Friday, March 16, 2007

Lent 4 Preaching - Wenesday

Pastor Rick Sawyer
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Brandon, MS

I Cor.1:1-13/LentWed4.07

Dear Christian, it is one thing to speak, as we must, about having nothing to do with our salvation. It is another thing to conclude from that that there is nothing we can do. We hear this evening from St. Paul, how Israel all passed through the sea and were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. That was God’s rescuing them with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Adults came out of Egypt through the water, and infants too. I wouldn’t doubt that children in the womb were carried by their mothers, and thus were born in freedom, when apart from such deliverance, they would have been born slaves to Pharaoh. This was all God’s doing, to save His people.

God’s doing alone is what saves us. But having been saved; having learned that we are not to speak as if God does His part and we do ours, and so we have to work toward our salvation, hand in hand, cooperating with God, as those who would deny God’s saving water to an infant say. Having learned to confess properly that salvation is the work of God alone, Who even rescues helpless children, let us not fall into thinking we are helpless. Taking Israel as our example, learn that when they gave themselves to sin, God was not pleased with that. He did not set them free that they might passively return to slavery, as if they had no choice, no power, no freedom. Speaking to the Baptized children in the church at Corinth, then, the Holy Apostle writes: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

On Ash Wednesday, we heard about God’s Law. It teaches us, as sinners, that we do not love God or trust Him as we ought. A week later, we heard about God’s Gospel, the Creed. In it, we say we all believe and rightfully confess the God Who saves us by His grace, by Jesus. Last week, we heard about the Prayer our Savior taught us. In it, you pray as children of the Father, as His sons. You pray like Jesus! And that, dear Children, no one but the baptized do. I don’t mean that those who aren’t yet baptized cannot pray as Christians. We confess that the Word of God can work a saving faith that leads us up to Holy Baptism, and according to our rites, we never baptize ANYONE—infant or adult— as if they DON’T believe the Faith with us, but as if they DO.

In the Lord’s Prayer, the Baptized and believing pray to God for all that

His Commandments say. We can do that, as if the Only God there is our Dear Father, and we are His dear children. We are learning to fear and love and trust in Him above all things. We are learning to Hallow His Name, which we receive in Holy Baptism. We do that by confessing and believing properly, and living godly lives according to it. We pray for His Kingdom, which comes as He gives us His Spirit, so that we believe His Word and gladly hear and learn it. We pray, “Thy Will be Done,” and thus we honor our dear Father, as Jesus did the Night He suffered for us, praying in the Garden, saying: “Nevertheless, not my will, but Thy will be done.” When we pray for daily bread, we pray for all that helps us and supports us and our neighbor in every physical need. When we pray our Father to forgive our trespasses as we forgive each other, what better strength against all bitterness and strife? Husbands, wives, pray constantly that God would grant you His forgiveness, so that hearing me say, “I forgive you all your sins, in Jesus’ Name,” you learn to speak to one another! Then pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” That is, keep us from adultery and fornication. Keep us from dishonesty and stealing. Keep us from all lusts and passions of the flesh. Keep us from believing we are slaves, instead of perfectly free lords of all in our baptism, subject neither to pharaoh nor to Satan nor to our sinful flesh!

Dear Baptized, this little summary of what we heard last week is for a reason. You all were baptized into CHRIST (or soon will be), in the Water and the Word. In that, GOD saved you. As Peter tells us, “Baptism doth now save us,” the way that Noah once was saved inside the ark atop the waters; the way that Israel once was saved from pharaoh’s army by the water of the sea. You were saved by God’s own mighty, outstretched, nail-scared hands when you were baptized. That set you free to assault the ears of God with your petitions, as you war with everything that wants to drag you back to slavery, to false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. For by such, Satan only wants to make you doubt and worry: “Am I REALLY in God’s image? Am I REALLY God’s dear, baptized child in JESUS, with whom He is well pleased?”

It is such a grave mistake for us, as Lutherans, to believe the lie that Baptism is plain, useless, ordinary water. Recite your Catechisms daily. Remember that Baptism is the water included in God’s command and combined with His Word. His Word created all the universe in just six days! His Word became flesh for us, and rescued us by dying in our place. Then, having risen from the dead, He said to His disciples: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Return to Paradise and read the first two chapters of the book of Genesis this week. Notice how the Spirit of God is hovering on the waters; how the ground from which God fashioned Adam is ground that has been watered. Dust won’t stay together apart from water! Then notice, after God has fashioned Adam, breathed him—Spirited him—into a living being; after God has fashioned Eve from Adams side—notice that God says to them, “Be fruitful. Multiply. Subdue the earth; rule and fill it!” From that, understand what Christ, our Second Adam, means by saying—after He has gone into the Sleep of death for us, and blood and water have poured from His side. The resurrected, wound-bearing Jesus tells His washed ones, His Body and Blood fed ones, “Be fruitful. Multiply. Subdue the earth; rule and fill it” —by baptizing and teaching the baptized to hold to everything the Lord has spoken.

