September 18, 2020

LifeDate Fall 2020

by Jeff Duncan

Note: This article and poem were originally published in the February 12, 1999, edition of Spectrum (Volume 31, Issue 5), “A Publication of the Students of Concordia Seminary St. Louis.”

Coming to Seminary holds many new challenges as well as opportunities. For me, a quiet Saturday morning in June offered a good break from my first weeks of Hebrew class. Since I had been getting up early anyway, meeting at Luther Statue at 6:30 a.m. was not a big deal. Why not do this thing and expand your vision, I thought.

I waited at Luther Statue for the rest of our group to assemble. Some were students, some were student’s wives, some were faculty and wives, and some were LCMS laity who gathered for prayer before setting out to our destination. The road was unfamiliar, as I had not grown up in St. Louis. Upon arriving, I was taken back by the obscurity of the building. Maybe I was expecting neon signs and arrows. Instead, I was greeted by regular brick and mortar, unassuming and nondescript.

My first impressions centered on a number of Catholics who had already taken position, lined up like a chorus section. They were oblivious to my arrival but were engrossed in “Hail Mary, Mother of Grace.” Statues of the sainted Mother of God stood to their side, in quiet contrast to the litany they chanted. Other groups carrying signs began to take positions at corners and along the street next to the clinic parking lot. We followed suit, taking up our positions among their ranks.

Within minutes, the first car since our arrival entered the scene. A quick flurry of commotion ensued as two women began to offer pamphlets to the car’s occupants. Their voices pleaded that this was not the only option. There were people here who could help them. The clinic itself was not safe. The doctor carried no malpractice insurance, and just two months ago a young girl had lost her life at the hands of this very doctor. That was all true, since just two months earlier, a young lady had hemorrhaged to death during the aftermath of a “procedure” performed at that very clinic.

The car drove on through without hesitation. Upon parking at the first available slot, the occupants exited. From the driver side, a young white male approximately 20 years old emerged. The passenger exited next, white female, under 20, wearing loose fitting sweats and a tee shirt. We had been briefed to spot this typical dress for ladies about to undergo this “procedure.” The clinic recommended this attire to patients, allowing for easy movement on the return trip. Unwittingly, it also served for those gathered in prayer as confirmation of why they had arrived.

As the couple approached the clinic front door, I could see lips moving in prayer all up and down the line of sign holders. The litany of “Hail Mary” grew louder and more directed from the Catholic contingent. The ladies who were trained at intervention continued to plead for reconsideration, both to the young girl and to the man who brought her to this place. Nevertheless, the clinic doors opened and closed. As they did, the voices of those offering help faded away, both inside and outside.

Before the significance of the scene could sink in, another car drove up. Those roles were repeated, over, and over, and over again. There were variations in principal players: different races, different ages, different marital status, different companions, and different facial reactions to what was going on as they arrived and entered. There were also various degrees of contemplation taking place upon arrival. Some exited cars quickly and walked defiantly past onlookers, offering incensed gestures. Others took longer to get out and into the clinic. Two people made steps toward the intervention counselors, listening to their comments. One car arrived and left three times. However, on this day all exiting cars eventually found their way inside, thus sealing the fate of the little ones they carried. By 8:30 a.m. the traffic lulled, and the groups began the trip back home.

I’m not advocating that all of us should go to the clinic as silent witnesses in prayer. In fact, research suggests men holding signs in front of clinics may be more detrimental to the cause than helpful. Women are more comfortable with women for the intervention counseling, and men on the scene may only inflame feelings of anger, rejection, and disappointment. I am suggesting that as future pastors and missionaries, we need to be prepared to offer the whole counsel of God, rightly dividing the Law and the Gospel in Bible study and from the pulpit. The day is past when abortion does not touch families, many families within our Lutheran parishes.

What follows [on page 10] is my reaction to the events that morning, captured immediately upon arriving back to the comfort of my F-Dorm room. The sun was shining. The birds were chirping. The air was filled with early summer breeze, but my heart cried out to God for His guidance and His grace.

While You Were Sleeping

Early this morning, while you were sleeping,
A thief drove up in a red sedan,
And he stole more than 20 babies from your Father’s nurseries.

Early this morning, while you were sleeping,
Choices were being made against the innocent;
Bitter suffering was forced upon the quiet ones.

Early this morning, while you were sleeping,
As birds chirped their merry morning songs,
As the trees were full of the sounds of new life,
Other life became silent … lost.

Early this morning, while you were sleeping,
Boyfriends drove girlfriends, parents drove daughters, husbands drove wives,
But the children did not come home.

Early this morning, while you were sleeping,
Prayers of hope, requests for forgiveness, petitions were raised up to our Father in Heaven,
While inside, leftover parts were washed down city drains.

Early this morning, while you were sleeping; a curious thing happened:
A man with a pullover smock reading “Pro-choice Clinic Escort”
Would not direct participants of the plot over to receive information about choices.

Early this morning, while you were sleeping,
Cars drove around the block, looking for a way around.
Another way was offered, but none to follow could be found.

Early this morning, while you were sleeping,
Clinic workers came outside to smoke a cigarette and to have a cup of coffee
Before the next “procedure.”

Early this morning, while you were sleeping,
The faces of hope and peace met direct with the eyes of
The hopeless, the lost, the worried, the scared, and even the indignant.

Early this morning, while you were sleeping,
This city added just a small number to our nation’s ever growing debt,
And yet each number added had a face, hands, feet … and heart.

Early this morning, while you were sleeping,
The enemy broke into your house and stole the babies from your nursery …
And he’s coming back tomorrow … And the next day…

Until you learn to lock the door!

Author Postscript (August 2020): This is where my mind and reaction were some 23-plus years ago. Without the proclamation of the Law to condemn and bring sinners to repentance, as my article attempted to do, the Gospel of forgiveness in our Lord Jesus Christ doesn’t mean much. The Law condemns and kills, as it should. It is the Gospel, though, that changes hearts and restores to life! Through the Gospel, one is accepted back into community, into family, into relationships once broken and floundering in death. This Gospel in the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ becomes gift—an undeserved, unmerited gift! Please remember, those crushed by the weight of guilt and sorrow over their sins in life issues need the restorative Gospel of Jesus more than anything else!