Wednesday, January 25, 2012

“Death With A Purpose!” (Romans 8:31-39)

S-1290 Baptism of Christ/3B 1/08/12 Hymns: (O) #590; (S) #594; LS #628; #627; (C) #601 LSB

Text: Genesis 1:1-5; Romans 6:1-11; Mark 1:4-11

Theme: “Death With A Purpose!” (Romans 8:31-39)

Question: “What is the Purpose for death?” Armour, SD.

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for the Baptism of Christ is from the Epistle Lesson: “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” (Romans 6:3-4).

Beloved family of faith, ever since the fall of man into sin, there has been one thing that no created being could escape—death. Death disrupts our future, destroys our plans and disturbs our hearts. Death seems so absolute and final. When you look at the cold and lifeless body of your loved one laying in the casket, your heart aches and your eyes water. Indeed death disrupts our future, destroys our plans and disturbs our hearts.

It all seems so hopeless, pointless, fruitless and purposeless. We work so hard to live for a purpose. As we grow up, we want to get married, build a home and have a family. We go to school to better ourselves and have a good future. We continue to strive to get a good job to provide for the family we have been blessed. We plan our lives according to our vision and purpose. But then, death comes knocking and the purpose for our existence stops in its tracks. That which we have purposefully worked long and hard for, appears to be for naught. And our hearts are void and empty.

Death appears to be the winner. It robs us of the joys of life and the hope of the future. Death seems to take our breath away and send us into the gloom of night. Death emerges as the victor but that is not the case beloved in the Lord.

Today, the Epistle lesson gives us hope, heaven and happiness. Here the Apostle Paul tells us the purpose of death—our death is that we have a guaranteed future. Death may appear the winner or the victor, but that is not the case, it is only a mirage but that is not so. In another letter Paul writes: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:55-56).

Today, in the waters of the Jordan we see something totally different and absolutely wonderful. Christ becomes one with us. He takes on Him—our sins, our shame, our death and our hell. In that simple act of stepping into the waters, Jesus takes your place and presents you totally holy and sinless in the sight of God. You need to know that Jesus’ act of descending into the water was unnecessary for Him—He did NOT need to be baptized—He did it for our sake and gave us His undeserving grace.

Listen kindly to our preacher as he writes by the power of the Holy Spirit these marvelous words. “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” Our death has a purpose—a purpose to live with Christ here on earth and forever in paradise. PAUSE.

My beloved saints, you know it was just yesterday I returned home from (Israel) being with my family attending the funeral of my father. When we attended the funeral, I was saddened to hear the priest speak words empty of comfort, nothing about the victory over death; and no hope of the resurrection. He outlined the good things my father did. And he encouraged everyone to pray to the saints and to Mary so that God would accept my dad into heaven.

I sat there astonished at the empty words without purpose. They had no purpose of bringing hope to the hopeless. They had no purpose of bringing help to the hurting and they had no purpose of giving comfort to the sorrowful.

After the worship service was over, I asked if I could say few words and I begun thus: “Christ is Risen! And they responded He is risen indeed! Alleluia! (3 times I shared these words). I spoke of this day in these words. “This is a day of sorrow and joy, a day of tears and a day of happiness. I explained why it was such blessed day for my father; quoting the book of Revelation chapter 21 saying: ‘The suffering has ended!’ No more mourning, no more sorrow, no more pain, no more cancer, no pills, no chemo therapy, no blood being drawn, no vomiting. Now my dad is in the arms of His blessed Savior, Jesus Christ; who has won the victory, destroyed sin, death and the devil; and cleansed my father from every stain of sin.”

I went on to say, “But it is a sad for us who are left behind as we mourn his passing. No longer would I be able to call my father to tell him I love you or wish him Merry Christmas; no longer will I be able to dine and spend time with him whenever I go back home; no longer would I have the privilege of sharing with him my life, my ministry, and family which the Lord has blessed me with.”

And then I spoke these words in conclusion. “We have hope! Hope in the blood of Christ that washed us and made us pure and holy. Hope in being baptized into Christ that made us His family of faith. Hope in the wounds of Christ that brings healing. Hope in the crown of Christ that assures us one day, we will get a crown too. Hope in cross of Christ that earned the victory; and hope in the empty tomb.” And finally I said: “Encourage one another because the victory is ours.” I then sat down.

After my family and I stood line for people to convey their condolences to us, in preparations to leave to the cemetery, many of the saints said: “We have never heard such comforting and calming words.” Even one of my cousins came up to me and said: “Nabil, you had me in tears; you even made me hunger for death!” Thanks be to God for the powerful word the Holy Spirit moved me to share. It is the Word that points us to crucified Christ, who has come as the heaven-sent Savior; who was baptized into our lives of sin, and death and shame; but rose again and by His resurrection has given us the purpose to live.

Therefore, today as we celebrate the Baptism of Christ, we also celebrate our BAPTISM. Because we have died in these waters and rose again to live for Him; and know the purpose of our lives. PAUSE.

What is the purpose of your life? It is more than just getting married, building a home, having a family; it living the life Christ wants for you—to be His messengers of hope. A messenger with a purpose! To tell the world that Satan is not the victor but Christ is! To point them to the Sacrament of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper; where we receive comfort and strength and the certainty that our lives have a purpose.

We have all died with Christ in baptism. But we have also been raised with Him to a new life. That’s the blessing of being a Christian. That’s the blessing of being a Lutheran Pastor; and Lutheran people who know the power of the resurrection. As well as the wounds of Christ, the blood of Christ and the empty tomb; that empty tomb points to our resurrection too.

Since Christ gave hope to those who were mourning; He, too, gives us hope even and in spite of walking through suffering and sorrow and sadness. PAUSE.

I was amazed! I was just overwhelmed at the cards of sympathy and calls that came to my house when people knew my father had died; e-mails from friends and brother pastors and acquaintances that I have met over the years. Do you know, what was the one common denominator in all of these messages? In a simple word it is this: Thank God for the victory of the resurrection.

These words are the hallmark for the Christian. They give us hope, they give us help and they point us to heaven. Oh, what a joy to know the blessings of God are ours. Indeed, we can say, “Death has a purpose; to destroy the old life—the life of sin, and to give us the new life—the life of sainthood with Christ. For that we say: “Thanks be to God for the victory of His resurrection which guarantees our resurrection. Amen and Amen.

Now the peace…


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