- The Washington Times - Monday, April 29, 2002

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. H. Edgar Moore at Covenant United Methodist Church in Montgomery Village.

The television and our newspapers are filled with stories about genetic research. Scientists have isolated genetic "markers" for diseases and for characteristics of our bodies. These scientific advances have created an array of ethical dilemmas for us, and the debate over human cloning is but one example.
At times like this, our being created in the image of God confers bountiful blessings but also enormous responsibility. This brave new science will provide gracious healing of destructive diseases. It will also confer power to those with the training to use genetics, and this in a sinful world. Christians must reflect deeply on all the implications.
As we struggle to absorb this new information about our bodies, we may have forgotten that our souls, too, come to us with a genetic heritage. Our souls are the product of millennia of spiritual struggle and development.
Who I am spiritually is not a matter of a radically free personal choice. My spiritual nature is the result of centuries of spiritual evolution. Our "communion of saints," that great congregation of women and men who went before us as God's people, are not just lives from the past. They are souls who struggled through paganism, oppression and martyrdom. They are people who rose above idolatry and tribalism and came to recognize, in Jesus of Nazareth, the enfleshment of the one true and living God.
Our souls are genetically descended from theirs. We have a spiritual inheritance shaped and formed by their journeys. All of us, in our souls, resemble Peter, James and John, Mary Magdalene and Susanna Wesley, the mother of Methodism.
The two Scripture readings today [Acts 7:55; John 14: 1] tell a common story of people in the grip of fear. In Acts, Stephen is stoned to death by the congregation of a synagogue in Jerusalem. In John's Gospel, we hear part of Jesus' long conversation with the 11 apostles on the night of His betrayal. Judas Iscariot has already left the upper room, [and] the others are deathly afraid. That is why Jesus says, "Do not let your hearts be troubled."
In each account, we see that their anguished souls are cared for by God. As Stephen looks to heaven in the moment of his death, and sees Jesus standing at God's right hand, he first prays, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit," and then says the prayer of a saint: "Lord, do not hold this sin against them."
Before the soldiers arrive to take Jesus away, He tells the trembling 11 apostles that they will do greater works than He has done. They'll preach to far more people. They have a place with God; whatever they need to do, ministry will be provided. "If you ask anything in My name, I will do it," Jesus says.
Our souls, sisters and brothers, come to us with a genetic heritage. We do not simply chose our spiritual identities. They are given to us by centuries of spiritual life. Using genetic language, my soul has "markers" from the day Stephen was stoned and the night Jesus was betrayed. "Yes, you will deny me," Jesus seems to say to His apostles, "but there is a place for you in My father's house." Indeed, we have named our churches after them St. Peter, St. John, St. Phillip, St. Thomas. And Jesus still tells us, "Whatever you need for this work you will be given."
Our souls have been shaped by fear, weakness, denial, but also gifted by the prayers of the first Christian martyr and the assurance of Christ. These markers are in our souls. They make us who we are in God's sight.

Next week: A sermon by the Rev. John Compton at First Baptist Church of Alexandria.

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