Monday, January 19, 2015

Sermon for 1/11/15: Baptism of Our Lord/Epiphany I



Someone in the Water; Someone in You

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

I’m not a huge fan of modern country music. However, a few weeks ago, our organist asked me about the lyrics to a song released by a popular country artist, a song called, “Something in the Water.” It’s a song about the power of baptism in the life of a believer, and it’s surprisingly powerful. But there’s one thing missing in the song, and that is the explicit statement of what actually is in the water. That’s the nature of popular culture, though: it does not dare look very closely at what it cannot fully understand.

But the Holy Spirit has made plain to us the purpose and power of Baptism. Two important facts stand before us. The first is this: Jesus is baptized. The second is this: you are baptized. But these events are not quite the same. Jesus is perfect and holy. You are a sinner. Jesus is baptized to take on your sins. You are baptized so that your sins are washed away. Jesus is baptized so that He can go and face the devil. You are baptized so that you are delivered from the devil. Jesus is baptized so that He can go and die on Calvary. You are baptized so that you rise to new life in Him. Jesus, the one through whom all things were made, is baptized to be made into a sinner. You, the crown of creation, are baptized to be made into a new creation. Jesus is baptized to fulfill all righteousness. You are baptized to receive His righteousness. Jesus is baptized to show that He is the Lamb of God. You are baptized so that the blood of that Lamb is sprinkled on you. Jesus is baptized to be declared God's beloved Son who willl be forsaken for sinners. You are baptized so that you, the Father’s child, are never forsaken. Jesus is baptized for you. You are baptized to receive all that He has done for you.

The big deal about God becoming a man is that this man, Jesus, goes where the sinners are. He's not out looking for those who are perfect and without sin. He has come to take our sin and make it His own—so much His own that He will suffer everything our sin has earned and deserved. We hate God. Jesus makes that His in this way: the Father Himself forsakes His Son as He hangs on the cross in darkness. We hate our neighbor. That's what we do. Jesus makes that His in this way: He suffers all the abuse and mockery and nailing to the cross that wicked men have to offer. In His perfect love for the Father and His neighbor, Jesus takes our sin against both, bearing it as the Lamb of God. And it is for this reason that the Father is pleased with Him: the Father looks down upon His Son in the Jordan River and knows that's what Jesus is going to do for you.

The world pretends that this doesn't change anything. But it changes everything! Jesus came up out of that water covered in your sins. He came up out of that river a sinner. When you are baptized, you come forth as a new creation. The New Man in Christ is no sinner. You are set free—free from sin, free from the judgment of God against sin, free from selfish futility. You are free to love others and do good for them whether they appreciate it or not. You are free to let go of the sins of others, to let your grudges die for good. You don't need to live like the world with its addictions and selfishness. All that belongs to Jesus now. Let Him deal with it. You are a new creation. You are a lover of God and of those around you.

You may object, "But what happens when I don’t love God and my neighbor?" Then you return to your baptism, where Jesus is in the water for you. Then you live in that baptism. Confess your sins. Hear the Good News of Absolution. Rejoice in your baptism where those sins are Christ's and you are set free. Feast on the body and blood of Jesus which by which Christ lives in you. When Christ lives in you, by His Word and water and body and blood, you too are declared by God the Father to be His beloved Son! In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

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