Word and Water

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The light shines on the water.

The Spirit of God hovered over the waters at both creations: in the beginning (Genesis 1:2) and at Jesus’s baptism (Matthew 3:16).  God cleanses and recreates through the washing of baptism.  Simple water does not do this, but rather God’s word added to the water.  Jesus is the Word of God, and He went into the water to be baptized.

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“Baptism is not simple water only, but it is the water included in God’s command and connected with God’s Word.”  Baptism “works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.”  “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.’”  (Mark 16:16).

— Martin Luther’s Small Catechism.

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At the Holy Family Shrine in Nebraska a channel of water leads to the sanctuary.  This water symbolizes baptism which saves us.  In baptism, God puts his name on us, adopts us, and makes us part of his family.  We become his, and come under his protection, he brings us into his sanctuary.  Through baptism God works faith in our hearts.

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For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.  Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ

— 1 Peter 3:18-22, ESV.
Emphasis added.

Epiphany: Jesus’ Baptism

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Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.  The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water …”

— John 4:13-15, ESV.

The water that wells up to eternal life is baptism.  Baptism is living water made alive by the word of God.  And through this water Christ grants his eternal life and righteousness to all who believe.

One of the first celebrations of Epiphany is of the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River.

In order to fulfill all righteousness, he took our place.  He submitted to John’s baptism in the Jordan river.  John’s baptism was for repentance, and in this way Jesus took our sin, and identified completely with us sinners.  He began his ministry by taking our place, and becoming our substitute.  He became the Lamb of God.  (Genesis 2:8).

When we were baptized, the water washed our sins away.  When Jesus was baptized, he accepted our sins from the water as his own.  John said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”  (John 1:29, ESV).

To Jordan’s river came our Lord,
The Christ, whom heavenly hosts adored,
The God from God, The Light from Light,
The Lord of glory, power, and might.

The Savior came to be baptized
The Son of God in flesh disguised
To stand beneath the Father’s will
And all His righteousness fulfill.

Then from God’s throne with thunderous sound
Came God’s own voice with words profound:
“This is My Son,” was His decree,
“The one I love, who pleases Me.”

The Father’s word, the Spirit’s flight
Anointed Christ in glorious sight
As God’s own choice, from Adam’s fall
To save the world and free us all.

— “To Jordan’s River Came Our Lord,” LSB 405:1-2, 4-5.

Blessed Epiphany.

Blessed Ash Wednesday

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Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent.  Lent is a period of renewal involving confession, absolution, and repentance.  It takes place in Spring because our Lord died and rose again in Spring: Spring is a period of renewal and new life.

In our baptism, God drowned our sinful nature, buried it with Christ, and raised us again to new life in His resurrection.  (Romans 6).  The sacrament of Confession and Absolution stems from our sacramental death and resurrection in Baptism.  In Confession we die to sin, and in the Absolution we are raised again to new life.

As Lutheran Christians, we

keep Confession, especially because of the Absolution.  Absolution is God’s Word which, by divine authority, the Power of the Keys pronounces upon individuals.  Therefore, it would be wicked to remove private Absolution from the Church.  If anyone despises private Absolution, he does not understand what the forgiveness of sins or the Power of the Keys is.

— Apology to the Augsburg Confession, Art. XIIb, 2-4,
The Lutheran Confessions, CPH 2005, 172.

Baptism and repentance are both gifts of God.  (Acts 11:18).  In the very first of the 95 Thesis, Martin Luther wrote that when “Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ [Matt. 4:17], he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”  (Luther’s Works).  That means that the entire life of a Christian is a living out of our baptism.

On Ash Wednesday, many Christians use ashes to remind us of the wages of sin: death.  For we were made from dust, and to dust we will return.  (Genesis 3:19).  Our deaths bring only death forever.  On the other hand, Christ’s death brings us life eternal.  In sin and ash we fall from death to death.  But with cleansing water Christ raises us from death into His life.

In Him, He makes us clean and alive forever.

Lutheran Satire Video: Baptism

“In [Noah’s Ark] only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God.  [Baptism] saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.”

— 1 Peter 3:20-22, NIV1984.  Emphasis added.

The water of The Great Deluge symbolizes baptism.  Therefore, baptism cannot be merely a symbol, because symbols represent higher and deeper realities.  If The Flood was real, then how much more real is Christian baptism which the water of The Flood symbolizes?  Baptism has a heavenly and an eternal reality.

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for you and your children …”

— Acts 2:38-39, NIV1984.

Click here to view more videos by The Lutheran Satire on YouTube.

The Baptism of Our Lord

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Antiphon

You are My beloved Son;* with You I am well pleased.
(Mark 1:11b)

Responsory

L:  In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
(Mark 1:9)

Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob.
(Psalm 114:7)

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

C:  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
(Galatians 3:27)

Treasury of Daily Prayer; Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO; 2008, page O-70.

John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  By counting himself among sinners Jesus “made himself nothing.”  (Philippians 2:7).  Jesus went down into the water, and just as the Spirit hovered over the waters at the first creation, so also the Spirit came down over the waters at the new creation.  (Genesis 1:2 & Matthew 3:16).

Through his baptism Jesus sanctified the waters.  Now through the clean waters of baptism, we are cleansed and given new life: we are made babes and children of God.  God never throws His babies out with the bathwater, but by taking the sin of the world upon and into Himself, Jesus became that bathwater filth that was thrown out.  “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  (2 Corinthians 5:21).

By counting himself with sinners Jesus “made himself nothing,” and then out of the nothingness of death He began to create new life and to make all things new in himself.  Through baptism, God buried us with Christ “into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”  (Romans 6:4).  In Christ we are a new creation.

Blessed Pentecost

The Holy Spirit is “the Lord and Giver of Life.”  When the Holy Spirit is poured out, He makes all things alive and new.  On Pentecost two thousand years ago, the Lord poured out His Spirit on men.

We were dead in sin, but through His word and the waters of baptism, we have begun to flourish like trees planted by streams of living water.  God gives us His life, and we yield our fruit in season.  (Psalm 1:3).

Fifty days after the resurrection and ten days after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, the Lord poured out His Spirit in Jerusalem.  And filled with the Spirit, Peter spoke to the crowd:

“Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.  This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.  But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.  [Acts 2:22-24].

Jesus was nailed to a tree.  That tree was designed by us as an instrument of torture and death, but Jesus turned it into the source of life for all.  He made the cross a tree of life, and the life giving fruit hung on that tree.  (Galatians 3:13 & 1 Peter 2:24).

Once in history, God said, “Do not let man reach out his hand to eat from the tree of life,” but now He says, “Take, and eat.”  (Genesis 3:22 & Matthew 26:26).

God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.  Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear…

“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this:  God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” [Acts 2:32-39].

We who comprise the Church in America are among those to whom Peter referred when he said, “all who are far off.”  Because of God’s grace, the promise is for us and our children too.

Happy Pentecost.