Sermon for the Baptism of Our Lord, Jan. 13, 2013
St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas
Sermon Text: Luke 3:15-22
Sermon Theme: The Broader Meaning of Baptism
(Emphasis online Commentary; Emphasis online Illustrations; original ideas; Brokhof, Series C, Preaching Workbook)
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Some of you remember your baptism quite well, and some of you dont. If you were in Middle School or Elementary School when you were baptized, you probably remember it quite well; if you were a month-old baby, you dont remember it at all.
On second thought, even those old enough to remember it, probably forgot your baptism, if I did it, because I am pretty tame in comparison to John the Baptist. He was half-naked with an animal hide hanging around him, wild-eyed and shouting for people to repent! I dont even like to wear swim trunks in public, much less a piece of animal fur. He was a hermit from the desert, and Im an old grandpa from a nice home. People dont usually remember nice old grandpas, do they?
Well, in any case, if you do remember your baptism, I hope you remember it for the right reason, which is not how the pastor was dressed. Or how loud he may have shouted for repentance. Oh, you may remember that you received a gift of a wall cross and were given your baptismal candle and napkin as remembrances. And an official-looking Baptism certificate.
In my office at home, I have my fathers baptismal certificate and my own certificate side by side on the wall, reminding me of the hope that someday we will be in heaven together. What you were told to remember, either by me or by one of the Elders, when you were baptized, was that baptism is a Sacrament of cleansing, a special Rite during which our sins are being washed away and we are being made clean, and we become a son or daughter of God.
But there is still more to baptism than that, something that must be understood, otherwise, you could have a really big misconception about the Sacrament. Let me try to explain what I mean with some actual illustrations.
When I first began my ministry here at St. Pauls some 23 years ago, I was inexperienced and didnt fully understand what I was doing. During the first couple years, I had several couples who were not members of our church and who were not interested in becoming members of the church some where Catholic, some were unchurched.
They wanted me to baptize their babies so that if their child should die, he would go to heaven. They somehow had the idea that baptism was like a polio shot, you give it to him once in life with maybe one booster and he is good to go for life. I baptized them, and, of course, I never saw any of them again. Thats not how baptism works.
About the same time, I had three adults come to my office seeking baptism for themselves so that they could be saved; they had never been baptized and they were afraid they might die without having been baptized. I tried to explain to them that the Sacrament was more involved than that, but went ahead and baptized them anyway. Of course, I never saw any one of them again, and what their relationship with the Lord is today, I do not know.
Baptism has a broader meaning than that, and so let me outline to you what that is. In addition to everything else I have said about baptism, it also involves three more things:
One, it is a sign. Just at Jesus baptism, the dove (a sign of the Holy Spirit) comes and the voice of God speaks, so at every baptism, a sign of chosenness and ownership is publicly exhibited. The sign of the cross is made over the persons forehead and their heart.
Two, baptism is a commitment. It is clear that Jesus comes to His baptism willingly and is ready to commit Himself to whatever role the Father has for Him. So it must be also with us. When we submit to baptism as older children or adults, we come with an open and unprejudiced willingness to serve. When we come as infants, we come with sponsors who make that commitment for us as well as their pledge to see the commitment carried out.
When you come to the church, get baptized and we never see you again, there is no commitment, and therefore no real baptism.
Three, baptism is an Identification. When you are baptized, you are identified with Christs death and resurrection; you are identified as children of the Heavenly Father, as Christians. Staying away from the church is remaining outside the Body of Christ. How do you remain a Christian by staying outside the Body of Christ. You are neither ear nor mouth nor eye, etc., — so what are you?
Our sermon text leaves no doubt about the importance of baptism and the commitment to it. John says of Jesus, 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.
We human beings are strange creatures. Because we know that through Baptism, Christ brings us the forgiveness of sins, we take that as a license to keep right on sinning. But that spits in the face of repentance! Todays world has disregarded the seriousness of sin, and has even reversed the labels placed upon wrong-doing.
What used to be called chastity is now called neurotic inhibition. What used to be called Christian discipline is now called unhealthy repression. What used to be called depravity is now called creative self-expression. What used to be called disgusting is now called adult. What used to be called ethical anarchy is now called theology of liberation.
What used to be called moral irresponsibility is now called being freed up. What used to be called living in sin is now called a meaningful relationship. What used to be called modesty is now called a hang-up. What used to be called self-indulgence is now called self-fulfillment.
One would think that the opposite of pro-life would be pro-death, but it is pro-choice. Immoral movies are for mature audiences, not vile-minded ones. The print versions of these are sold in adult bookstores, presumably an establishment that takes its place alongside such other adult privileges as driving an automobile and voting.
The object of this verbal alchemy is to reduce sin from a felony to a misdemeanor, and the final goal is to get it off the books completely.
And how does God view this? Through the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 5:2, He says, Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and
light for darkness, and put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.
To be sure, in Baptism, Christ Jesus has opened heaven to us. It is wide open, and it never closes. Because of Jesus Christs sacrifice on the cross, God tells us as He told Jesus, You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased. Christ Jesus fulfilled all righteousness by taking on the sins of this world, including yours and mine, and nailed them to the cross, making everything right between us and God. So let our repentance be true repentance. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.