Monday, January 13, 2020

Sermon for 1/12/20: The Baptism of Our Lord (observed)

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Baptized into Christ

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

Baptism is one of the most despised and forgotten gifts that God gives to His children. Many Christians believe and confess that Baptism means nothing. It’s just an outward show. It doesn’t do anything. The only way you’re saved is if you put some effort into it. If you prove your piety, if you work at your salvation, then God will bless you. Even in some Lutheran churches, Baptism doesn’t really mean anything in your life. Often the font is hidden in a closet. The idea of remembering your baptism or trusting in God’s promises given there are smiled at and tolerated by a few, but they go on their merry way, believing that salvation is all about what they do. They live in fear of never being good enough for God.
How can we so forget God’s promises in Baptism and act as if they don’t matter to us anymore? The biggest part of the answer is that we simply don’t believe that we’re missing much. At our Lord’s Baptism, the heavens were opened, the Holy Spirit descends like a dove, and the Father speaks from heaven and says, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Because of His baptism, the Father says the same to you in your baptism. But those words will mean nothing to you if you do not believe that heaven is closed to you without them. If you believe that you are basically a good person; if you believe you are good enough for God; if you believe that God is satisfied with your attempts to follow His Law perfectly; if you truly believe that you are good enough to gain heaven on your own, then you don’t need baptism. It is just water, nothing more.
The devil and the world want you to believe that message. Your enemies want you to believe that the most important thing is that you forgive yourself, find peace with yourself, be your best you. And when you can be happy with yourself and forgive yourself, then things are good in the world. Do not believe the lie. You can’t forgive yourself. By definition, forgiveness must come from outside of you. You may lie to yourself, but you can’t lie to God. He sees all and knows all. There is no hiding from Him. And He demands perfection, which you cannot possibly accomplish. Repent of your so-called self-forgiveness. Repent of believing you can live without God.
Suddenly, in light of God’s Law, Baptism is much more important. When you realize that you have rebelled against God; when you recognize that you are in the clutches of sin, death and the power of the devil; then God’s Word to you is sweeter than anything else you have ever heard. God says to you, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. That is God’s work in you.
The only way that you are saved, the only way you have a right relationship with God, is because of His great love for you. And He gives that to you in your baptism. This is the bath which washes away your sins and presents you in the blood-washed robe of Christ’s righteousness: spotless, clean, holy before His heavenly throne. This great work which He does for you literally opens heaven for you. It is your key and door to eternal life. St. Peter says in no uncertain terms, “Baptism now saves you.” Your sins are washed away. Satan is crushed under your feet. Death has no power over you! You can look at the grave without fear, for Christ has opened the gate to paradise.
This is the beauty of Holy Baptism. Look upon those waters as proof that God loves you and wants only what is best for you. When your heart and soul doubt God’s love, look to your baptism. When Satan tempts you to abandon Christ, look to your baptism. And when death and the world assail you, look to your baptism! The world may despise the gifts God gives you in His holy waters, but you know better. In the face of these enemies you can cry out:

There is nothing worth comparing
To this lifelong comfort sure!
Open-eyed my grave is staring:
Even there I'll sleep secure.
Though my flesh awaits its raising,
Still my soul continues praising:
I am baptized into Christ;
I'm a child of paradise! 

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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