March for Life 2017

January 27, 2017 • Arlington, Virginia

Matthew 5:13-19

LCMS at the March for Life 2017

The trash collectors rumbled away from the suburban neighborhood, and as sometimes happens, they’ve unknowingly dumped some of their garbage in the street. A man who lives there went out to look, and he’s confused. What is that on the pavement? At first he thinks it’s dead birds, then maybe dolls. Finally, he comprehends the horror. These are children: naked bodies scattered on the asphalt – tiny victims of abortion. How did they end up on a garbage truck?

This man—Richard Selzer, a physician—goes to the hospital. He speaks with the director, who assures him this was an accident. The little babies were, he says, “mixed up with the other debris.”

This doesn’t happen every day, he assures the doctor. And the doctor tries to reassure himself as he hears this. ‘Okay, this is orderly and sensible.’ “The world is not mad. This is still a civilized society.”

Then he reflects. “But just this once, you know it isn’t. You saw, and you know.” (Richard Selzer, Mortal Lessons)

There’s something worse here, I think, than Planned Parenthood harvesting and selling organs from the children they murder. That lurid crime, in its own twisted way, acknowledges the humanity of their victims, even giving them monetary value.

Those children on the trash truck, those babies littering the streets, had no value to mother or doctor or hospital. They were good for nothing, except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

When Jesus tells His Church, “You are the salt of the earth,” He is looking out on a world that has lost its salt, lost its way, lost its life. Salt was a costly resource in the ancient world, so much so that our word salary comes from the Latin salarium, money for a Roman soldier to buy salt. In a world without refrigeration, salt’s great value was in its preservative power. Without salt, food perishes. “It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”

So when Jesus sees a world without salt, He sees a world perishing. Once it’s spoiled, there’s nothing to do but throw it out.

But Jesus cannot look away. He stares into the horror, He sees the bodies littering the street, He sees the proud, the petulant, the porn-obsessed, and He says to His Father, “I will go. I will go into their streets, I will feel their humiliation, I will join their corpses. For they can yet be redeemed.”

St. John Chrysostom, whose commemoration is today, observed that when Jesus says to us, “You are the salt of the earth,” He’s saying that our life is not for ourselves alone.

[Jesus is saying,] ‘I am sending you … to the whole world, ill-disposed as it is.’ By saying, “You are the salt of the earth,” in fact, [Jesus] presented the whole of humankind as having lost its savor and been made corrupt by sin. [Spiritual Gems from the Gospel of Matthew, pp31f]

We have been salted by Jesus, saved by His death, preserved by His resurrection. Thus we go where Jesus sends us, ready ourselves to be trampled underfoot by a world gone mad. For Jesus sends us to where the salt is fading, where life is dying.

“You are the salt of the earth,” He says to us – but not because there’s anything noble, extraordinary, or holy about any of us. He goes on to say that He is the one who fulfills the Law and the Prophets.

He spends the rest of the chapter showing us the depth of our darkness. You think you haven’t murdered, but you had no problem gossiping about someone at church. You, Jesus says, are in danger of the judgment.

You think you haven’t committed adultery. But when you saw her, you took a second look. You are enflamed with desire; and when you repent, is it because you recognize the evil, or just because your lust has been sated? We dare not leave here with scorn for those in the grip of the evil one, his lies, his pomps, his deceits. For such were you.

“You are the salt of the earth,” Jesus says … but He also says in the same sermon, “You must be perfect.” “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”

So how does this match up with what we heard from Jesus, “I came to fulfill [the Law and the Prophets]”? It matches up like this: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.”

Your righteousness is never enough – but His is. Your salt is never enough – but His is. Your light is never enough – but His is. The commemoration of Roe v. Wade is tragic, but this Holy Supper commemorates a different death, a death by which joy comes into the world.

When we leave here to go to the March, remember that it is not the March against Abortion, or the March to Overthrow the Court. It is the March for Life. 

Yesterday The Washington Post described the last eight years of the March for Life as a grim affair. If you’ve been out there before, you know that’s not true. And the only pro-abortion protestors I’ve seen are the three people at the end who are getting all the press.

I don’t know if today will be any different, but America is increasingly angry, vitriolic. Dear friends, let us not be angry. Let us not see others as our enemies. The abortion clinic worker, the protestor, the mother wondering what to do – Jesus died for them. We are no better; we are fellow beggars who have found the bread.

The world is mad. This is not a civil society. Human beings are thrown in dumpsters, or sold for parts.

But no degree of rage will be sufficient to win. Jesus receives all rage into Himself. There is His passive righteousness, assuming the curse, suffering the cross, being made sin. That is how we win.

We have no life to offer anyone today, no life of ours. All we have is the life of Jesus. We deserve to be trampled underfoot, with all the bodies littering this vast graveyard we call earth.

But Jesus calls dead men from their graves.

Jesus makes blind men see.

Jesus takes Planned Parenthood directors like Abby Johnson and brings them to the other side of the fence.

Jesus takes post-abortive women like my friend Julie and calls her to help vulnerable women at a local women’s clinic here in Northern Virginia.

What does Jesus call you to do? It’s right in front of your eyes. Love your wife. Love your children. Don’t have any? Teach Sunday School. Go bring some diapers to your local clinic. Don’t complain about the unruly toddler in church. Smile at the mother, and you’ll do more good than you can possibly imagine.

You are the salt of the earth because you are in Jesus. You are the light of the world because you are in Jesus.

Life wins, because Jesus is risen from the dead. With Him do we march. In Him do we live, in Him do we die, with Him we shall live forever. +INJ+