I am a Christian and have been for ~70 years. More specifically I am a Christian who confesses the faith as a Lutheran. I am coming from the pro-life side. My focus today is how does being pro-life motivate us to minister to and care for people on both sides of the issue. I have done so for the last 35 years. But the current status is such that neither side will probably like what I have to say.
Being pro-life today. As a Christian I am and have been pro-life as long as I can remember. But in the clamor of today with laws being passed about abortion, we have to ask: Are we truly pro-life in all circumstances relative to this issue? For many people involved in the abortion issue would identify themselves as pro-life but they are hurting, struggling, fearful to even talk.
They are in circumstances in their lives with little control, perhaps having had an abortion and now dealing guilt, fear of attack from the pro-life side. Or perhaps the woman/girl was forced to get an abortion. What about the woman who does not get an abortion but the family and church shun the baby/child?
So, if we are pro-life, are we helping, caring for these hurting women and children? Do we hide behind the “Law of the land” thinking it is a settled issue because “abortions are illegal”? Ministry and care as pro-life is so much than abiding by the law of the land or just banning abortion.
These thoughts are not meant to be the end of the discussion but the beginning for us who are pro-life.
If you are pro-life, open your ears and eyes to those who are hurting because of abortion. That is where we can be pro-life for them.
In the Gospel reading for today (John 21:1-19) Jesus restores Peter to ministry. He does so by asking Peter three times: “Do you love Me?” Each response by Peter “Yes, Lord. You know that I love you,” is met with Jesus saying, “feed My lambs”; “Shepherd My sheep”; “Feed My sheep.” This parallels Peter’s three-fold denials when asked if He was one who followed Jesus. Peter was forgiven, restored, and called to care for people.
Note how Peter writes about this change in 1 Peter 5:1-4:
1 I exhort the elders who are among you, as one who is also an elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2 Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, take care of them, not by constraint, but willingly, not for dishonest gain, but eagerly. 3 Do not lord over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of glory that will not fade away.
Psalm 122:1 “I rejoiced with those who said to me,
‘Let us go to the house of the LORD.’”
What an interesting insight the psalmist gives to worship. He rejoices to go to Yahweh’s (the LORD’s) house! Is that true today? Perhaps some of us quietly admit that worship is less than thrilling, less than exciting. In fact, it might be a rare occasion when we could admit that we rejoiced about worshiping. An interesting parallel with basketball will help us better understand what happens in liturgy, and why we can join the Psalmist.
For a basketball game people gather to be ready for the game. They (usually!) stand for the national anthem. So at worship we gather together standing for the opening hymn in worship.
At the basketball game, the players are introduced. So, too, in worship. One side in this game is: “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit = God” and the other side is: “I, a poor, miserable sinner = us sinners.” At this point, God stops the game and declares, “You can’t play in My game. I am pure, holy, and righteous. You are sinners, deserving my full punishment.”
Then comes the surprise. Like in basketball, the jump ball starts the game. Usually the taller player can tip the ball to his or her team. In worship, this is a game between God and us. Who will the tipoff? Even the tallest basketball players are not able to compete with God. So to start the game, God wins the tip off.
In worship, since it is God’s game, He grabs the ball first and rushes down the court to tell us of His love and forgiveness. God says, “I forgive you all your sins for the sake of My Son, who is the Star of the game.” With that, we are invited to play in God’s game with God’s rules— with God’s victory already assured! We rush down the other way, scoring with our praise. We don’t shout “Yeah, God,” but we use appropriate terms such as “Praise the Lord!” or “Hallelujah.”
You keep track of who has the liturgical ball by watching the pastor. When he faces the congregation, God has the ball, speaking to the people. When the pastor faces the altar, the people have the ball—they are speaking/singing to God.
As in a basketball game with four quarters, in worship we have four quarters. When the basketball game is on the line, everyone stands in anticipation of victory. So, too, in worship, when the Gospel is read, we stand, because in effect, God says, “Right here, this is My Star, and this is how He won the game.”
When the pastor says, “The Lord be with you,” that marks a quarter break.
First quarter: Invocation, confession/absolution, and praise.
Second quarter: Scripture readings, sermon, and creed.
Third quarter: Lord’s Supper (Christ’s body and blood for you).
Fourth quarter: Final prayer and benediction/blessing.
In a basketball game, each player can commit five fouls (in high school and college) before leaving the game. But in worship, five times we hear the words “your sins are forgiven.” God doesn’t want anyone to foul out of the game! Notice the focus of each declaration:
1) Confession/Absolution (general),
2) Scripture readings (how God achieved forgiveness),
3) Sermon (application),
4) Creed (joining the Church Catholic everywhere at all times proclaiming forgiveness of sins),
5) Lord’s Supper (forgiveness of sins —specifically “for you individually”).
