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This is a transcript of the keynote speech by the Rev John Queen, given at the 1999 Sanctity of Human Life Rally held on Thursday, January 21, 1999 at Sacred Heart Church in Peoria, IL.
Its a honor to be here tonight despite the bad weather. I have been a pastor in Peoria now for seven years. They have been hard years in many ways, but wonderful years. I came to Peoria following in the footsteps of a great pastor, Bruce Dunn who was very outspoken in his views on the sanctity of life. I came into the church and the community a lot different, I was a little bit green and wet behind the years. -And I am glad to be with you here tonight, because through the seven years of my ministry, I have become more convinced that life is a mission field, that God is in control, -He is sovereign, and that life is sacred from beginning to end.
As a pastor or priest, you know the helpless feeling of sitting beside the bed of someone who is dying. You know the prayers we pray as pastors and the job of confronting the family; often times it is so hard. We share the joy of birth, the heartache of death. Then, when you consider the reason we are here tonight, how senseless, how unnecessary is the crisis we face in this country. And so I tell you, it is good to be here. I appreciate the honor and responsibility of speaking.
We live among the wealthiest of people. We are advanced in education, economics, research and medicine. We consider ourselves the most powerful and protected people in the world. Our economy is booming, information is flying, and opportunity supposedly abounds. We consider ourselves the most religious and the most generous of all people. Our cities are safe and our borders are secure. Yet we find ourselves in a national crisis.
Yes we have lost our moral compass and we are facing a national crisis today. I was in the 12th grade at the time of the Watergate trials. A lot has happened since those days. Today, the crux of the crisis in Washington is about the sacredness of the oath. When the President of the United States vows before God and the people to uphold the laws of the land and then lies and obstructs justice, the crux of the issue is the sacredness of the oath. The senators who form the court will determine in the coming days the current value of telling and keeping the truth. The issue is not sex but telling and keeping the truth.
Twenty-six years ago tomorrow, another court determined the value and the sacredness of life. It was determined then that the sacredness of a women's choice is more valuable than the sacredness of the life she carries. Then traditional wisdom at the time was the court decision would lesson the stress caused by abortion. Traditional wisdom was dead wrong. It has been the most divisive issue in American history in the last twenty-six years. Today we are here, lamenting and grieving the decision that has caused the death of 36 million of the unborn. The issue now is one of sacredness of the truth; the issue then and now is the sacredness of life.
I hate to say it but in my opinion the battle is not getting better, it is getting bitterer. Hate continues to grow. License for hate continues to be given and the walls continue to go up. Today, the charge of intolerance is a very powerful weapon in the war of values. It takes very little to substantiate and carries a heavy emotional weight. Today, personal conviction is damned if it confronts a personal choice. The battle is not getting better, its getting bitterer - and that's not good.
So what should we do. It is now thirteen years as a city and twenty-six years as a nation and the struggle is not better but more bitter. I would like to turn to a familiar story to us all in the Old Testament, I would like to look at the story of the battle of Jericho found in Joshua chapter 6 in our Bible and Jesus' Bible.
Then the Lord said to Joshua, "See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with it's king and it's fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams' horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout: then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in." Joshua 6:2-5
The sixth chapter of Joshua continued to unfold and Joshua did as he was told by the angel of the Lord and they rallied the troops of Israel, not to fight but to march. In the center of the possession was the Ark of the Covenant. In the battle of Jericho the people were confronted with impossible odds; a fortified city, not one person was permitted to go in or out, no way to penetrate the city and no way humanly possible to achieve victory.
Yet notice that the Lord reassured Joshua that the battle of Jericho was God's battle not the Hebrews, that they would win, that God would give the right results, that winning the battle was God's responsibility not the peoples, that the people were not responsible for the outcome but they were responsible to follow God's clear plan. And what did they do? Think about it with me. Think about it World War II vets like Mr. Parr and others.
The first day-Walking Before The Enemy, Carrying An Ark
(How many times have I said the same thing? That's right- six.)
