Life Sunday Sermon 2021
1 Corinthians 12:22 “From Invisible to Indispensable”
Modified from Rev. Jonathan Lange, Pastor, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Kemmerer, Wyoming, and Our Saviour Lutheran Church, Evanston, Wyoming, and 3rd Vice President, Wyoming District LCMS
There are a thousand different reasons that something can be invisible. It may be hidden from sight by some barrier or across a vast distance. Sometimes things are just too tiny. An atom or molecule, even most living cells, cannot be seen with the naked eye. Sometimes things are invisible because they are camouflaged. They blend into the background. Others are hiding in plain sight. We look at it. We see it, but not really. For, our eyes are expecting it to look different than it does. Then, there is the mental block. It has nothing to do with its size, location, or unexpected form. There are simply some things that we don’t want to look at. This type of blindness can’t be cure without a change of heart.
This morning, all these forms of invisibility are in view. At the very beginning of life, size is the issue. Your first moment was as a single cell—a zygote one tenth of a millimeter across. Barriers were also an issue. Layers deep in the body of your mother you were hidden. Even if we could peer through skin and into the womb, even if we could magnify your size, your shape was not at all like it is today. From a round sphere, you came to resemble a blackberry. Then by the fifth day, you had a few hundred cells that looked like a balloon filled with water. It took you growing for five weeks before the first hint of an eye or arms or legs were visible. It took two more weeks before you had fingers and toes.
By worldly standards, you were not recognizably human until this point. But you were still you. You could always say to God, “You knitted me together in my mother’s womb… My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth” (Psalm 139:13, 15). Invisible, yes, to the naked human eye. But not to God. And not to your brothers and sisters who know Him—and you—by faith.
To not be seen is a dangerous thing. When we do not see other people, we can accidentally hurt them or blindly withhold our love and care from them. That’s why, throughout our lives, we do things to make ourselves visible to one another. We put orange flags on trikes and bikes to make kids safer. Safety cones and strobe lights multiply all around. All of us do things to be noticed. Hair, clothing, actions, are often motivated by a desire to be seen by others.
It should go without saying—but we must say it anyway—that it is not only the small and young who can suffer from invisibility. The elderly, the poor, the sick, the addicted, those who are struggling with sin right before our eyes can be out of sight, out of mind. We see them, but we don’t see them. Sometimes because they are good at hiding. Sometimes because we just don’t want to see. One of the sad tragedies of lock downs and limitations is the rise of loneliness, of the feeling of being forgotten, or being invisible. To be a For Life people is to be a congregation that notices the smallest, the oldest, the weakest, and the neediest. We are called to notice physical needs as well as spiritual needs—the need to be protected from physical harm and from spiritual harm. We should consider our neighbor’s needs to be healed in body, mind, and spirit—to be forgiven and restored.
That means consciously taking off the blinders. Examine your own heart to find those sins that are preventing you from seeing your neighbor. Are you self-absorbed and unwilling to be bothered? Our world is filled with false philosophies that deny the value of human life at its weakest stages—both old and young. It is easy to use empty rhetoric as a cover for disengagement from the discourse. We can shrug our shoulders and pretend that the question is just too complicated to come to a conclusion … “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:7).
Does your desire for the praise of men keep you from defending the lives of others? This is a powerful temptation. We are well-acquainted with the social shaming that happens when we stand up for the reality of life, God’s created identities of male and female, marriage of one man and one woman. Many a Christian is drawn away from the faith by stifling his public confession of the truth of God. He thinks that he can hold it secretly without getting into public controversy. But bit by bit the truth is driven out until he no longer believes it, even in his heart.
Maybe it is unconfessed sin in your own life that holds you back from speaking up to warn your neighbor against the same sin. Maybe, it is your own dark episode that is just too painful to face that keeps you from being a voice for the voiceless. God does not want you to live with that pain. Jesus earnestly desires for you to give it wholly to Him so that your guilt and shame are completely washed away, and you are healed.
That’s why we repent. Repentance is an opportunity for deep cleansing and deep healing. Such healing repentance seeks the blood of Christ to heal us from all sins. Jesus’ blood not only takes away guilt, it also takes away the shame of sin. Jesus heals everything about us, including blinded eyes that keep us from seeing our neighbors. That’s why seeing your own sin is the first step in having your eyes opened to see your neighbor.
When we repent, we recognize what St. John the apostle writes about all of us, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared” (1 John 3:2). It’s true! We are not yet what we will be. We are small, immature, sick, and broken. But we are also children of God, children even now! There is no limit of Christian size or maturity before you have the full rights of the sons of God. There is no vague and fuzzy line between a “baby Christian” and a “real Christian.” By Baptism God the Father “birthed you from above,” (cf. John 3:3). That makes you a full member of the family of God immediately and without qualification. Part of the body of Christ.
There is a direct analogy, here, to members of the human family. Becoming human is not a matter of size, strength, place, or usefulness. People don’t grow into human beings. Nor do they gradually weaken into non-human “vegetables.” People are created whole and entire from the moment of conception, and they remain people created in the image of God for eternity.
This is how Jesus sees you. He gives you His full attention. He values you so highly as to give His own life for your life. He knows that His Father knitted you together for a specific purpose out of sheer “fatherly, divine goodness and mercy” (SC II.1). So, He also gladly gives you His mercy and grace. He does not see you as a life to be tossed aside. He nurtures you, protects you, heals you, and attends to your every need. He sees you as utterly indispensable.
Just as you have gone from invisible to indispensable, God the Holy Spirit has given you new eyes to see your every neighbor. And in seeing them as they truly are, they are no longer invisible but indispensable. When God opens our eyes to see the world as it truly is, we no longer see our brothers and sisters as burdens and responsibilities. We see them as gifts—precious and indispensable. And every time you see your neighbor in this way, you are reminded that God so sees you. You have moved from invisible to indispensable. From worthless to invaluable. From unseen to seen. God sees you. He sees you in your immaturity. He sees you in your sickness and sin. He sees you in your guilt and shame. And He does not turn His eyes from you but turns His heart to you. He spends everything He is and everything that He has to protect you, to heal you, to forgive you.
He wants you to live. He made you to live. He is the one keeping you alive even today. In Baptism He gave you His Holy Spirit and placed you into the Church because He wants you to live forever with His entire family. Life is holy because God is holy. And every life He gives, both now and in eternity, is a gift of the Holy God, the Lord and giver of Life. Amen.