up with holiday happenings, as great as they may have been. Our value is not connected to what gifts we gave or received at Christmas. As wonderful as they may be, our value is not exclusively found in our connections with family and friends we visited during the holidays. And as difficult and/or painful as our circumstances may be, the value of our life is not found in the status of our health, not even in “the quality of our life” as determined by societal standards. Rather, our value is with God, who came to be one of us.
In the Incarnation, Christ values human life so much that He starts human life as one us in the womb of the Virgin Mary. As He begins His earthly ministry by being baptized by John, Jesus identifies Himself with us because His baptism is to fulfill all righteousness on His way to the cross. Christ was not baptized for His benefit, since He is without sin. Instead, He is baptized for our benefit as He connects Himself to us. Your true identity and value as a human being is not because of who you are or what you have or haven’t done. It is always because of who Christ is and what He has done for you.
Here is where you find your true value as a human being: You have been created, redeemed, and called by the Lord.
But this not only gives your life value, it speaks to the value of every human life. And on this Sanctity of Life Sunday we are going to see how this speaks profoundly to all of the life issues. It really is where we need to start before addressing any of the life issues. It answers the question of what God has done that gives value to all human life. Our text contains the answer in three simple words: created, redeemed, and called.
The first word is “created.” Every human life has value because God creates every human life. The Bible pictures this pro-creative activity as an intimate and hands-on work. “Your hands fashioned and made me” (Job 10:8). “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13). We could all have a tag sewed to our feet like Aimee’s stepmother, Kathy, puts on the teddy bears she makes. Our tag would read “Lovingly hand made by God.”
Now, I’m sure that some of you might be wondering at this point, “So, if every human being is the work of God’s hands, then how do we explain Down syndrome babies or other babies with various physical or mental challenges?”
The short and simple answer to that question is this: They are the work of God’s hands. They are God’s children, too.


And God has a couple of questions for us about His children. “Do you question Me about My children, or give Me orders about the work of My hands?” He asks in Isaiah 45:11. And again from Isaiah, God challenges, “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘You did not make me’? Can the pot say to the potter, ‘You know nothing’? (29:16). Does anyone here really want to challenge God about what He makes?
That God makes tiny little human beings from the moment of conception is clear in this verse from Psalm 51, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (v. 5). Since sinfulness is a human condition and we are sinful from the moment of conception, we must necessarily be human from the moment of conception.
This verse also leads us to the next word that describes what God has done that gives value to all human life—redeemed.
Since we are sinful from the moment of conception, we need a Savior from the moment of conception. And the Good News that we’ve been focusing on the last few weeks during Advent and Christmas announces that we do have such a Savior. “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call Him Jesus” (Luke 1:31). We often read this at Christmas time, but note that there are two events in Jesus’ life described here—His conception and His birth.
And it is His conception that is miraculous, not His birth. When the “power of the Most High” overshadowed Mary (1:35a), Jesus was conceived without the aid of an earthly father, which is why the angel also refers to Him as “the Son of God” (35b) from the moment of His conception. “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us” (John 1:14a) at Jesus’ conception, not His birth. Jesus was not only the “God-man,” He was the “God-embryo”! His holiness at conception takes the place of our un-holiness at conception. What value this gives to all embryos from that very moment!
But there is more. Jesus needed to develop in a womb. He needed feet to walk among us. He needed hands to touch and heal the sick. He needed a mouth so He could teach. He needed a heart to be filled with compassion for the lost. He needed a body so He could hold little children in His arms and bless them.
And there are deeper reasons for Jesus’ human development in the womb. He needed those hands and feet to be pierced as He was nailed to the cross in our place. He needed a mouth to utter that forsake cry so we never have to. He needed a heart to pump blood that would be shed and bring cleansing for sin, and them be stilled in death. And He needed a body to buried in a tomb, and then to rise again victorious over death and the grave! Jesus needed a body to redeem us!
In 1 Corinthians, Paul says that we were “bought at a price” (6:20a). He uses the language for redemption, for purchasing back from slavery or repaying debt. All Jesus did from His conception onward was part of that price. Paul reminds the Ephesians pastors of the magnitude of this price when he tells them, “Be shepherds of the Church of God, which He bought with His own blood” (Acts 20:28b). God did not purchase is with the blood of a bull or a lamb, God purchased us with His own blood in the person of Jesus! The price paid for sinful humanity was high. The value it gives to human life is incalculable.
And remember, this price was paid for every human being. Jesus Christ died “once for all” (Hebrews 9:12). Not every human being knows this, of course, and it is the task of the Church to share this message. But the fact remains, Jesus’ life and death and resurrection give value to all human life.
So, we have two pretty simple answers so far to our question, “What has God done that gives identity and value to human life?” Every human being has value because every human being is the work of God’s hands in creation and the work of His hands stretched out on a cross in redemption. Every human being is created and redeemed.
One answer is left. Every human life has value because every person is someone God desires to call into an eternal relationship with Him; He “wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). He wants every human life to be splashed with His Holy Spirit in waters of Baptism. He who created every life with His hands and redeemed every life with His hands want to call us all as His children and hold us, indeed “engrave” us, in the palm of His hands (Isaiah 49:16) now and in eternity.
Created, redeemed, called—it is not complicated or confusing or controversial or uncomfortable at all. It’s very simple. Yet its simplicity speaks profoundly to all of the life issues. It is where we need to start before addressing any of the life issues. It helps to answer questions about our true value in Christ, and since today is Sanctity of Life Sunday I would like to close by giving some example of the questions pertaining to life issues it answers. For example:
1.   Why do we strive to protect tiny embryos in Petri dishes or frozen in a fertility clinic? Because they are created, redeemed, and little one whom God wants to call.

