Thursday, March 12, 2015

Lenten Midweek Sermon: "The Cross in Holy Baptism"

Once again Redeemer Lutheran has been blessed to participate in a Lenten pulpit exchange with a number of local LCMS congregations. The focus is always on the Scriptures and Small Catechism. This year's theme is the preaching of the cross in the catechism. I was given the topic of "The Cross in Holy Baptism". A blessed Lent to you all.

2015 Lent Pulpit Exchange
Midweek Lenten Sermon
Romans 6:1-14

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Water kills. Water gives life.

We see reflections of this in some of our most beloved books and films: Dorothy hurls water on the Wicked Witch and as she melts, Scarecrow is saved from the fire.

Andy Dufresne, in The Shawshank Redemption, crawls through the sewer to escape from prison and stands in the cleansing rain.

Eustace Scrubb, in Lewis’s Dawn Treader, is overcome by his selfish desires and turned into a dragon but later un-dragoned by Aslan in a pool of water.

Water kills. Water gives life. And not just in stories, but in reality.

The flood destroyed everything on dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life, everything except Noah and his family. Eight souls in all, saved through water.

God drowned hard-hearted Pharaoh and all his host in the Red Sea, yet He led His people Israel through the water on dry ground; they were baptized in the sea.

The prophet Jonah was thrown into the sea; the waters of the deep closed around him; weeds encircled his head; he was buried in a liquid grave. And yet the Lord raised him from the watery pit.

Water kills. Water gives life.

And in this, you have something in common with Noah, Moses, and Jonah. The Lord fixes his Word - which also kills and makes alive - to water in order to bury you in his death bless you in his resurrection.

The same Lord who opened the heavens and the wells of the deep, opens the font, drowns your sin, and saves you in a flood of forgiveness. Like Andy Dufresne, you are cleansed from the filth of your sin in Jesus’ redemption.

The same Lord who led the people Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground, leads you through Baptismal waters while Satan and all his hosts are swept away. Jesus hurls Word and water upon us. Ding-dong, the wicked serpent is dead, and you’re saved from the flames.

The same Lord who appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah was swallowed up by death, once for all. Like Jonah and the fish, the grave will spit you out through your Baptism into Jesus’ death and resurrection. Like Eustace, Jesus un-dragons you in Baptism.

Noah was not alone in the ark. Moses and Israel were not alone at the Red Sea or in the wilderness. Jonah was not alone, even in the belly of the great fish. And you are not alone in the font. Jesus is with you in water and Word. Your Baptism is soaked with Christ’s promises. You are saturated in Jesus’ cleansing sacrifice for sin.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

In Holy Baptism you die and rise with Jesus because Jesus died and rose for you. Jesus’ cross is in your Baptism.

In Holy Baptism you go where Jesus goes. Jesus dies for you; you die with Jesus. Jesus rises for you; you rise with your Baptism, and in the resurrection of the dead. This is remarkable, miraculous!

Imagine there was a doctor somewhere who understood the art of saving people from death, or even though they died, could restore them quickly to life so that they would afterward live forever. Oh, how the world would pour in money like snow and rain. No one could find access to him because of the throng of the rich! But here in Baptism there is freely brought to everyone’s door such a treasure and medicine that it utterly destroys death and preserves all people alive. (Large Catechism IV.43)
Baptism gives you Jesus. Lent and Easter also give us Jesus’ dying and Jesus’ rising. In Baptism Jesus’ gives us his Lent and Easter. Jesus’ bitter suffering and death; Jesus’ agony and bloody sweat; Jesus’ cross and passion - it’s all yours in Baptism. Jesus’ victory over the grave; Jesus’ glorious resurrection and ascension - all yours in Baptism. Your Baptism - and every Baptism - is a little Lent and Easter, poured into the font and poured over us.

And so, every day is a little Lent and Easter. Let us never say, “I was baptized” but rather, “I am baptized into Christ.” Baptism is always present tense. Daily we die to sin. Daily we rise to new life in Christ.

What does this mean? To die to sin means to confess it. Confess that we who have died to sin still live in it. And not only that, but we love it. We are quick to slake our sinful thirsts above our neighbors’ needs and against God’s will. Confess and repent that our heart is an arid, loveless wasteland. Confess and repent that our lips gush with praise for ourselves while our prayer, praise, and thanks to God is dusty bone-dry. Confess and repent that our mouths are parched from our constant slander and gossip and hatred for others. Confess and repent that our love for our neighbor is a drought of mercy while our love for ourselves is a reservoir, full of greed and self-serving.

It is good, then, that Lent and Easter bring us Jesus’ death and resurrection. Water kills. Water makes alive. Baptism comes to irrigate the desert of our hearts. Baptism brings Jesus’ death and resurrection to you. You are washed by his blood. Cleansed by his sacrifice. Buried in his tomb. Risen with Christ. Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Therefore, do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

What does this mean? Live in your Baptism. Remember who you are in Christ, a new creation. You belong to Jesus. And Jesus’ death and resurrection belong to you.

When you’re sharing the Gospel with your co-workers, friends, neighbors, and family – or even those you do not know, like Jonah did...remember, you have died and risen with Christ in Baptism. Your mouth is now an instrument of grace.

When you’re lending a helping hand for your neighbor…remember, you have died and risen with Christ in Baptism. Your hands are now instruments of mercy.

When death stares you in the face and causes you despair…remember, you’ve already died and risen with Christ in Baptism. Death no longer has dominion over Jesus…or you.

When all you see is a world, like Noah did, full of wickedness…remember, you have died and risen with Christ in Baptism. In this world you will have trouble, but fear not, Christ has overcome the world and gives you his victory in your Baptism.

And when Satan waves your sin in your face like a dirty diaper, remember…you have died and risen with Christ in Baptism. All your sins belong to Jesus now. Take comfort in God’s promise: I am baptized into Christ. And if I am baptized, I am dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Jesus is your Greater Noah, who keeps you safe in the holy ark of the Christian Church. Jesus suffered the divine deluge of judgment in your place. Jesus is your Greater Moses, who leads you through the water into the Promised Land; Jesus conquered the Pharaoh of hell on the cross for you. Jesus is your Greater Jonah, whose head was encircled in thorns, who descended into the pit, and spent three days in the belly of the earth to raise you from the dead. Death could not hold Jesus; and neither will it hold you.

In Holy Baptism you die and rise with Jesus because Jesus died and rose for you. Jesus’ cross is in your Baptism.

And what does such baptizing with water indicate? It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

This is most certainly true.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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