by Susan Cyre
The infanticide offhandedly described by Gov. Northam of Virginia shocked most Americans. The Northam interview coupled with New York’s just-passed radical abortion law, is a wake-up call to all of us to renew our commitment to stop the killing of our born and preborn children. What can we do?
We should make pro-life the first criteria in the election of any official. We also should support pro-life pregnancy centers that care for women in crisis.
There is more, however, that we can do. We should make sure that the medical insurance plan that covers our pastors and church staff does not pay for abortions. For example, the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s self-insured medical plan, which pastors are required to participate in, covers abortions through all nine months of pregnancy.
That means that donations by pro-life people put in the offering plate on Sunday morning in their local church will pay for abortions. If you are in a Presbyterian Church (USA) congregation and want to know how to redirect your medical dues, contact Presbyterians Protecting Life .
To live out the truth that each preborn child is a child, we should encourage local hospitals to support families in the death of a baby, full-term or premature. When our first grandchild was born at less than 24 weeks and only lived a few hours, the hospital social worker, affiliated with “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep”, ministered to our family. She provided a tiny outfit and hat for Caleb and then took black and white remembrance photos of him, including one of his little hand resting in his mom and dad’s hands. She made a plaster cast of his foot and hand for his parents to keep. Caleb’s photo is on our mantel alongside our other grandchildren. He is loved and not forgotten.
Another hospital’s ministry is described in the article, “One Hospital’s Ministry” in Theology Matters, found here.
Congregations also have a responsibility and opportunity to minister to families in the death of a premature child. Our son and his wife chose to have a memorial service for Caleb to give thanks for his life and witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They listed Caleb’s death in the newspaper obituary section and included the picture of his hand in his parents’ hands. In doing that, they witnessed to the community that Caleb is a precious child loved by them and by God.
During the memorial service we celebrated the gift of Caleb’s life and were reminded that God knew Caleb and loved him before the foundation of the world. We were reminded that God knit Caleb together in his mother’s womb and is holding him now in his loving arms.
Many years ago a woman challenged me saying that the reason we have so many abortions in this country is that the church did not treat the death of premature children as the loss of a child. Her statement made me look at myself as a pastor. Early in my first pastorate, a couple’s preborn child died in the first trimester. I prayed with them and thought I had done ministry. Nothing in seminary prepared me for ministering to families in the death of a premature child. My ministry to them was sadly inadequate.
After that time our church partnered with area hospitals to offer a worship service semi-annually to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and give thanks for the life of preborn children. We recognized that often when a couple’s preborn child dies, they receive no support from their church family because they have not told family and friends about the pregnancy. This service offered them a time to celebrate the gift of their child and grieve his/her death. At the service we read Scripture passages like Psalm 139:13-18 and Revelation 21:1-6. There was a short meditation and prayers expressing deep sorrow, seeking God’s comfort, and trusting God’s perfect love. Parents were invited to come forward and light a candle from the Christ candle and name their child either publicly or in their heart. (For the order of worship and litany used click here.
A woman in her late seventies explained to me that she was unable to come to the preborn worship service because the loss of her preborn child more than five decades earlier was still too painful. Her sorrow had never been comforted.
Our church also discovered that the local cemetery donated plots for preborn children in their “Angel Section”. If a congregation’s local cemetery does not donate plots, congregations could purchase them and donate them to families. Congregations could also purchase infant caskets through a local funeral home.
Our culture’s embrace of abortion is an opportunity for the church to not only teach and preach the sanctity of life, but also to minister to those families who have suffered the tragic death of a preborn or stillborn child. It is the church’s ministry that witnesses to the world the truth of Scripture that each child, born and preborn, is created in God’s own image. Each child, born and preborn, is loved by God and precious to Him.
Susan Cyre, M.Div. is the Executive Director Emeritus of Theology Matters and lives in Fredericksburg, VA with her husband, Walling.
Presbyterian Scholars Conference
Harbor House, Wheaton, IL
October 23rd and 24th, 2018
Location: Harbor House, Wheaton, IL, (This is not a function of Wheaton College)
Registration: $50 (You can pay in advance or at the door)
Registration Contact: Jeff McDonald, firstname.lastname@example.org (402) 682-1439
518 Martin Drive, Bellevue, NE
Recommended Hotel: Hampton Inn, Carol Stream, IL: http://hamptoninn3.hilton.com/en/hotels/illinois/hampton-inn-chicago-carol-stream-CHICLHX/index.html
Tuesday, October 23rd
9:00 a.m. Prayer and Welcome, Dr. Hassell Bullock, Professor of Old Testament Emeritus, Wheaton
College, Former President of the Evangelical Theological Society
9:05 a.m. Lecture #1 “The Grace of Theological Friendships: Augustine was Never Alone”
Dr. Jerry Andrews, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, San Diego, CA
Adjunct Professor of Ministry, University of Dubuque Theological Seminary
President, The Fellowship Community
10:00 a.m. Lecture #2 “Creating an Evangelical Mind: Presbyterians and the League of Evangelical
Dr. Jeff McDonald, Pastor, Avery Presbyterian Church, Bellevue, NE
Affiliate Professor of Church History, Sioux Falls Seminary, Omaha campus
Author of John Gerstner and the Renewal of Presbyterian and Reformed Evangelicalism in Modern America
11:00 a.m. Lecture #3 “Huguenot Pastoral Formation in the 17th Century: Lessons for Today"
Dr. Randy Working, Pastor of Cityview Community Church, Lompoc, CA; Adjunct Professor of
Theology, Fuller Seminary; President of Theology Matters; Author of The
Visual Theology of the Huguenots: Towards an Architectural Iconology of
Early Modern French Protestantism 1535-1623
Lunch 12:00 p.m.
