Anglican Lutheran Lenten Reflections

Anglican Lutheran Lenten Reflections

Value and Human Dignity (Psalm 139:1–14)

Daily Lenten Reflection - Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Week 4: Human Beings—Not for Sale1

Week 4, Day 3

“Now thank we all our God (1636),” Martin Rinckart

Now thank we all our God,

with heart and hands and voices,

Who wondrous things has done,

in Whom this world rejoices;

Who from our mothers’ arms

has blessed us on our way

With countless gifts of love,

 and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God

through all our life be near us,

with ever joyful hearts

and blessed peace to cheer us;

and keep us still in grace,

and guide us when perplexed;

and free us from all ills,

in this world and the next.

All praise and thanks to God

the Father now be given;

the Son, and him who reigns

with them in highest heaven;

the one eternal God,

whom earth and heaven adore;

for thus it was, is now,

and shall be evermore.

Value and Human Dignity (Psalm 139:1–14)

Angelika Hofmann, Lutheran, Germany

O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it. Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you. For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.

Human dignity is inalienable. Just like the relationship between God and human beings, it is never ending. Human dignity and value are God’s unconditional gift, belonging to human beings in every phase of their lives. Human dignity is a fruit of the relationship with God and extends beyond the limits of life on earth. As the psalmist assures us: “If I make my bed in Sheol, [the underworld] … and settle at the farthest limits of the sea …”—God is still there.

Wonderfully made by God means being cherished, above all when you are at the end of the sea, at the end of your life, growing weaker and increasingly becoming dependent on the helping hands of family members, neighbors or professional caregivers. You are cherished above all when you are down, making your bed in Sheol in the middle of a depression, or lying in a hospital bed having been diagnosed with a lethal illness. You are cherished above all at life’s beginning and at life’s end, powerful and weak, playful and efficient, handicapped and empowered—God is always there.

Some people are afraid of knowing and feeling that God is always there, knowing every word I will speak, every thought I will think and every feeling I will have. Martin Luther was one of those people during his early days. He was afraid of a stern and unforgiving god, who judges rather than shows appreciation. During many unhappy days and nights, plagued by fears and anxieties, Martin Luther wrestled with God just like Jacob did on the banks of the river Jabbok. But just as for his forefather in faith it became a blessing for him too. By delving into the depths of biblical hermeneutics and fleeing from God to God Luther reached the understanding that God made every human being wonderfully and gave every living soul dignity and value, which are never lost but, rather, found when you begin to feel God’s love. Human dignity is inalienable, because you can find and be found by God everywhere.

“On the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the Anglican-Lutheran International Coordinating Committee has compiled a collection of Lenten reflections to commemorate the anniversary. The text can be used by small groups or individual, as a Lenten reading or as a resource for the weeks between Easter and Trinity Sunday. We are sharing these reflections daily during Lent, hoping that our common experience of God’s grace may draw our two families of churches closer together in this extraordinary year, and be used beyond 2017 and actually at any time.”