Years ago on Monday night football, Don Meredith had a way of signaling the essential end of the football game. He would sing, “Turn out the lights, the party’s over…” Many people think that the benediction/blessing at the end of the service functions the same way: “It’s over, finally.” But not so!
Notice throughout the liturgy, God provides the words through His Word. He gifts the Church with musicians and servants to help in worship, Our highest form of worship is receiving His gifts and praising Him with His words. Music and art enhance our worship, not to entertain us, but to point to Jesus and His saving work.
To this game God invites the bruised, broken, abandoned, abused, forgotten to gather together, to join with others. After all, if we are honest, we fit one or more of those descriptions as well. There is only one star—Jesus
The star and center of worship is Jesus: who invites you!
Unlike a basketball game in which the thrill of victory fades, in worship God declares that the victory celebrated during worship will continue with us during the week — daily. Therefore, we leave not looking for a let down, but having been built up by playing in God’s game according God’s rules—winning with Him. In other words, the benediction declares that what God has done for us continues to be for us, in us, with us, and through us.
Guess what? Next week the game is repeated. Basketball fans do not complain that “we have to go to the game next week!” Nor as worshippers do we complain about worshipping next week. What an exciting event! Ultimately we look forward to the greatest day — when we will be with the Lord forever, rejoicing at the final victory won and celebrated permanently in heaven. Therefore, we join the psalmist and say,
“I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go up to the house of the LORD.’ ”
As time passes, it is easy for many of us to think that the effects of abuse have disappeared. But we are reminded that each day these women face new challenges, grow beyond where they had been. But their pain is real, the consequences significant. This is a small reminder that not one is forgotten.
Heavenly Father, You know the challenges and attacks that each of these people have faced. Reassure them of Your presence in Jesus Christ. Grant them strength, wisdom, and insight on how best to proceed, especially in the coming days. Refresh, restore, and renew them according to Your mercy in Jesus Christ. May they continue to be a voice for the broken, the forgotten, the voiceless. Protect their hearts when attacked, and sustain them with Your Word.
Day 78 Katelynne Hall #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Loving Father, we ask for Your mercy on Katelynne in all that she does. Strengthen her for her task, grant her joy in her life and activities. In difficult times be her Rock and comfort her with your everlasting love. IJN Amen
Day 79 Anya Gillengerten #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord God, grant Your special blessings on Anya. As she faces challenges because of the abuse, may You raise up people to care for and minister to her. Bring healing, strength, and confidence. Meet all her needs in Jesus, in whose name we pray.
Day 80 Kaylee McDowell #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Father, we approach Your throne of mercy in behalf of Kaylee. Comfort, encourage, and strengthen her each day. Raise up people who can love, support, and affirm her. May You bring healing to her heart and confidence in all she does. IJN Amen
Day 81 Lindsay Woolever #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, may You sustain Lindsay even in the darkest days. Continue to watch over her, bring complete healing & strength. Whatever her needs, may You meet them. Surround her with people who love her. Psalm 34:18-19. IJN Amen
Day 82 Hannah Morrow #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Today, God, our focus is on Hannah. You know the pain she has endured, the ongioing effects. But You are a God of love. Remind her daily of that & raise up people who extend that love to her. Comfort & strengthen her. IJN Amen
Day 83 Bayle Pickel #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, bless Bayle as she moves forward. Healing continues & comfort needed. Raise up people who will care for her. We also pray for her family as they live w/consequences. Give Bayle times of refreshing & strengthening. IJN Amen
Day 84 Alexis Alvarado #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Gracious Lord, continue to bless Alexis with healing, strength, comfort, & hope. Give her wisdom as she moves forward. May You sustain her in the difficult times, encourage her in challenging times, & give her grace and peace. IJN Amen
Day 85 Morgan McCaul #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Father, today our prayers are with & for Morgan. We give thanks that You have strengthened her to be a consistent voice in theneed for change at MSU. Grant her continued healing, grace, & wisdom as she does so. IJN Amen
Day 86 Trenea Gonzcar #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, we bring before Your throne of mercy Trenea as she continues to heal. Grant her grace in the difficult days, strength to move forward, &wisdom to make healing choices. Bless her family as they too walk with her. IJN Amen
Day 87 Larissa Boyce#PrayerSurvivorsConquerors God, look w/favor upon Larissa. Whatever repercussions from the abuse, may You bring healing of spirit, mind, & body. Strengthen her for all tasks. Grant her family peace as they walk w/her. Give them wisdom, love, & compassion. IJN Amen
Day 88 Bailey Lorencen #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, we ask for Your blessings, strength, & wisdom for Bailey. Guide her as she deals w/ the past and moves forward as conqueror. Bless her family as they care for her. Reshape the bad into something even better. IJN. Amen
