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Baptism of Our Lord–“Baptized” (Luke 3:15-22)

C-20 Epiphany 1 (Lu 3.15-22)Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

As we turn to our Gospel reading for today, we meet John the Baptist again. As Luke records, “the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ….” It must have been a good feeling that John the Baptist had for the people to think of him so highly that they would see him as the Christ. Someone other than John might have let this go to their head, maybe play along with the thoughts of the people. However, John would have none of this. His ministry was to prepare the way for the Coming One, One who would be infinitely more powerful than he was, One who would baptize with the Holy Spirit, One who would ultimately be the judge of the living and the dead. John did not feel himself worthy of any of this, not even to untie the sandal strings of this Coming One.

Instead of being the Christ, John was merely the final Old Testament prophet preparing the way for the Messiah, the Christ. His work was to make the final preparations pointing the world’s attention to Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ, the ultimate and perfect solution to all the sinful acts of Adam and Eve, their descendants, and all the way down to you and me. But people, asking their own questions and inventing their own answers, had their own ideas of what the Christ should be like. They needed the correction that John’s preaching provided.

John responds to the people, “‘He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’ So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people.” The correction John’s preaching provided came in his famous exhortations to repent of all one’s sin and thus also to receive God’s forgiveness.

Ultimately, that is our problem: sin and forgiveness. If you sin, you need to be forgiven. But if you do not sin, then you do not need to be forgiven. It must be good if you are the person who does not need to be forgiven because you have not sinned. What a good feeling that person must have knowing that they are so righteous before God and not like the lowly sinner. Sadly, there are many who think that way, both Christian and non-Christian alike. But we confess with St. John: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

John came to preach a message of repentance, a message that the Church needed to confess then and one which the Church needs to confess today. The Church is full of sinners. That fact has never changed. John recognized that fact and that was the message that he was preaching and he didn’t hold back any when it came to that preaching. Jesus will come and separate the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats. He will separate those who are true believers from those that are not. The Christian receives eternal life while the non-Christian receives eternal damnation. That is the work of the Messiah and that is what Christ comes on the scene to do. All of that begins today.

John the Baptist has done a good job up to now of preparing the people to receive Christ and today marks that day when Christ begins His ministry. Jesus is baptized. Luke doesn’t record much of the details but Matthew’s Gospel tells us that Jesus came to John in order to be baptized. John was leery of baptizing Jesus but does so at Jesus’ request. Following the Baptism of Jesus, the entire Trinity presents itself. Luke records, “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.””

God the Father and God the Holy Spirit acknowledged the sacrifice Jesus made as He took our sin onto Himself and clothed us in His righteousness. Christ’s mission to open heaven is the will and work of the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit puts in a rare appearance in physical form, like that of a dove. The Father declares His pleasure with the Son. While Jesus is the member of the Trinity who became flesh and died on the cross, we see in this reading that all three members of the Trinity are actively involved in opening the way to heaven.

This is not an everyday event. Heaven, where God dwells, opened its door to earth, because there, on earth at the Jordan River, Christ the Son of God stood. Did the bodily form of the Spirit leave Christ immediately? We do not know. Scripture is silent on that. For all we know, there was a dove, the Holy Spirit, perched upon the shoulder of Christ throughout His ministry. But more likely, the form of the dove disappeared soon after the Baptism. Yet, although the bodily form of the dove disappeared, the Spirit remained. He did not depart from Christ; not then, not ever. The Spirit remained on Him so that Christ could baptize His own Church with the same Spirit.

Therefore, Christ’s Baptism was not for Him – it was for you. He received the Spirit so that He could give it to you. The very same Dove descended on you when the waters of Baptism touched you. And so the same Father’s voice was for you. He tells you that you are His child. Everything that is His now belongs to you: forgiveness, life, and salvation.

Here at His baptism, Jesus took our place under the burden of our sin. As our substitute, He carried out God’s plan perfectly. The mission that Jesus began at His baptism was successful. He opened the way to heaven. He offers to join us to Himself through baptism. The Holy Spirit gives us the faith that receives that offer. God the Father adopts us into His family by that faith. When the time comes for us to leave this world, the heavens will open, the angels will carry us home and we will hear the Father say, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2013 in Baptism, Sermons

 

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Pentecost 9–“Willing and Able” (Ephesians 3:14-21)

(I also had the pleasure of baptizing my nephew today as well).

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God, our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon this morning comes from the Epistle which was read earlier.

A willingness to do good is a wonderful attribute. Combined with the ability to do good, we’ve got the complete package. We, of course, are not that package. Often we’d like to do good and can’t. Other times, we could do something but don’t because we just want to. In our text for today, the apostle Paul recognizes that God is willing and able to do good for us, specifically, to strengthen the one Holy Christian Church.