2.   Why do we speak up for those in the womb who cannot speak? Because they are created, redeemed, and little ones whom God wants to call.

3.   What do we teach our little children so that when they are older, sexual promiscuity and abortion will be unthinkable? They are very special because they are created, redeemed, and called by the Lord.

4.   What do we tell young people as they struggle with temptations and tough choices, mood swings, and confused feelings about their identity? We want them to know whose they are and that they can make good choices because they are created, redeemed, and called by the Lord.

5.   What do we share with that unmarried, pregnant college freshman who is ashamed and afraid and sees only one way out? We share that she is loved and forgiven and not forsaken because she is created, redeemed, and called by the Lord.

6.   What do we say to women and men crushed by the guilt of an abortion decision? They are created, redeemed, and called by the Lord, and therefore nothing can separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

7.   What do we share with the infertile couple desperately desiring a child? They are created, redeemed, and called by the Lord, and they can trust in the ways and will of their God.

8.   What can we say to those who miscarry a child they already know and love? They are created, redeemed, and called by the Lord, and God holds them in His hands.

9.   What do we have to share with the frail elderly who wonder about God’s purpose for their lives? They are created, redeemed, and called by the Lord, and as long as God gives them life, He gives their lives value and purpose.

10. How can we help the family struggling with a difficult end-of-life decision for a loved one? We can remind them that they and their loved one are created, redeemed, and called and called by the Lord. They can make a decision they believe is in accordance with God’s will and trust that He will work through it in His mercy and grace.
No doubt, this list could be much longer. But the answer will still be the same. Our lives have value, every life has value because every life is someone created by God, redeemed by the blood of Jesus, and someone He either has called or wants to call into an eternal relationship with Him.
This is where you find your true identity in Christ. You are God’s child, one of His chosen people. You have been created, redeemed, and called by the Lord.  Indeed, for Jesus’ sake, you are forgiven for all of your sins.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Adapted from Life Sunday Sermon by Rev. James I Lamb, Executive Director, Lutherans For Life

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