T Lenten Midweek – Wednesday of Lent 4 T
Pulpit Exchange – Life by Drowning: Baptismal Life in the Season of Lent, Holy Baptism as Re-Birth and Renewal.
Text: Joel 2:28-32; Titus 3:3-7; John 3:1-8
In the Name of Jesus + Amen.
Every parent knows that children ask all sorts of questions. Just hang around a preschooler for a few minutes. Some of them are awkward. Sometimes they’re just looking for advice, more often money and less often to be taught. But that is the vocation of a parent, providing for the child exactly what they need especially when they don’t realize how important it is.
Maybe Nicodemus came to Jesus a little like an adolescent – Jesus was a wise Teacher; He did some spectacular miracles; maybe He had some good advice. Whatever Nicodemus was looking for he found more than he had expected when he came and talked with Jesus.
But if Christianity only means one more bit of good advice - and if Jesus is just one more wise teacher – then Christianity is of no real importance and Jesus is nothing more than a cosmic ATM. Despite what the local Barnes and Noble has on their shelves in the Christianity section – this is not the heart of the Christian faith – that kind of stuff is better left for the popular fiction section. Because as soon as you take a look at the kinds of things Jesus said and the kinds of things He did: He is either, a liar, a lunatic or the Lord. He leaves us no other alternative. I AM the resurrection and the life; The centurion at Golgotha was right: “Truly, this man is the Son of God.”
Every time we pray “Our Father who art in heaven…” we confess that we are not our own. We were bought with a price, Jesus’ price – a bloody price. And whoever believes in this Son of God is also given the name son, for we are saved by His death from sin. God is our true Father and we are true His children, the sheep of His pasture. So with all boldness and confidence we pray as dear children ask their dear father. This is how we pray. And the Name to whom we pray is the same Triune Name we confess in the Creed.
Where we hear that Christ is the Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds. Begotten, not made, not created. He is the everlasting Son. Very God of very God. This is no quibble over simple words.
A point that C.S. Lewis makes quite well in Mere Christianity: “We don’t use words like begetting or begotten much in modern English, but everyone still knows what they mean. To beget is to become the father of: to create is to make. The difference is this. When you beget, you beget something of the same kind as yourself. A man begets human babies, a beaver begets little beavers and a bird begets eggs which turn into little birds. But when you make something, you make something of a different kind from yourself. A bird makes a nest, a beaver builds a dam, a man carves a statue.”
This is the delightful paradox of Christianity – we are both created by God and begotten by God. We are both His creatures and His children – entirely different from Him and yet created in His image. No, we are not gods – not in any sense of the word. But we are begotten of the Father in this world, in the font. In the Son. By the Spirit. Therefore we are sons of God born of water and the Spirit. Born again. Dead to the old flesh. Alive in Christ. Alive in the water. Alive in the Word. Born again from above. Sons and heirs.
Being born again has as little to do with your activity as your first birth did. You did not choose your parents. You do not choose your Heavenly Father. “Unless one is born of water and Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” We are His children, born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but from God. You are born in Baptism.
It is not the wind that blows where it wants, but the Spirit. The Spirit who stirs the waters of the font with Christ’s life giving blood. The Spirit who begets the absolution in your ears and hearts. The Spirit who beckons you to the banqueting table to eat and drink. You are God’s little Christs – anointed by water and the Spirit.
Water and Spirit are creation language. Everything was born of water and Spirit by the Word in the beginning when the Spirit of God hovered over the chaotic waters of the Deep that covered the earth. It is also baptismal language. Unless one is created anew, born from above by the working of the Holy Spirit with the Word in the water of Baptism, one cannot see or enter the kingdom of God.
Flesh and blood born of Adam and corrupted by Sin cannot see or enter the kingdom of God. Adam wants nothing to do with the kingdom of God. Adam wants to be god in his own kingdom. Adam must die; Christ must rise. So too, in Baptism you must die and you must be raised - born from above - born again by water and the Spirit. You are saved by the washing of regeneration in the Holy Spirit, poured out upon you in the font. And as many of you as were baptized into Christ have been re-born in Christ.
For when the fullness of time had come. God sent forth His Son to be born of a woman – flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone - born under the law, to redeem us, who were under the law. And this faithful Son, Jesus, also asked His Father many things. He spoke with Him, listened to Him; perfectly trusted in His will; sweat drops of blood as He prayed, “Father if it be your will let this cup pass from me…nevertheless not my will but your will be done.”
And it was. The Father’s will was done. Finished. Accomplished - all of it, for you. A Baptism of divine wrath drowned the only begotten Son of God in your sin. He was baptized and crucified into your sin and death so that you are baptized into His crucifixion and resurrection. So that you might receive adoption as sons…and because you are sons, God has sent His Spirit into your heart.
And this too is no debate over meaningless words in Scripture. Baptism really does save you, really does wash you clean from sin, really does renew and regenerate you, really does forgive your sins, really makes you a son of God, a little Christ. It’s not merely symbolic language – you are drown and put to death; Baptism is your new genesis, a raising to life, a birth by water and the Spirit. Something happens to you in the water. Your Baptism is always present tense.
After Baptism, you simply don’t have the same old way of life, but a new man, an entirely new creation, a new life has come into existence. Your old life is no more. What emerges from the water is Christ formed in the life of you, His new saint. God’s own child we gladly say, sing, confess and pray it – I am Baptized into Christ.
In the Name of Jesus + Amen.