God’s willingness and ability are well documented in Scripture. John writes, “For you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” Added to this creative will is God’s re-creative will: God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Equal to God’s willingness is God’s ability. “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him.” God’s ability to save and strengthen is absolute: “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Yet nowhere is Scripture more emphatic about God’s willingness and ability to help us than in our text for today. Paul says that God’s love surpasses knowledge and that He “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.” What we see is that God is both willing and able to strengthen His Church.

Paul says at the beginning of the letter to the Ephesians that God has set forth in Christ “a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” Our heavenly Father sets out to accomplish His plan through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for it is Christ and Christ alone who is able to restore the created order: for “he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him”

The reason for all of this, the reason why we need God to strengthen His Church is because of what the world throws at us. The world applies heat to our spiritual lives. We are heavy with the weight of our sin. Our sins make us miserable and alone. The world will tell us that we are not “a poor, miserable sinner.” The world will tell us that even little Jesse is not a sinner. But that is not what David says. He says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” We are told that there is nothing for us to confess because we didn’t sin; we are a good person. As much as we don’t want to admit it, we are “a poor, miserable sinner.” We are not good because we are sinful. The world is wrong, yet we continue to buy into what the world has to say.

Instead of showing to the Ephesian Church what the world will and can do to forgive sins, rather, Paul points them to the source of willingness and ability to strengthen us: our triune God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Through all of this, though, God is willing, ready, and able to strengthen us. He is willing, ready, and able to forgive us of our sins. It is God, our heavenly Father, who chose to make us His family. It is in our Baptism that we receive God’s name. It is from God Himself that we receive our name as His children, for He made us in His own image – that of being perfect and holy. While our sin has destroyed that image of God upon us, we still receive our name from Him and continue to receive “the riches of his glory.” That is accomplished for us through what our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, has done.

Jesus Christ is willing, ready, and able to strengthen us. He dwells in our hearts through faith, as the apostle Paul says. Christ loves us beyond what our minds can fathom. It is beyond our human understanding why Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh, would be born into a sinful world to die for sinful people like us. For a reason unknown to us, He was willing to go to the cross for us and for our sins. Because He is man, He was able to substitute for us. Because He is God, His sacrifice was able to satisfy God’s demand for justice, to do what we could not do. Without the saving work of Jesus Christ, everything we have would be worthless. In fact, everything that we do have is worthless unless we have Christ. We can have everything that the world can offer, but without Christ, nothing we have is worth anything, because everything pails in comparison to the gifts which Christ has bestowed upon us: forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

Not only does God the Father and God the Son strengthen us, God the Holy Spirit also strengthens us. Our inner being is strengthened with power through the Holy Spirit. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, saving faith is created in us. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, saving faith is nurtured in us. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, saving faith is strengthened in us. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, saving faith brings to us the salvation given to us by Jesus Christ.

The work of the Holy Spirit goes beyond that. Luther says that “the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” He also “calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth.” “He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers.” “He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.” Do these words sound familiar? They should, for these are words which we all studied at one time or another in our lives – these are words from the explanation of the Third Article of the Creed. These are all things which are done for us, not by us. These are things which the Holy Spirit does for us, things which we cannot do for ourselves.

In many and various ways, we see how God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is able, ready, and willing to strengthen us. For the Church, this means several things. First, it means that we are renewed in our identity as God’s children and in the unity of the Church. We are God’s and we are connected to Him. We have that sense of belonging: belonging to God, belonging to a heavenly family with all believers. We are renewed in our knowledge of Christ’s love – love that is for us, even though we are sinners. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Think about what that means. While we were detestable and revolting in the eyes of God, Christ still came into the world to live and die to redeem us, even though there was nothing about us that was worthy of being saved. Despite our limited knowledge, we are renewed in our confidence that God is willing and able to strengthen us. Daily we are strengthened in the promise of our Baptism. When we hear the Word of God preached, we are strengthened. When we are fed with the life-giving body and blood of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we are strengthened. Recognizing God’s willingness and ability to do for us far more than we know and even ask, we find strength to grow in grace and see the importance which God has placed upon us: the fact that He has sent His Son to die in our place; the fact that He has sent the Holy Spirit to create saving faith in us and to sanctify us; and the fact that through the saving act of Holy Baptism, we have been given a name – a name which can only be given to us through the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; a name which makes us God’s own child. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The Baptism of Our Lord

A-17 Epiphany 1 (Mt 3.13-17)

Father in heaven, at the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River You proclaimed Him Your beloved Son and anointed Him with the Holy Spirit. Make all who are baptized in His name faithful in their calling as Your children and inheritors with Him of everlasting life; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

 

 

Readings

Isaiah 42:1-9
Romans 6:1-11
Matthew 3:13-17

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2011 in Epiphany

 

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