This is the first sermon of a four part series I preached addressing the Church concerning the practice of Abortion.

Luke 10.25-37
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[c]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d]”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[e] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
As a Christian and a man I think I am becoming more aware of the difficulties that face me in addressing a subject like abortion. That is mostly because as a Christian I have to admit that most of our address toward the subject of abortion has been nothing but hypocritical at best. And, being a man, I have to acknowledge that men have taken the opportunity to use a subject like abortion for gain in political power, and status, while alienating women and children from families and communities and each other. I find both of those issues rather difficult to overcome and want to begin by asking for your forgiveness, ladies, because of them. Will you forgive me? Then, well, forgive me.
Even though I find the subject of abortion difficult to address I think it is imperative that as a congregation and, especially as members of the Church, that learn to address the subject of Abortion and all this attached issues in a distinctly Christian manner. Because, as I have said, I believe much of the language and thinking concerning abortion is done in terms the World, or State, dictates. So I want to be clear about whom I am and to whom I am talking. I am a Christian Man, and a Christian Theologian and Pastor, and even more importantly I think, I am YOUR pastor. That means I am here to address you people and not the general public or some random anonymous group. I also want to be clear that I am going to do everything I can not to talk about abortion as a legal issue. What I mean by that is I am convinced, and I hope to convince you, that it is a bad idea for the Church and her Christians to address the subject of abortion under the terms of “Pro-life” and “Pro-Choice.” And that is a bad idea because those terms have nothing to do with the New-Testament. I am convinced the Church is called to address a subject like abortion in the terms of Luke 10, “care of our neighbor” and in Matthew 25, “care of the least of these”.
In this sermon I will try to make three points. The first point is this; the Gospel is FOR women and children. The second point is that the customary language and framework of the abortion issue under pro-life and pro-choice groups and terms is unbiblical and therefore un-Christian because those terms assume a woman is all alone and ultimately responsible for herself and the life of her child. The third point is that if we as Christians hope in any way to actually address the issue of abortion we must reframe the issue in terms of responsibility and hospitality and not so called “rights.”
Point One: The Gospel is FOR women and children.
Perhaps I am not being honest enough, because as I read the Gospel accounts it seems clearer to me now that Jesus treats women and children as groups worthy of respect and honor and most importantly—he treats them as people worthy to inherit his Divine Kingdom. This was not the usual attitude of society in that time, and sadly in many ways this continues to be the case. Too often Women and Children are treated like second class citizens. This happens within society but also within faith traditions like our own. Now, I do not think in this particular parish that, as far as I have noticed, women are treated as second class. But I have noticed that children are. As pastor this is all too clear for me at the communion rail. Where we are called to be in communion with all the baptized. But we clearly segregate ourselves from our children. We treat them as second class in the Church because they do not know enough? Wait a minute? You know what that sounds like to me? Turn of the century chauvinism. “Women can’t hack it in this sort of business; they’re just not strong enough or smart enough.” Kids cannot handle the body and blood of Jesus, they are not smart enough. Please.
Contrary to our current though and practice as the Church, the Gospel accounts clearly communicate that above all JESUS favors Children. He regularly addresses his Male Apostles by simply putting a child in their midst, and referring to the necessity of being child-like. And, if that were not enough to convince you that children are not second class citizens in the kingdom of God—JESUS himself was first a fetus! That is right. The SON of GOD came as a Child in the first place.
And also Jesus in the Gospels seems to favor women. I mean, it was Women after all that Jesus first gave the proclamation of His Resurrection to. And, given our text from Luke today, I think it is absolutely impossible to think that Jesus does not have women and children in mind. When Jesus says, “go and do likewise,” that is, go and be neighborly; I doubt very much he is withholding women and children as the recipients of neighborliness. As if men should only be neighborly and care for other men who they see in trouble, need, hurting, adversity, but if there was a beaten, hurting, child or pregnant and scared women, we should just pass by. This brings me to my second point.
