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In case you hadn’t noticed, this day is all about Baptism. Jesus’ baptism, Brad’s baptism, your baptism. “In those day Jesus came from the Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.” (Mark 1:9). Brad David Grierson, I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. See the connection?
“Do you not know that ALL OF YOU who have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into his death? We were therefore buried 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.” (Rom.6:3-4)
Baptism is a big deal. It takes a certain amount of courage to say that, in this technological age where we routinely split atoms and transplant hearts and fly to the moon and use electricity. To say that Baptism is a big deal takes courage. But that’s what we say.
On a day that is all about baptism, we heard about the creation of the universe out of nothing, over which the Spirit hovered and into which God spoke His creative word, “let there be light.” And there was light. Baptism is that big of a deal.
Jesus’ baptism makes baptism a big deal. If a world famous chef came to eat at the Last Unicorn Restaurant that would make the Last Unicorn a big deal. If a world famous chef said, ‘breakfast, lunch and dinner, you can find me at the Last Unicorn,’ that would make the Last Unicorn a really big deal.
Some say, ‘baptism is no big deal.’ Since Jesus’ death on the cross atones for the sin of the whole world, and it does, what’s the big deal about baptism? Who needs it?
That’s a bit like trying to satisfy your hunger by eating food. It can’t be done. You can’t eat food. It’s too general, too vague. You can eat a carrot, a pork chop, a snickers bar. And they will satisfy your hunger. It’s got to be food with a particular name attached to it.
Paul’s whole point in our Epistle reading from Romans 6 is that Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection from the dead is like food. It’s great, it’s wonderful. You can’t live without it. But you can’t get at it and it can’t get at you because it’s too general, too vague. It’s just philosophy. It’s got to have your name attached to it. Your name has to be attached to Christ and Christ’s name has to be attached to you. Then it becomes faith.
That’s why the rite of Baptism always begins with a name. “What is your name?” “How is this child named?” There is no ‘baptism in general.’ The doctrine of Baptism doesn’t help you a bit. But MY BAPTISM, YOUR (singular) BAPTISM saves ME, saves YOU.
When you think about it, it is rather amazing that in the entire history of the Christian Church, there has never been any method for membership in mass. From the very beginning, every single member of the Christian Church has been received individually, one at a time, by name. The three thousand who were baptized in one day on the day of Pentecost were baptized one at a time, by name.
One at a time, the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit was given to them and their name was written in the book of life. One at a time, their name was signed onto the death of Jesus Christ and YOUR sins were atoned for. One at a time, their name was signed onto the resurrection of Jesus Christ and YOU were raised from the dead. YOUR baptism, the one that has your name attached to it, connects YOU, to Jesus Christ, who is YOUR salvation.
The consequence of sin is death and Jesus died the death of sin on the cross. In your baptism you died with Christ. You died while you were still alive.
The consequence of sin atoned for is that death no longer has any hold on you. Apart from sin, death has nothing to hold onto. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the end of death by sin. And in your baptism you were born again, sinless and holy, you walk in newness of life. Death has lost its grip on you. You rose from the dead before you died.
In your baptism, you were united to Christ. “And if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like His.” Baptism unites you to Jesus. Baptism unites Jesus to you.
Baptism is a big deal. The water in and of itself is no big deal. Apart from what God says about the water, its just plain water. But when God says, ‘this water is a baptism,’ then the water is a big deal. It becomes a ‘holy water.’ And God’s Word becomes a ‘watery word.’ With all the power of the ‘watery word’ that the Holy Spirit hovered over in the beginning, out of which came life – real life, life as God intended all life to be.
Baptism is a big deal. Luther says, “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.” (LC IV:43).
Paul says, “what shall we say then?” Isn’t that just like us though? God gives us, YOU, the most precious gift in the whole world, life and salvation, and we say, “but I want to have a say.” “I demand to have a say in the matter.” Okay then, what do you want to say?
“What’s my part in this?” ‘Surely I have to say something or do something don’t I?’ And St. Paul asks, “what would you like to say? What would you like to do?” Is there something lacking in what Christ has said to you, or done for you that you think you need to add to before it’s complete? Is there something unfinished in what He has done FOR YOU in your baptism that you think you need to do add to before YOU CAN SAY “it is finished”?
Or is it simply, that you didn’t have any say in the matter? Does it bother you that God broke into your life like a thief in the night and robbed you of your precious possessions – you macho pride and your phony, your inflated ego that always wants to have its say?
Does it bother you that He spoke His holy Name onto you without your invitation, or your acceptance, and maybe even in the face of all your objections? I mean, who barges right into another person’s life and enters in without being asked, without being invited to come into my heart? I think that’s a violation of my privacy isn’t it?
Holy Baptism is almighty God’s creative power at work – like it or not. But you really ought to like it. Thank God, He didn’t wait for an invitation from the darkness before He just spoke His Word into it “and it was so.” He did what He knew needed to be done.
As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. God exercises His creative power entirely on His own, without our cooperation. He recreates us in His holy image with no more help from us than when He took the dust of the earth and made us into a living being by the breath of His mouth. “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” and you are a new creation, a holy child of the living God.
So, what would you like to say? That you still want to have the right to say ‘no’ to all of this? ‘That you still want to hold onto your free will to choose?’ ‘I can still reject it can’t I?’ There’s a great scene from an old sit-com that some of you may have never heard of but some of you never missed, called “All In The Family.” That blessed evangelist Archie Bunker argues with his son-in-law, the Meathead about having his grandchild baptized. Archie says, “when you going to have her baptized.” Michael says, “we weren’t planning on having her baptized at all.” “Why not,” says Archie from his recliner. “You were baptized weren’t you?” “Yea,” says Michael, “but I renounced my baptism.” Archie looks at him with an incredulous look of his and says, “You can’t do that. You can renounce your belly-button but it won’t go away.”
Archie Bunker was more of a theologian that we thought. Go ahead and renounce it and walk away from it and forget about it. You’re free to do that. But my question to you is, why would you want to? Why would you ask a question like that?
When you finally come to your senses, and don’t we all need to come to our senses every day, when you finally come to your senses, know this, Archie was right. You’re baptism will still be there. Say what you want about that terrible prodigal son, but when he came to his senses, he knew that his father would be there if he went back home. That’s faith.
I think that this is what the judgment before God will be all about. What did you do with the name you were given; the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit? Did you confess it in thought, word and deed? Or did you renounce it in thought, word and deed? Did you honestly think that your heavenly Father would not be there when you repented and came home?
Or is it that you are just being protective of God? ‘He’s being too good, too kind, too gracious. ‘There are some people out there you know, surely not I Lord, who will “continue to sin so that grace may abound” and make a fool out God.’
And with that, Paul cuts us off before we dig our graves even deeper than we have. He has a question for us. “How can we who have died to sin continue to live in it?” It’s insane. Only a crazy person would be so stupid. Will you really exercise your freedom by going back to jail? He has raised you from the dead. Will you really climb back into your grave?
“For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin, and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
“What shall we say then?” How about have the courage to say: “I renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways.” “I believe in God the Father almighty.” “I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.” “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” Have the courage to say, “I am baptized, dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”