March for life
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves!
On May 10, many thousands of Canadian citizens took over the downtown core of Ottawa, in a peaceful protest: The March for Life. ARPA and Jubilee Church in Ottawa hosted a prayer service in a downtown church building. About 150 people were expected; some 300 Reformed church members and other Protestants came to hear a message from God's Word and to make supplication to him concerning the continuing killing of the unborn in our land, and to recommit to bringing a message of life and hope to our nation. Rev. John L. van Popta of Fellowship Church in Burlington led the prayer service. What follows is an edited text of his message. (The spoken form is retained throughout). He spoke on Proverbs 31:8-9:
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
Friends, there is a series of lies perpetrated in the media that permeates our culture. It says that the matter of abortion is settled and that the law of the land cannot be changed. It says that abortion is strictly a private matter, which concerns only a woman and her doctor.
The problem is, there is no law. We know that the law as it stood was struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada a long time ago. But when it did that, it believed that the government would step in and rewrite the law in a way that it would withstand a court challenge.
No government has done so. The lie continues. Even the present government, the one most likely to, refuses to even consider a discussion. The controversy is considered "toxic." (We only need to think of the recent Alberta election to discover how toxic.)
There are MPs across party lines, however, that believe that some sort of legislation should be in place. One of the reasons for the March for Life is to encourage those MPs with the knowledge that there are tens of thousands, millions even, of ordinary citizens of this country who think that it is a travesty that harp seals have more justice than unborn children.
It is a cause for sorrow that so much of the Christian community of this country has little interest in social justice. And when it seems to be interested, it promotes boycotts of products made in Israel!
We read some passages from Psalms and Proverbs. There we read that there is a need to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. There is a place for the people of God to speak up.
The Bible of course doesn't foresee wide spread aborting of babies, but it speaks of justice to the poor. The poor are those people without means or citizenship. The poor are those afflicted with poverty, or those who were strangers, sojourners, and aliens. The sojourner was the person not of Israel, who lived among the people of God. Moses reminded the people to defend them. They were reminded that in Egypt that was their status. Their own previous status was their motivation for social justice. God says,
Take care those who cannot speak for themselves; take care of the widow, the orphan, the sojourner. Take care of the poor.
The poor are those people without means and without citizenship.
Who more qualifies for that than babies denied personhood? You would think that having a discussion about when someone becomes a person, with the rights of protection would be valued by all. But as Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and Prime Minister Steven Harper showed recently, few in power have interest in speaking up for the poor. Not if it will deny you power. (Not much public safety for the unborn!)
I want to spend a few moments encouraging you today to see how the Scriptures often direct our attention to the poor. One of the first steps in the "psychology of oppression" is to deny personhood to someone. Think of times of war. Italians in WW2 were WOPS; the Japanese Japs. Germans were Krauts. The Germans considered Jews to be subhuman vermin. So also today, the unborn are not persons, but "products of conception," just "bio-mass." Their bodies, at death, not corpses, but "hazardous biomedical waste."
But the church is called upon to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. Think only of Jesus' inaugural sermon quoting Isaiah
I've come to preach good news to the poor. Liberty for captives.
Poor are not only those poor in possessions. They are poor in liberty. The gospel proclaims liberty for captives. Think of those unjustly imprisoned, or those in prison for the sake of the gospel. They understand liberty and its value. Behind walls and gates and bolts and bars they have limited rights, few privileges, no voice. Who speaks for those in the prison industrial complex? Who will speak against prisons for profit?
And what of the elderly? They have little liberty of movement. Or the disabled? Few pay attention to them. What about the ill? Whatever our success, riches, fame, we are poor when sickness comes. Naaman was powerful, important, successful, wealthy, but when illness came he too needed God's grace. Jesus' grace was prodigious to the sick. He truly was the prodigal son. Spending all he had. He offered gracious garments of health for those in the tattered garments of illness. By his stripes we were healed. The blows that fell to him brought us healing. But our society thinks of euthanasia as a cure for suffering.
Others are needy of mind: troubled, broken, psychotic. Our society is marked by mental, emotional, spiritual brokenness of the highest order. People tormented by guilt, fear, voices, delusions. They need people to speak for them. Speak up and judge fairly. Defend their rights. Too many end up homeless and on our city streets.
So many need spiritual deliverance. They are troubled, twisted, tormented in imaginations, nerves, body. Think of the wild man of Gadara. He was met by Jesus. He was tormented, but after meeting Jesus, Mark says he was "in his right mind." We may not be able to miraculously heal the tormented, but we can speak for them.
Some are needy in spirit. Their faith flags. Their resolve to be faithful to Jesus falters. Who speaks for them? And what of the seeker? Is there room for them in our lives?
And the poor in knowledge; the lost. Do we truly share our riches with them? And the needy in heart: those who need the softening balm of the gospel. Do we have room for them? John the Baptist wasn't shy with Herod. Nor was Jesus shy with the promiscuous woman at the well. Nor with corrupt Zaccheus. He called a traitor, Matthew the tax collector, to follow him.
And there are those poor in friends. Think of Paul abandoned by his friends but one: Onesiphorus, who ministered to him when all gave up on him. He spoke up for Paul. Jesus abandoned by his disciples. But there was Ebed Melech the Ethiopian, who ministered to Jeremiah when he was friendless, fainting, thirsty, hungry. He was rescued. Someone spoke up for him. What about us? Will we be an Ebed Melech? An Onesiphorus? A faithful Luke? A diligent Timothy? A dear friend?
What about all those poor in hope? Do we reach out with human platitudes? Or powerful words of heavenly hope? Do we care for those at our gates or at our feet? The hungry in our communities, the homeless in our streets?
Speak up and judge fairly. Defend the rights of the poor and needy. Today as you go out to march, you are fulfilling this mandate: To speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; to speak up for the destitute, for the sojourner, for the non-citizen, for the non-person.
For the unborn.