I am glad that the Office of Public Witness (OPW) of the Presbyterian Church (USA) is doing a Lenten Bible study. Although I am in the midst of writing a Bible study I am teaching in my home church, I have committed time to doing this daily study. There are several reasons for my decision. First, Presbyterians Pro-Life has often criticised the advocacy of the OPW (formerly the Washington Office) for endorsing leftist politics, especially abortion, more than Biblical theology. So, I am glad they are studying God's word. I confess I am a little skeptical about what they will say in this study, so that is another reason I am paying attention to it. I am trying to keep an open mind in the process and hope to share my thoughts once each week in this blog.
Week one looks at the "Theology of Naming," pointing out the different ways to name: naming of people (including Jesus), the naming of injustice and of destructive practices in the world around us. In the first paragraph, author Blair Moorehead states that "Naming can highlight an injustice that would otherwise go unnoticed by many." I immediately found agreement with her statement. My mind flew to a bumper sticker thought: "justice begins in the womb!" No one sees the unborn child although ultrasound technology gives us images that come closer all the time. Many, however, refuse to acknowledge the very existence of a tiny child in utero, or the baby's right to the simple justice of life. Sadly, in the first week of this Bible study there is not one word that considers the unborn child. I am not really surprised by that, but I am saddened by the ommission because I think it makes the Gospel less than whole when we shut out all the Biblical references to human life in the womb.
Being named makes us feel noticed and gives us significance. Moorehead uses one of my favorite Scripture passages in this paragraph:
"The Lord says, "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name and you are mine" (Isa. 43:1). What comfort! The God who redeems us knows us by name. Naming reminds us that we each have significance in the eyes of the Lord; all of our humanity here on earth matters to God."
Yes! All of our humanity. . .from fertilization to natural death! But, my thoughts went beyond this study and sadly there is no mention of the Bible stories where God sees and knows a child in utero and names that child (i.e. Ishmael, John, Jesus). Moorehead does mention that Jesus is named but omits the fact that his name is given before his birth. Yes, naming gives significance and God includes unborn babies among those that He names! So as I prayed the prayer at the end of day one's devotion I added a phrase. "Grant me new ears to hear the voices of all your children (including those babies yet unseen within their mother's womb.)
Day 2 Moorehead poses a question: "Who in your community is crying out? How can you open your hearts and minds to hear these voices more clearly?" My heart cries out, The unborn have no voice to cry out! Oh Lord help me to be a stronger voice on their behalf!
Day 3 - "Today, think about and name those whose lives have touched yours. Remember their voices and their stories." And I think, 56 million babies, aborted since 1973 will never know touch at all and we will never know the stories God intended for them!
Day 4 - Moorehead shares the story of Greta, watching children skipping down the sidewalk and she notes one without supplies. I think of children who are not....will never skip or go to school...lives aborted!
Day 5 - Focus on the speck in my own eye---Lord, do not let me become callous about any threat to human life! Help me to see my own blindness as I seek to unveil the eyes of others.
Day 6 - Our focus on the "least of these" should be about more than simply alleviating poverty..."Bonds of family first, economic status later." Even the bonds of family seems not enough in the light of lives that are snuffed out in the place where human bonds begin--the womb!
Day 7 - Celebrate and name the good things: God's creation; progress in campaigns for justice; the good of others; God's steadfastness in the midst of our social witness. Yes, this I can affirm and practice with full joy! Especially, I celebrate today the birth of Liam Nagel, and the life of my two grandsons--one in Mommy's womb and one a toddler. Yes, Lord, I can celebrate your Creation and the gift of life.