Day 89 Valerie Webb #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, we ask for special blessing, healing, strength, and comfort for Valerie. As she faces challenges, make her more than sufficient to meet and overcome them. Guide her daily and may she live in Your strength. IJN, Amen
Day 90 Whitney Mergens #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Heavenly Father, bless Whitney with healing and mercy. For the dark days of memories, grant her relief. Guide her as she moves forward. Surround her with people of love and truth. May she live in Your strength and clairty of speech. IJN Amen
Day 91 Marta Stern #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, may Your comfort, strength, & wisdom be w/Marta. We give thanks for her strength and willingness to speak. Bring her complete healing of body, mind, and soul. In the dark days, be her Light and compass. IJN Amen
Day 92 Clasina Syrovy #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Heavenly Father, You know Clasina’s needs. Bring healing & wholeness to her life. Guide her as she moves forward. Give her wisdom as she makes decisions & may the scars of asbuse give way to a healed body, mind, & spirit. IJN Amen
Day 93 Emma Ann Miller #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, Emma’s needs are many, some even hidden. But You know & You love her. Grant healing, strength, determination, & focus in the journey ahead. Surround her with people who love, care for, & encourage her. Bless her. IJN Amen
Day 94 Amanda Smith #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, today our prayer focus is Amanda. You have gifted her, rescued her, & now restoring her. Whatever needs she has may You more than meet them. Grant her healing, wisdom, & voice to speak against evil. Surround her w/people of love. IJN Amen
Continuation of prayers for the survivors and conquerors of the abuse by Larry Nassar. It’s easy for us to let slip the horror done and how that has affected so many including family members of those abused. These prayers can help us remember those who endured and lived in light of the consequences of the actions of one man, the inactions of several people, and the indifference at best of organizations.
Day 42 Victim 75#PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, even tho her name is not public, You know Victim 75 & all her needs. Whatever her needs, raise up people to care for her & her family. Strengthen her even now. IJN Amen
Day 43 Chelsea Williams#PrayerSurvivorsConquerors God You know the hearts of everyone. You know the hurts that Chelsea has endured, You know her needs. Guide people to her that can strengthen and encourage her. Guard her heart. IJN Amen
Day 44 Stephanie Robinson#PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord God, we pray for Stephanie today. May You guide and help her in anyway, bring clarity to issues she faces. Heal her body and soul, guard her heart in the aftermath. IJN Amen
Day 45 Carrie Hogan#PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Loving Lord, Jesus, we pray for Carrie in all her needs. Take away fears, uncertainty, & may her confidence be in You. Bless Carrie & her family with wholeness, strength, & comfort; IJN Amen
Day 46 Helena Wick#PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Your mercies are new every morning, Lord. May that especially be seen by Helena this day. Whatever challenges she faces may You be her Rock, her strength, her Comforter. IJN Amen
Day 47 Victim 28#PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, for Victim 28, You know her pain, her challenges. Grant her Your peace that passes all understanding. Strengthen and comfort her each day. Dry her tears, sustain her always. IJN Amen
Day 48 Victim 10#PrayerSurvivorsConquerors: We lift up to Your throne of mercy Victim 10. Grant her peace and healing each day. Protect her spiritually, emotionally, physically, mentally. Look with favor upon her family as well. IJN Amen
Day 49 Jamie Dantzscher#PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Merciful God, may Your presence & grace daily reassure & strengthen Jamie. Grant that each step forward means necessary resources and people will help her and her family. IJN Amen
Day 50 McKayla Maroney #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, we give You thanks for McKayla. Bring complete healing for her emotionally, mentally, & physically. Whatever her needs, raise up people who can care for & encourage her. IJN Amen
Day 51 Lindsey Lemke#PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, You know the trials that Lindsey has faced and still faces. Bring healing to her body, mind, and soul. Sustain her w/Your everlasting love and people who love her & her family. IJN Amen
Day 52 Nicole Reeb#PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Dear God, We give thanks to You that Nicole is special in Your sight. Grant healing & blessing in all she does. Surround her w/people of love and compassion. Guide her daily. IJN Amen
During our midweek Lenten services we will take a look at five places connected to Jesus’ death. Each place will expose us to the people involved in Jesus’ death. We will see people taking actions that reveal that they are not only witnesses but accomplices in Jesus’ death.
Our first look tonight will be at the upper room. The upper room is a place for intimacy, a gathering familiar and cherished by Jews. The Passover celebration was not a private event, but a family and friend oriented event.
In the midst of this, Jesus addresses two items of critical interest: 1) the identify of his betrayer, sin exposed, and 2) the institution of the Lord’s Supper for the forgiveness of sins.
