Sunday, January 13, 2019

Sermon for 1/13/19: The Baptism of Our Lord

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

Everything our Lord does, He does for you. He takes up your flesh to fulfill the Law for you. His circumcision, His perfect obedience, His ritual purity—these all count for those who are joined to Him in Holy Baptism. The same is true of the Moral Law. He kept it for you. His fasting and temptation were done in your stead. He fulfilled what you were unable and unwilling to do. But He did not just keep the Law; He also allowed the Law to do to Him all that justice demanded of you. He, who knew no sin, became sin. He did all this so that you would be forgiven and saved.
And so it is that He stands in the Jordan River. John pours the dirty water over His head. He does not need this Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, but He submits to it for you. His Baptism is your Baptism. The water does not sanctify Him; He sanctifies the water. The water that falls off His back flows into all the fonts of Christendom: a pure, holy, life-giving water, rich in grace. He who stands in the Jordan is the Word made Flesh. He makes Baptism into that life-giving flood.
This crucified and risen Word is combined with and included in the water. These things together, this holy washing, creates and sustains the faith which receives all of His benefits. This water saves by the power of His resurrection. It joins you to Him, burying you in His death, and raising you by the glory of the Father in His resurrection. You were baptized into Him. His Name—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—was applied to you. You now belong to Him. His Baptism, His anointing, His inheritance, is yours. The heavens opened also upon you. The Holy Spirit descended. The Father proclaimed, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well-pleased.” He was talking about you!
There is no one to accuse you. The wrath of God has been appeased. Justice has been served. The payment is made in full. You go free—not back to your old evil haunts, but to the mansions of heaven, to the life of grace. You are a member of the royal household, a royal priest. You feast on the heavenly banquet with brothers and sisters, those still here and those already moved ahead of us. You rest secure in the ever prevailing mercy of His love.
For now it is not always so obvious. There are tragedies: self-inflicted and those suffered at the hands of a cruel world. There are dark times and depression. There is an uncertain future and a murky, turbulent past. Children walk into school with guns. People are starving in great numbers. Babies are violently ripped from their mothers’ wombs and tossed out with the trash. Fathers despise their children and leave their wives. Pain, suffering, and loneliness are all around us.
But do not let your hearts be troubled. Do not rest on fleeting things that come and go: the feelings of happiness or sadness, the sense of well-being and contentment, worry or uncertainty. Instead, rest on the objective, historical reality of Christ’s death and resurrection. Rely on that, for it became yours in Baptism. Trust in the Word of God. There is your hope and your certainty! You are baptized! God promises to love you, to protect you, to provide for you. He forgives you. That is enough! And soon, the fleeting things of this life lived in death will be removed. You will see clearly, as you were meant to see. Then your joy will be complete. Until then, do what He says: eat His Body, drink His Blood, and listen to His Word. That will see you through to the coming Day. Do not be afraid. The Lord your God, born of the Virgin, Baptized by John, crucified, and risen: He goes with you. He will neither leave you nor forsake you. 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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