Baptism is GOD’S own, blessed, saving, recreating work, by which He fills the earth with Christians! The preaching of Baptism is the Word that recreates us in God’s image! It is the preaching of Noah, by which God ushers sinners into safety in His ark, the Church. I cannot say enough of what Baptism does! It “works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.” And what are those words and promises? Christ says in the last chapter of Mark, “Whoever believes AND IS BAPTIZED will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

The world wants to rip faith away from what God does and gives and says. Resist that temptation, dear Christian. Apart from what God does and gives and says there can only be believing leading to death. Everyone believes, but most will not believe what God has said. Jesus says, “whoever believes AND IS BAPTIZED,” teaching clearly the necessity of Baptism. And whoever does not believe – Believe what? Whoever does not believe what Jesus says: That Baptism is necessary. That your baptism is something to believe in. That faith goes hand in hand with what God does and gives and says, even in such simple means as Water! Believe, dear Baptized: Baptism doth now save you!

And that is saying more than that some water saves! Lots of folks go on and on about the power of water. I saw a charlatan the other day on TBN or some such network, promising that if you send him money, he will send some water he has blessed, and it will make you well or wealthy or whatever you desire! Such satanic trickery! In the Old Testament, God’s Spirit hovered on the waters. The world was judged and Noah saved by water. When Moses was just 3 months old—the same age I was when I was baptized—his mother put him in an ark and set him in the Nile, and so that prophet, as an infant, was delivered from the hand of Pharaoh, by water! No surprise, then, that when God delivered Israel, it was—once again—by water! In the wilderness, God opened up a rock and saved His people—yes, by water. St. Paul says,, “That Rock was Christ!” When Israel passed into the promised land, again, they passed through water, the SAME water by which St. John the Baptizer would administer baptism to our Savior, and over Him, the Spirit would descend in the form of a dove, the heavens would open and the Father would say, “You are My Beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.”

It is not just water that does what God has promised, but the

Word of God —His promises —His promised SON —for you in the water! Christ HIMSELF baptized you, making baptism a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of new birth in the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit and Jesus go together in the Water, and where they are, there is the Father’s grace. St. Paul says in Titus, chapter three: “God saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior!” That makes us heirs of heaven! It makes us sons of God. It sets us free from sin and death and judgment. It makes us Satan’s own worst enemy!

Of course, it makes us OUR worst enemy as well! That’s why we have

the warning of St. Paul tonight. Israel was baptized into Moses through the sea. Yet, they were overcome. They returned to bondage, without even going back to Egypt. They engaged in sexual immorality. They grumbled against the leadership that God provided them in Moses. They mixed, not just their bodies but their hearts and minds, their worship and their thinking and believing with the pagan world around them. They forgot who they were: God’s baptized sons!

The Baptized of the Church in Corinth were forgetting also. They were living as if they had no strength, no choice but to get caught up in petty quarrels, in bickering, in sin. They were living as if God’s salvation, free and clear in Jesus, meant that they could just throw caution to the wind and live the way they wanted. One man was living with his father’s wife. St. Paul says to excommunicate him! The Baptized do not live like that—in open, willful sin.

So, what does baptizing with water mean for us, dear Children? “It means that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”

You were baptized into the death of Christ. As Jesus died, so you have died with Him through Holy Baptism. And just as Christ is risen, so you are also risen from the death of sin to walk in Him in newness of life. You are a new creation! You are a New Man in Christ Jesus! The last thing God your Father wants for you, dear children, is for you to fall back into slavery, into sin. There’s a new show on TV called Intervention. I sorrow over one young man who says, “I’m dying for something to live for.” With his needle in a spoonful of Oxycontin, there’s no wonder. What sorrow. What slavery. What shame!

Your Father did not set you free in Jesus for you to forget who you are, to quit believing in your baptisms and make yourselves again weak, helpless slaves to worldly passions, to sin, to wicked desires that want to rob you of your freedom. Your baptism makes you lords and masters. It begins new impulses, new desires, creates in you a new and right spirit and gives you the mind of Christ. In short, it makes you your own worst enemy, because, as long as you are in this world, you’ll always have yourSELF, your SINFUL self to deal with. But you also have your Baptism, your Jesus, and with that, His Holy Spirit. You have your Father’s pleasure and His Name to call upon in every need. And when you’ve fallen? When you, with Israel and Corinth, have forgotten? You have that Name, dear Children! Call on it, especially then, like children crying to their father when they’re bleeding or in danger. The devil may succeed in tricking you to wander back into his sphere. Our sinful human natures go along with that. But do not let him rob you of your right to call on God as Father when you need Him most. When you need the Lord’s forgiveness. When you need your Father’s servant to declare to you that “I forgive you all your sins,” and thereby set you back upon your feet as lords and masters, that is, as God’s own baptized sons and daughters in Christ Jesus! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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