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A letter from Pastor Anita: A Valued Life

Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me…
Matthew 25:40

One of the privileges I have as the pastor of our faith community is the opportunity to pray with parents as they welcome a new little one into their family.  At Lenape Valley, we mark the birth in our worship with a rose- pink for a girl, red for a boy.  And then I selfishly insist on being the one to deliver the flower allowing me that precious moment with the family.  Sunday, I was blessed with two family visits:  I prayed with Jeff and Amanda Kelly and their daughters Cara and Chloe for the gift of Jeffrey David.  Then I prayed with Jordan and Culum McNeill and their sons Kane and Mason for the gift of Cora Jade. (Note: Cora is Willa Gourley’s great granddaughter.) Each of these little ones is so precious… each so loved.  Earlier this year, this welcome was offered to Matthew and Andy and Gia.  Many of our individual families have been similarly blessed with new life in their midst.  The Bible teaches us that these little ones have immeasurable worth, not just because we love them, but because they are each created in the Image of God- the Imago Dei. (Genesis 1:27) The mark of God on each human life defines that life as sacred.  It is easy for us to value these precious little ones God has placed in our lives, but what about the rest of humanity?  Do we value all life as created in the Imago Dei?
The early Christian church taught that all human life was sacred.  This holistic value of life stood in stark contrast to the prevailing culture that valued some over others.  We see the cheapness of life in first century Israel in the swift move from the trial of Jesus to his execution on the cross.  We see this cheapness of life in the poverty forced upon people in Israel through Roman taxes.  We see this cheapness of life in the shunning of people with leprosy, leaving them outside of town to die alone.  Yet, in the face of such a cheapening of life, the early Christian church claimed the sacred value of human life found in the Imago Dei.  Every life, from conception to a natural death, was equally precious to God and should be valued by the people of God.  Psalm 139:13 teaches that God is that One who “knits our bodies together in our mother’s womb.”  Thus, life is sacred from the moment of conception.  Matthew 19:14 shows Jesus embracing the little ones, teaching the infinite value of life after birth.  Jesus taught his followers to feed the hungry and clothe the naked.  And lest his followers think that only “innocent life” is to be valued, he even sent his followers to visit people in prison. (Matthew 25) Jesus valued every life!
He said, “Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.”  In that declaration, Jesus equated the value of each individual human life with his own, because each human life is created in the Imago Dei.
The followers of Jesus in 2020 are called to this same holistic value of life, from conception to a natural death.  Many of you will see that statement as a step across the line into politics.  How often are the words “pro-life” bandied about in politics these days?  We choose our side, we mark our ballots, we judge the other according to where they stand on this “pro-life” issue.  But if we use the early Christian church as our guide, and even more importantly, if we use the Biblical teaching of the Imago Dei as our measure, we will quickly see that neither side in the political debate is “pro-life.”  The Bible is clear: no human measure or action should ever diminish the infinite value God gives to every human life- from conception to a natural death. Thus, we are called to value and protect life before birth.  And we are called to value and protect life after birth.  Does he have food to eat?  Is she receiving a good education?  Does he have healthcare?  Have we created a society where she is welcome and valued and has opportunity?  Have we cared for the earth so that the generations to come will still have God’s beautiful creation to enjoy? If that child is born in a nation enslaved by poverty and torn by war, will he find refuge in the land of the free?  If that child trespasses against our laws, will we still treat her with God’s gracious care?  And, heaven forbid, if that child takes another human life, will we stand even then to protect his life from capital punishment? God’s Word teaches us that all human life is created in the Image of God- from conception to a natural death.  We are called to love even our enemy.  Being holistically “pro-life” is not a political stand, it is the call of God.
In 2020, the Christian church finds herself, like the early church, being called to stand in stark contrast to the prevailing culture around us.  Our words, our actions, our donations, and even our vote are all ways that we can stand for all life in the face of a world that regularly de-values “the least of these.”  There is no easy path through the messiness of our current world, no perfect candidate, no simple solution.  But still God calls us to stand for life, all life, at all cost. I invite you to pray with me for the healing of our nation.  I invite you to pray with me for the transformation of our world.  I invite you to pray with me as we prepare to vote, that we would discern not our will but God’s.  May God’s Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven, in us and through us.
On my knees… Anita
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