Romans 8:1-11

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Dylan, Who Died Too Soon

Dylan’s Mama and Daddy wanted that little boy as much as any two people ever wanted a child. They were so much in love, were well settled into adulthood and marriage, and were past ready to be parents. They tried and tried to conceive without help, but they were literally fruitless in their efforts. Dylan’s father’s parents would ask me at the door each Sunday to please keep the kids in my prayers: “Pastor, ask God to give them a baby. They want one so badly. We know they will be great parents!”

When I saw the would-be parents, I would ask how they were doing. One day they said they were going through infertility treatment. I remember them saying: “We could have a whole bunch of children at once. We would love it.” But all those additional hormone shots and procedures never worked. Finally, they said: “We are going to try in vitro fertilization. It’s expensive, but we don’t care. We want a baby.”

They were successful, and two happier people you never saw. As her belly began to expand, they bubbled with joy. His parents would look at them with such love and excitement. They would say: “Pastor, we are so grateful. God is so good. This baby is going to be the most spoiled baby ever. We don’t care!”

The grandmother-to-be called me to say that her daughter-in-law was in labor and going to the hospital: “Please pray for a safe and healthy delivery.” I asked that they let me know when they wanted me to be there. His Mama called later to say: “False alarm. They said to go home and come back tomorrow.”

The call came early the next morning. I could hear the heartbreak in the way she said: “Pastor.” The baby had stopped moving during the night, and the couple rushed to the hospital. The baby’s umbilical cord had wrapped around his neck, and he had died. They had just delivered the baby when I got there. Dylan’s Mama was holding his lifeless body, the face blackened from the way he died. She was rocking him in a large rocking chair, weeping huge tears, the grief-stricken nurses and doctor looking on. It was as close an approximation to the Pieta as I’ve seen: the mother of God wailing as she held her Son’s lifeless body.

I remember that day in the cemetery when his tiny casket was lifted from the back seat of the funeral director’s car. We buried Dylan in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life. We heard: “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are, of all people, most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19).

When our first parents rebelled, the whole creation was broken. Once the primeval chaos broke into God’s good creation, sin and evil spread. God’s death verdict had to be spoken because this was not His good and gracious will for that and those over which He had spoken: “Tov meod” (Hebrew for “Very good!”).

On this day, we remember our Lord’s descent to hell. The medieval Church depicted the Crucified kicking down the door to hell, pinning Satan underneath, and pulling Adam and Eve to safety. There is no place we sinners can go that Christ has not been. We are His, and He is ours through our Baptism into His saving death. There, all our suffering and dying, even things which we cannot understand, are joined to His. So, while Christ’s dead body lay in the tomb, His mother grieved deeply… just like Dylan’s parents.

Thank you, Father, for Dylan, and all those little boys and girls, who die before they draw their first breath outside their mother’s wombs. What joy it will be to see them on the rising-up day. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Put forty-six pennies, nickels, or dimes in a bowl or box today to help to buy farm animals to help the global poor to make a sustainable living.

Pastor Samuel D. Zumwalt, STS

St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church

Wilmington, North Carolina

The Daily Readings are from English Standard Version, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers