Sermon: “Baptized into Christ (United with Him)”
Lectionary Series A; The Baptism of Our Lord
Sunday, January 12, 2020
Epistle Reading: Romans 6:1-11
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore 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 live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his (Romans 6:3-5).
Today’s sermon is about baptism. I can’t think about baptism and not think about our children. I can’t help but think about Christopher who I baptized in the hospital before he was airlifted to Children’s Hospital not knowing if he would survive. I can’t help but think about William who was baptized right here, and the peace it gave when Pastor Lucas came to minister to us in the hospital when Will was diagnosed with Infantile Spasms, a rare form of epilepsy. I can’t help but think about Nora who was baptized at the outdoor polka service, and the peace it gave us again when Pastor Lucas came to minister to us when she had open heart surgery. I can’t help but think about Lydia who was also baptized here at this very font, in this very chancel.
I can’t think of baptism and not think of all of the people I have baptized right here. There have been over 120 baptisms here at Zion in my time here, many of which I have had the privilege of officiating at. I still remember my first baptism at Zion, Brooke Siegle. Hard to believe she will be going through the Rite of First Communion here in a few months. My how time flies when you are having fun!
I also can’t think of baptism and not think of those babies who were not able to be baptized, like our child that didn’t make it to delivery, and so many countless others. In sorrow such as this, I can’t help but thank God for His mercies that are new every morning. We who grieve rest in the mercies of the Almighty God to save these children, for He loves them even much more than we do.
When it comes to baptism, I can’t help but think about my parents who brought me to the font at St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Flushing, MI on April 5, 1981. There I was baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There I was given the gift of faith to believe in Jesus as my Savior from sin, death, and the devil. What stories have you been told about your baptism?
When it comes to baptism, I can’t help but think about Jesus. The One who was baptized by the John the Baptist in the Jordan River, where the Spirit descended upon Him in the form of a dove and the Father spoke from the heavens: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
To think that Jesus would willingly be baptized to die…To think that He would voluntarily take our sin upon Himself and into Himself…To think that He would choose to have to face the wrath of God that we were due…It is so impossible to fathom…so impossible to understand.
How can we not say that we have a loving God when we truly consider what His baptism meant? His being baptized meant He now would have to die. That’s the price that had to be paid for taking on our sin…death.
And that’s also what I think about when it comes to baptism. I think of the ones who have died in the faith here at Zion. I think of the pall being placed upon their casket reminding us all that they were clothed in a robe of Christ’s righteousness.
I think of speaking those words before the processional: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” And then the congregation responding: “We were buried therefore 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. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.”
In fact, this is why I wear the robe that I do. It isn’t because it is a fashion trend of some kind. It is to remind us all that we are covered in a robe of Christ’s righteousness. We are made clean, washed in the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Your sins and mine. (Pause)
Now I know this is supposed to be the start of a stewardship initiative. And you might be wondering why all the talk about baptism. But how can we not start at where our life of faith truly began?
Our life of faith began at baptism. Baptism is where Jesus joined Himself to us. Now it can sometimes be easy to gloss over that reality. But consider the alternative.
If Jesus doesn’t join Himself to us and we are not clothed in His robe of righteousness that He purchased with His own blood, then where does that leave us?
We would be left uncovered, unprotected. We would have nothing to keep us safe from the devil, and even worse, nothing to keep us safe from God’s wrath against sin. We would be left exposed.
But God, in His infinite wisdom sent His Son to be exposed to a world of sin. His baptism makes plain that very reality. He was baptized to take on our sin. And because of that, there would be a day yet coming that God would allow His Son to be exposed to the whole world.
On Calvary, Jesus was left exposed to the world of sin and shame as His robe and clothes were literally stripped from Him. And as He hung subject to scorn and shame, He was also exposed to the fiery wrath of His Father that we were meant to endure because of our sin.
But it was in that great act of love and mercy that the greatest exchange took place. He took on our sin and shame and in turn gave us His robe of righteousness. We are now covered in the shed blood of Jesus.
This is what is given to us at baptism. Now instead of eternal death to look forward to, we have eternal life to look forward to. Just as our text says: For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his (Romans 6:5).
In our baptism, our old sinful self was drowned and done away with. And also in our baptism, we were raised and given a new life. Jesus’ life. Jesus is now alive and well within us as He has joined Himself to us.
Our new life is now focused on love for Him and love for neighbors. It is no longer self-centered and self-motivated. As baptized believers, we now live for Him. And that is where our life of stewardship comes in.
As it says in the Rite of Holy Baptism, we have been made “heirs of all the treasures of heaven.” And not just in heaven, but the fact is that everything we have comes from Him.
Everything. Think about all that you have. It’s not yours. It’s God’s, and He has blessed you in baptism to put everything He has given you to use to love Him and love your neighbor, to further His kingdom.
So ask yourself: Is that how you are using your God-given gifts in life? Are you using it for self, or for God and His glory?
Unfortunately, there is not a one of us here that will pass that test with flying colors. We all think far too much of ourselves. We are a me, myself, and I people. And that’s why it is good that we are here.
For here is where we remember our baptism. That’s why we are invited to make the sign of the cross. And that’s why we start each service with confession and absolution to kill the old sinful Adam in us.
We all think far too much of ourselves. When it comes to the way we spend our time, spend our money, and use our God-given gifts. We all need to repent, because we all fall prey to the idolatry of selfishness.
This stewardship initiative is an opportunity to return to our baptism and confess our selfish ways. It is an opportunity to admit that our focus has been far too much on ourselves, and nowhere near the furthering of God’s kingdom.
And I am well aware that no one likes to talk about stewardship. No one likes to talk about money. But stewardship is more than just money. Stewardship is a spiritual reality, a spiritual discipline. It is coming to terms with who it is that I fear, love, and trust. And the way we spend our time, our money, and our talents is a great litmus test of who it is we trust. And all too often, it isn’t God first. It’s us. It’s me, myself, and I.
So here we gather at the font, and here we come to die once again, to kill the Old Adam. Here we come confident as baptized children of the Heavenly Father to rejoice that as we confess our selfishness, so too will we be raised and forgiven.
And that is what you are. You are resurrected and forgiven children of the Heavenly Father named and claimed by Jesus who was baptized to die your death. And that is what He did. For you. And for me.
As we gather at the font, I also can’t help but think about that reality. We are united to Christ, and we are united to each other. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. In fact, you are my brothers and sisters from another mother, but the same Father…the same Heavenly Father. We are brought together to be a family to love God and love others. To Share Hope and Teach Christ. And it is so exciting to think of all that He has called us to do together to further His kingdom.
And that’s where we will pick it up next week, when we focus on being Called to be Saints Together. Join us next week as we continue this journey of faith together rejoicing in the fact that we are United in Christ. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.