Saturday, January 18, 2014

“Water: A Gift of Death and Life” (Romans 6:3-4)

S-1407 BOTL/3A 1/12/2014 Hymns: (O) #302; (S) LSB #594; L.S. #298; #300; (C) #301

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

Theme: Water: A Gift of Death and Life (Romans 6:3-4)

Question: “Do you know how valuable is YOUR Baptism?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text for the Baptism of the Lord is from the Epistle lessons “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)


Most precious people of God, last week we marked the Epiphany. Over and over again we said that Epiphany was about light and life. Light is a powerful force. Light gives life. Light gives safety. Light exposes. Light heals. The Epiphany light of our Lord Jesus Christ is a great gift from our Lord that kills and makes alive.

Today, we turn our attention to another great force in creation. Water. Water like light is essential for life. Did you know that you will die much sooner if your body is deprived of water than if you are deprived of food? Water is omnipresent in our great creation too. Our Lord has seen fit to make a world that is over 70% water! Life in our bodies and in our world is not possible without water. That is why in South Dakota when there is rain, there is an abundance of crops, but when there is a drought, it is a terrible thing.

Water is a precious commodity and critical for persevering life. But water can also be most destructive. In the Scriptures we read of Noah. 40 days and 40 nights of rain deluged creation leading to a worldwide catastrophe. Since then, when we think of floods we can’t help but think of Noah. While the Lord has promised never to destroy the entire world in a flood, we are still reminded of the destructive power of water. You have seen that first hand two years ago when much of the Midwest was flooded as the Mighty Mississippi River began to swell. Thousands of acres of farmland, scores of homes and businesses and a way of life for several months were all washed away by the unchecked water. But we have seen more. A couple of years ago Hurricane Sandy hit the East Cost and the tranquil waters of the ocean into turned into an instrument of carnage and death. The very bodies of water that have been placed here by the Lord to make life possible are also able, in a world marred by sin, to wreak disaster, destruction & death! PAUSE.

So in a real way, on this Baptism of Our Lord, we consider the great gift of water. It is a gift of both death and life. What is true in our life in the world is also true in our life with the Lord. Water is both a gift of death and life. This is what we hear from the Lord through St. Paul in his letter to the Romans. In this precious Word we hear how Baptism, which is the application of water, both buries and raises—it kills and it brings forth life. The mighty miracle of Baptism, administered at the direction of the Lord Jesus Christ, kills and makes alive. 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.

But this new life is not possible were it not for the new life granted to us in Christ. On this first Sunday after the Epiphany, we observe and celebrate the Baptism of our Lord Jesus in the Jordan River by John the Baptizer and revealed by the heavenly Father to those who were there to see the beloved Son of God.

John knew this long before our Lord Jesus instituted the Holy Washing that we know as Holy Baptism. That is why he reacted the way he did when his cousin Jesus came to be baptized in the Jordan. John would have prevented Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” But Jesus answered Him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

And the significance of that act of righteousness for us is that all who are now baptized into Christ, into His body, the Church, partake of that righteousness which Christ obtained for us through His perfect life, His atoning death on the cross, and His subsequent resurrection from the grave. That means we have an unlimited supply of God’s grace that kills the old man in us and raises in us a new man that loves Him and serves Him with humility and joy. PAUSE.

The Wildman in the wilderness known as John the Baptizers paints a most beautiful picture of this righteousness as He reveals to us that the Man standing before him was not and is not part of the swirling waters of death that is our sinful world. NO! Jesus was the Holy One who is from God and sent by God to bring about life and salvation. For this reason, Jesus willingly stepped into those waters. In an obedience that pleased His Father in heaven, our Lord allowed Himself to be washed away in the tsunami of our filth, sin and death. He rode the current of death through Galilee, into the plains and all the way to the Hill country of Judea. But eventually the waters swept over Him. On the hill called Calvary, our Lord willingly went under the waters of sin and death. All of the destructive force of those waters washed over Him as He allowed Himself to be drowned and die.

The Babe of Bethlehem, who a week ago, the Magi came to visit, bow before, offered Him gifts and worshiped Him permitted it to happen for our sakes. He took it into Himself to fulfill all of God’s righteousness. This pleased the Father so much that He spoke profound words: This is My beloved Son with whom I Am well pleased (Mt. 3:17). Indeed, He was and is pleased with His Son. In fact, it was for that very reason Jesus came in the first place!

And what happens after the flood of sin washed over Jesus that makes our baptismal waters a dual power? Jesus went under the water of sin and death. But He did not stay there. He paved a way through the waters for those who would come after Him. His death in the waters stilled them. No longer could the raging waters of sin claim us as victim. It serves only as a washing. Those still waters wash away the sin and death that would assault us and they leave us with life! Like Jesus, we die in that powerful water of Christ and miraculously we are raised out of the water to a new life. This life is a resurrection of the highest order. It is life that will never again be overcome by the water of death! NEVER!

Today, by the mighty, majestic and marvelous miracle of Baptism—the Baptism of Christ and yours, remember that you have died and been raised to a new life. Therefore, as the redeemed, baptized children of God, we can by the power of the Holy daily remember our baptism, repent of our sins and live our lives for our King, Jesus and present Him with our most precious gifts—our new lives of faith, righteousness and holiness.

This holiness has come upon us at our Baptism. In Baptism God clothed us with the garments of His salvation. By His grace, Christ’s forgiveness covered us and His holiness counted for us. Through His Word, as we hear and read it, He wraps that beautiful robe more tightly around us and fastens its buttons more securely.

Indeed, beloved, know this truth and celebrate it every day. Jesus’ death in the flood of sin and His rising out of the water and the grave makes our Baptism an eternal GIFT of life! Amen.

Now the peace of God…


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