The seventh day- Walking Before The Enemy, Carrying An Ark
(This is getting ridiculous isn't it? Some of you are laughing!)
Walking Before The Enemy, Carrying An Ark!
What happened? The walls fell down! Complete victory! Why? Because the people followed God's lead. Because the people realized that the victory was not their responsibility but God's. Because the people kept the Lord central to their approach, (the ark was in the middle, it was the focus,) because the people never quit, never quit, never quit, because the people obeyed.
Do you see any parallels? Twenty-six years and the rules have not changed. Do you feel shame? It's inappropriate. We are not called to secure the victory we are called to follow God's lead. It is God's responsibility to win the battle, it is our responsibility to follow.
Twenty-six years, do you feel tired? Is the warrior in you saying there has to be a better tact? We've got to be able to do more. There's got to be something else besides praying and waiting and loving. Really?
Walking Before The Enemy, Carrying An Ark...
The great lesson and plan of Jericho unfolds before us this evening as we remember that this is God's battle. There is not one child whose life is taken that our Heavenly Father is not aware of. And He knows and He is working. It is not our job to twist His arm to rush His plan or to hurry His timetable. He is as work!
What is our responsibility? Our responsibility is to be faithful in following the Lord's lead, not to be discouraged and not to allow what we cannot do to prevent us from doing what we can do.
And what is it we can do, what is it we are instructed to do. We are instructed as believers in Jesus Christ, as God's people, first and foremost to pray, to pray, to pray, to pray, to pray, to pray, to pray.
It is the prayers of the people that God heard when He led Moses to deliver His people from a distant land.
Our responsibility also is to love, to love, to love, to love, to love, to love, to love.
To say that we love the sinner but hate the sin is not very convincing. To show love to the sinner while hating the sin is convincing. Take the woman caught in adultery for example. Those zealous for the moral law were far less concerned about the moral laws and the women they caught than they pretended. How often is that true of us? And they put Jesus in a very hard position. If he excuses the women he compromises the moral law. Yet if he condemns the women, (whose partner was never even seen,) he incurs the condemnation of the crowd who counts on his compassion. What does Jesus do? Jesus does not compromise the moral law nor does he compromise the Law of Moses. And yet He says in the context of love to the women, "Go and sin no more."
There is a great article in Christianity Today this month on intolerance. It maintains that the "Christian Right" is much more passionate about its morality than compassionate in its love. Passion for morality without compassion and love is legalism. So we must be the people of God in order to do the work of God. That's why pregnancy centers and work of churches and adoption and caring for women who are pregnant is so important, i.e. not simply dealing with one issue of morality but the whole context of the sacredness of life.
We are called to pray and we are called to love but let us not forget that we are called, we are commissioned, we are commanded to keep the gospel central. This is a spiritual crisis that requires a spiritual remedy. I see it as my calling as a pastor and an evangelist to make sure the message of Jesus Christ and the amazing grace that we sang about tonight is not only proclaimed but is lived out in the people who call themselves the Family Of Grace- and we all share that title. Because when a person comes to Jesus, that is when their heart is changed. And we must not forget, just as the people of Israel did not forget, that in the center of our message is the gospel of Jesus Christ who saves sinners just like us- and there is no sin, no sin that bars God's grace.
There is much else we can do but let's keep our perspective clear. The gospel must be clean in our lives, it must be clear in our message, it must be central in our struggle.
We must never, never, never quit praying which is our most powerful arsenal, which touches the head, the heart, the ear of God and causes the most dynamic potential for change. And remember that as we give the message in the life chain on University Ave., as we march on rain soaked streets, as we work in crisis pregnancy centers, and all the other opportunities in the various areas, that our duty, our example, and our message must be motivated by grace and love.
The battle will not get easier. The battle is going to become fiercer. Our convictions are going to become more and more the "intolerance that cannot be tolerated." I have no idea what privilege we will have to stand for the sanctity of life and the gospel of Jesus Christ. But we must never quit following our Lord's lead, never quit and do not be discouraged. The battle is His and we are privileged to be a part of the process... privileged.
Let us pray together.
Rev John Queen
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