The usual way of framing the abortion issue, and talking about it, makes women and children enemies and not neighbors. That is why I think the terms pro-life and pro-choice are completely unbiblical and need to be thrown out of the Christian language. Why is it that women have abortions? Women I know and have talked to, and many women I know about, have abortions for two main reasons: they fear they cannot handle the financial and physical demands of a child, and they fear that the child will ruin previous relationships that are important to them.
An example of the first fear is this. I knew of a woman with two children. The younger child had Down Syndrome. This lady recently divorced and also recently found out that she was pregnant with another child, but the Father of the Child was not going to help in any way (which brings up a connected issue to this discussion for our next sermon). She had no one to help her and felt like she could not handle another child.
An example of the second fear: a young high school aged girl finds out she is pregnant. When she tells her mother and step-father they respond by telling her that they do not want the responsibility of helping raise the child. She got herself into this mess and she needed to get herself out. If she chose to keep the child she had to move out, get a job, etc. And, again, the father of the child wanted nothing to do with the child or this girl. Fearing that her relationship with mother and father, grandparents and relatives, would be destroyed by the birth of the child she had an abortion.
In both of these cases the woman did not have an abortion because she was exercising some freedom of choice, but because she felt she had no choice whatsoever. In both cases, and many more I know about, the responsibility for caring for the child fell entirely and only on the woman, and thereby made the woman think about her child in un-neighborly terms because of the potential outcomes, which brings me to the third point.
A Christian response to the reality and practice of abortion must reframe the issue in terms of the care for neighbor or care of the least. The pro-choice and pro-life dichotomy and debate pits women against children. The rights of the mother to choose are pitted again the rights of a fetus to live. The become enemies. One possible and I think very good Christian response to this issue focuses on the care of neighbor.
To get my point across, open up that hymnal in front of you. Turn to page 271. Look right in the middle of the page to the paragraph with the red letter title, “The newly baptized may be welcomed with the following.” Everybody there? Ok, let us read that together. We make a promise to welcome, care for, received, and share in the gifts of God’s Kingdom with anyone who is washed in that font (back to the point about treating kids as second class citizens, or are we just fine with being liars before God?). That means we are, as Christians, a people called to be neighborly and not divisive. We are called to welcome anyone who comes through those doors and waters, and not get dragged into games that lead to pitting women against children. This is not an option, it is NOT YOUR CHOICE OR YOUR RIGHT! It is your duty and responsibility as Christians and members of Christ Jesus and one another.
However, present day examples of what I am talking about here seem hard to come by, especially in our Lutheran Tradition. So, I have an example from a pastor who served in Alabama. Will Willimon was the pastor at a largish Methodist Church. The tradition in that Church is that when a young woman comes to the congregation and has a child, or children, that she cannot care for the Church takes the child, baptizes the child, and then hands that child over to an older couple of the congregation. They take the Child into their homes and raise it. Do you know what happens to the young mother? She comes too. In effect the Church hands the child and the mother over to the Church community so that both of them can get raised. And, when Will Willmon was asked about the practice he simply said, “That is the way we do it.” And he is right. That is the way WE do it.
This is what it looks like for a congregation of the Church to take seriously the call to care for the neighbor. This Church offers us a completely different way of doing things. A way that is first led by the concern for neighborliness, compassion, care, and above all these things the Words of Jesus. And not so much the legal words of a nation-state.
As Christians we cannot put away the words of Jesus in favor of the Words of the World, we cannot continue to pit women against children. We must no longer in effect say, “Well, you got yourself into this mess, you decide what happens and you bear the consequences.” As I said, YOU are the Church. You are the face of almighty GOD to this world and its people—especially its women and children. Our response must therefore be to care for our neighbors, which include women and children, and shoulder the responsibility to care for them as the Samaritan of Jesus parable did. And, if you think you can get out of it Jesus then says, “Go and do likewise.” Because if we plaster billboards with messages whose only end is to evoke guilt, or picket abortion clinics where women are entering because they feel they have no choice, we are in effect closing our doors in their faces. And to do that, to close the doors on women and children whom Jesus himself favors, turns our backs on the words of Jesus and his orders for his Christians. And if we turn our backs to the words of Jesus, we turn our backs on the words of his Father. And that is no place to be if we are calling ourselves Christian. Amen.