As we explore tonight we begin our walk to the cross. Like the disciples we ask “Is it I, Lord.” As we examine our hearts, we, too, will see our own sin—confessing during the service. And the solution is the forgiveness that Jesus earns for us and He gives to us through the Word, through Baptism, and especially tonight, the Lord’s Supper. We cherish the weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper for the forgiveness we desperately need and want.
17 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?”
18 And He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is near; I am to keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.”’” 19 The disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover.
20 Now when evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the twelve disciples. 21 As they were eating, He said, “Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me.” 22 Being deeply grieved, they 1each one began to say to Him, “Surely not I, Lord?” 23 And He answered, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl is the one who will betray Me. 24“The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” 25 And Judas, who was betraying Him, said, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself.”
26 While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” 27 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. 29 “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:17-29 NAS)
Unbroken: Used, beaten, but never broken. My story of survival and hope. Madeleine Black (2017).
Rape is horrible, no matter how we describe it, no matter what words we choose—rape is still horrible. Madeleine Black in her book uses words, graphic words, to tell the story of her rape and close brush with death. As difficult as the book is to read, this book needs to be read—by survivors of rape, by families of those who have been raped, by friends who want to help but may not not know how to respond.
And it needs to be read by those who get impatient, frustrated, and exclaim “Just get over it!” If only it were that easy. Madeleine takes the reader through the process of dealing with rape and all the associated emotional, mental, psychological, and spiritual dimensions of rape and survival.
At the end the reader discovers that the road to “get over it” is something each rape survivor wants to do. But it can’t be done with an impatient shout or frustration from a friend, family member, or even the survivor. There is so much more to it. Madeleine writes:
I have been a victim of a crime that leaves you silent, and there is so much that stays hidden in that silence. It not only protects the perpetrators, but it also keeps the victims in the shadows, drowning in their inappropriate guilt. Now, my strength is my voice and I intend to use it, not just for me, but for others who aren’t able to speak up yet. (p. 266)
As you read the book, Madeleine walks you through the horrifying details in essentially chronological order. That means at the beginning she will generally describe the rape and associated death threats and degradation. But it isn’t until much later in the book that she gives the full details—and it is so bad that she provides an appropriate warning about the graphic nature of the events surrounding the rape. Why that approach? Because Madeleine is living with the reality of the rape, which means some events are blocked from her memory as a defense mechanism. The frustration and despair of rape includes gaps in memory. She couldn’t get past it, because she didn’t and couldn’t have the entire story in mind. The reader takes the journey with that hole in her memory—she lived that way not having answers, fighting at times to remember, thus, the reader experiences it that way, too. Consider how many years Madeleine endured those struggles to get to this point in 2017. A one week immersion in her book does not fully give the reader the understanding of what it means to “get over it.”
I have known people who have experienced horrible circumstances. Neighbors fought in World War I, one was a Bataan Death March survivor, my father, uncle and father-in-law all fought in World War II. When I was in the Navy I met several former POWs of Vietnam. Our commanding officer came to the squadron the same month I did. He was a POW for 6½ years, severely injured and was in the hospital for 15 months upon his release. I persuaded him to tell of his experiences. So every week for a year he walked us through captivity and torture chronologically from the time he was shot down until he was released. As a pastor I have ministered to and cared for rape survivors, so I was not a newcomer to the agony of many who had endured severe trauma and major accompanying (often hidden) issues.
Yet, even with that background, this was a difficult read for me. I was surprised when I got about half way through the book—I had to stop. I didn’t read for two weeks. Very uncharacteristic for me. Puzzling: how could I be hung up on reading it? After considerable reflection I finally discovered why it was so hard for me. I thought I had the answers to “help Madeleine.” But what I was really doing was trying to re-write her book, from a different perspective so that it would get to the point where I had all the answers. Yeah, I know—how arrogant and disappointing! I had failed at the one point that had always been a strong point of my ministry— listening to the person on his/her terms.
That seems so obvious but I wonder how many critics of rape survivors approach it the same way, hence the exhortation “Just move beyond it!” By doing so, we fail to understand what really happened and what the teller of the story is presenting to us and lived through. Once I came to this realization, then I could go back and read the book, in other words—let Madeleine tell the story on her terms in her way. And then I could finish the book.
While reading, I gave Madeleine updates on my progress (or lack of). She wrote several times “It gets better, stay with it.” I did stay with it, and I am glad I did. My heart aches with what she endured, my heart rejoices that she came through decades of profound struggle. And now she has a voice to add, an important voice, a strong voice through her book and through public speaking. If you or someone you know (male or female) has been raped, seek help. There are many resources. Madeleine’s book is a valuable resource for every person.
Thank you, Madeleine for your story, your perspective, and your encouragement. Well done!