1:00 p.m. Lecture #4 “The Prerevolutionary American Presbyterian Mission to China: Theological Conflict
Reflecting Homeland Realities”
Dr. A. Donald MacLeod, Research Professor of Church History, Tyndale Seminary, Toronto
President of the Canadian Society of Presbyterian History
Author of W. Stanford Reid: An Evangelical Calvinist in the Academy
(Donald Grant Creighton Award, Ontario Historical Society)
2:00 p.m. Lecture #5 "The Student Revolt at Princeton Seminary of 1909: Are There Lessons to be
Dr. Richard Burnett, Editor of Theology Matters
Editor of the Westminster Handbook to Karl Barth
Author of Karl Barth’s Theological Exegesis: The Hermeneutical Principles of the Römerbrief Period
3:00 to 4:25 Roundtable Discussion of George Marsden’s classic work Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller
Seminary and the New Evangelicalism
Dr. George Marsden, Professor of History Emeritus, University of Notre Dame; Author of
Jonathan Edwards: A Life (Winner of the Bancroft Prize)
Dr. Bradley J. Longfield, Professor of Church History, University of Dubuque
Theological Seminary; Author of The Presbyterian Controversy: Fundamentalists, Modernists, and Moderates (Makemie Award, Presbyterian Historical Society)
Dr. Darryl Hart, Distinguished Associate Professor of History, Hillsdale College; Author
of Defending the Faith: J. Gresham Machen and the Crisis of Conservative Protestantism in Modern America (Makemie Award, Presbyterian Historical Society)
4:30 p.m. Lecture #6 "From Christ to Christianity: How Jesus Christ Determines the Form and Mission of
Dr. James Edwards, Brunner-Welch Professor of Theology Emeritus, Whitworth University
Author of The Hebrew Gospel and the Development of the Synoptic
Dinner 5:30 p.m.
6:30 p.m. Lecture #7 “Tim Keller, Princeton Seminary, the Dilemma of Liberalism in the Academy”
Dr. Peter Wood, President, National Association of Scholars
Former Associate Provost and Professor of Anthropology, Boston University
7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Roundtable Discussion on the Future of Presbyterian Theological Education
Wednesday, October 24th
8:00 a.m. Lecture #8 “Predestination: Teaching the so-called decretum horribile in Ecumenical Settings”
Dr. Karen Peterson Finch, Associate Professor of Theology, Whitworth University
9:00 a.m. Roundtable Discussion “Chances for Presbyterian Unity: Slim or Fat?”
Chair: Dr. Darryl Hart, Distinguished Associate Professor of History, Hillsdale College
Rev. George A. Garrison, Pastor, Immanuel Presbyterian Church (EPC), Wheaton
Dr. Kellen Smith, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), Wheaton
Dr. A. Craig Troxel, Pastor, Bethel Presbyterian Church (OPC), Wheaton.
11:00 a.m. Lecture #9 “Presbyterian Theology After the Civil War”
Dr. Mark Noll, Professor of History Emeritus, University of Notre Dame
Research Professor of History, Regent College, Vancouver, B.C.
Author of America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln
Recipient of the National Humanities Medal
Seven Stanzas of Easter
by John Updike
with commentary by Richard Burnett 3-26-2018
John Updike is widely acclaimed as one of America's foremost authors. In October 1982, he was featured on the cover of Time magazine (Only five novelists have appeared twice on the cover of Time: Sinclair Lewis, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and John Updike). After winning the literary Triple Crown: the Pulitzer Prize, the American Book Award, and a commendatory scroll from the National Book Critics Circle, Time stated: "No one else using the English language over the past two and one-half decades has written so well in so many ways as he." He died on Jan. 27, 2009.
John Updike was a complex individual, a man of great ambiguity, and one who struggled in his faith, and this is reflected in his writings. "Earthy" is a word that is often applied to Updike's writing. His novels typically probe theological themes alongside more seamier topics. Updike, nevertheless, especially in his later years, is said to have become a more dedicated churchman. Apparently, he was never able to think his way around the transcendence at stake in one of the central claims of the Christian faith, the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.
As an undergraduate at Harvard University, having been influenced by the theology of Karl Barth, Updike entered the following poem in a religious arts contest in Massachusetts. It won first prize. With the various attempts within and without the church today to celebrate Easter by focusing on lilies and springtime, etc., I invite you to reflect on this poem.
Seven Stanzas of Easter
Make no mistake, if He rose at all
it was as His body.
if the cells disillusion did not reverse, the molecules reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.
It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and befuddled eyes of the eleven apostles.
it was as His flesh: ours.
The same hinge, thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that pierced, died, withered, decayed and then regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.
The stone is rolled back, not paper-mache,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.
And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck's quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen,
spun on a definite loom.
Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, for our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.
[Written for a religious arts festival sponsored by the Clifton Lutheran Church of Marblehead, MA] Taken from John Updike, Seventy Poems, Penguin Books, 1972.
Executive Director and Managing Editor
Would You Please Consider Giving A Gift?
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