Lenten Midweek Series
A Six Week Meditation on the Sacrament of Holy Baptism
Thought for the Day from Bulletin Cover:
How great is Your goodness that You found the one who was not even seeking You. You listened to the one who was not yet praying. You opened the door to the one who was not yet knocking. Your mercy is far greater than any praise I could render. Your mercy is beyond my comprehension. I was baptized in Your holy name. Your name was invoked o me. I was received into the heavenly family and made a child of the heavenly Father; Christ became my brother. I became a temple of the Holy Spirit…I was washed clean and purified of all my impurities…I give to you, my God, eternal thanks for this immeasurable kindness.
Johann Gerhard, Meditations On Divine Mercy
Small Catechism Responsive Reading:
P: What benefits does Baptism give?
C: It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe, as the words and promises of God declare.
P: Which are these words and promises of God?
C: Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Mark: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mk. 16:16)
In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.
It happens that often a witness to a major crime must be protected. It’s the stuff of thriller movie plots. Evil forces are bent on killing the witness who would incriminate them in court. It’s also sadly the stuff of real life. Thus, safe-houses, are created by law enforcement for the protection of the witness and the goal of convicting the guilty. Unfortunately, a safe-house may not turn out to be so safe. The location is compromised and the witness is in grave danger. So, the need is always to outwit evil and to perhaps find another safe-house.
You dear Christians have a bounty on your head. Paul warns today that there are forces that want to take you captive by philosophy and empty deceit according to human traditions, elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. The list of villains gunning for you is long. Philosophy and the deceit of human traditions can be quite tricky. We might think that philosophy is only practiced by the upper echelons of society and ivory tower academics, but that is untrue. Everyone from your local newscaster to Oprah Winfrey or the latest sitcom is underpinned by a certain philosophy, a certain worldview, and certain traditions of man that are not according to Christ. The Christian must practice discernment before he is swept away by the competing empty and false philosophies espoused by their fellowman. That’s not even mentioning that the Scriptures recognize we are engaged in conflict with spiritual realities, elemental spirits as Paul says, that would like none other than to eradicate the name of Jesus and His witnesses.
However, brothers and sisters, where you have been filled in Christ, there is the safest house. Paul points you to God’s safe-house where you have been filled and rooted in Christ and he starts right here at the baptismal font. Paul says that the miracle of Baptism has set you solidly on the foundation of Christ. You were “buried with Him in baptism.” As Christ was rooted in the ground, in the tomb, so you are rooted, solidly grounded, with Him in your baptism. By your baptism Paul says “you have been filled in Him…” equipped with every spiritual blessing from the heavenly realms; ready and kept as His for eternal life. You were also raised with Him, in baptism, to live each day in the promise of the resurrection and in the certainty that the powerful working of God that raise Jesus from the dead is at work in you at this very moment.
That’s just the cusp, the tip of the iceberg, my brothers and sister, for Paul says that Baptism has filled and rooted you in all the saving work of Jesus Christ. By your baptism you share in everything we remember and meditate on during Lent. His passion and suffering become yours as you walk with Him to certain death. On Christ’s cross, He crucified you with Himself, insuring that your old-Adam, your sinful nature, would be slain. He gives this to you, Paul says, in baptism.
He who died for you is the one who is God, for “in Him the whole fullness of the deity dwells bodily.” The true and almighty God interpenetrated with the body of Christ was the effective sacrifice for your sin. The fullness of God bled for you! You have been baptized into all of Him, His work and His person—human and divine—given for you for the forgiveness of your sins.
He did this so you can rest your conscience on this fact. God does not deal with you according to your sins, nor requite you according to your iniquities. Though your old self may yet deceive you into thinking that God is punishing you for all your trespasses that old-Adam cannot condemn you. Your “body of death” and the “uncircumcision of your flesh” have been put off and buried with Christ for good by your baptism.
Isn’t that a comforting message that Paul has for us? Buried with Christ in baptism, your sin is entombed forever. Raised in Christ by in baptism, all the demands that damn you and haunt you have been satisfied. Nothing has any claim on your, but Christ your Savior who has brought you to live safely in His house forever.
Therefore you are in the safest house as you are in Christ. You need that house, because as I said before danger lurks as you walk through this vale of deceit. Because you were once “dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh”, your old-Adam would love for you to have a reunion with the old-neighborhood. He would like to move back into the old house of sin and deceit that Christ had purchased and redeemed you from.
Since you often fall in weakness to temptation to evil thoughts and desires you might begin to think there’s some rot in your root and perhaps your foundation is beginning to crack. “Maybe I don’t stand firm in Christ after all?” “Am I devoid of my Lord since I still sin?”
Not only that, but along with the Colossians, you are assaulted by all kinds of philosophies and worldviews that tell you there is better way than depending on Christ. Some tell you to surrender and give up the fight. They tell you that sin is only natural and you should not resist your lusts and inclinations towards unloving actions. Others tell you how life can be better if you only do things yourself. That was not much different from the heresy that afflicted the Colossians who were being tempted towards a religion that claimed higher more “spiritual” experiences if you followed the right pattern and instructions of the false teachers. If the powers that exist cannot completely eradicate Christ from your life than they’ll just try to add something. Jesus plus whatever will make you think you’re more spiritual and more worthy of God’s grace. When we think on these things it can make us question how safe we are in God’s house.
But listen! Your house is safe! “The cosmic powers over this present darkness” cannot harm you, since Jesus nailed your salvation shut saying “It is finished.” When one of God’s Called and ordained servants proclaims you forgiven, be assured that no one can escape this forgiveness. The very forgiveness you have in baptism is the same forgiveness which is preached into your ear—real forgiveness here and now by the power of God’s Word—the same Word that was powerfully at work in your baptism into Christ. You see this wall? I know that the foundation was made strong for this building. It has stood for decades. I trust it enough that I’ll lean on it. Though its possible to collapse any structure you have a house that is more certain that any building made by hands. Your safety is promised and rooted on the foundation of God who is Christ—the risen and reigning savior of the world. You can lean your entire person-mind, body, and soul-on this truth!
So now you can face the danger that lurks to capture you in confidence knowing that Lord in baptism has rooted you to Himself. The very godhead has united Himself to you. You walk in safe because as St. Paul says nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Nothing in life and not even death can keep you from God because He has promised to keep you safe. This same Lord Jesus goes with you now as He has made You one with Him, so you can pray to Him for strength against your enemies as He taught you to say, “deliver us from evil.” Likewise He has given you His Word and Absolution to guide and protect you from the assaults of the empty deceit of man and the Evil One alike.
By your baptism you are in the safest house. Rooted and filled in Christ you live forever; you have peace, joy, and pleasure; you become clean, righteous, and powerful against the devil and death, “and nothing shall hurt you” (Lk 10:19). You are safe in Christ, now and forever. Amen.