The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
Alive to God in Christ Jesus
The First Sunday after Epiphany
13 January 2012
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Dying to Live by Harold Senkbeil, 55: “Peter Johnson was dumbfounded. It just didn’t seem right. Bad enough no waiter was available at the biggest corporate dinner of the year. But what had gotten into the boss? Here he was, making his way around the table, serving each man one by one. And they just sat there and let him continue! When the boss came to him, Pete intervened. ‘I’m sorry, sir,’ he said, ‘But I can’t accept this. Why would you want to serve me?’
“Jesus looked up quizzically, His hand still wet from the basin. His words were kind and inviting: ‘If I don’t wash you, you have no part in me.’”
John the Baptist had objections, too. He didn’t want to baptize Jesus. He thought Jesus should have baptized him! Yet Jesus insisted and John consented and Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, received a baptism of repentance for sinners, though He knew no sin. He did it so you could share in His death and resurrection. Because He died and rose, you are baptized into His death and resurrection.
DTL 55: “Dying to live. It sounds strange, but that’s exactly how Christ brings life into this dying world. Through death; His death on the cross. From His body flowed blood and water that day, the signs of His death. But they are signs of life for us. In fact, there’s no other way to live than through the death of Jesus. We’re all dying; we can either die alone, or we can die in Jesus. But His death brings life, and it’s when we die in Him that we really begin to live.”
6:1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We 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.
When you were baptized with water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, God set you apart for His holy purposes. The baptized are not to live, speak, and think like the world. You are washed, you are sanctified. We are to avoid sin. When we do sin, we are to repent and seek out the Lord’s forgiveness, often called by the watery word, absolution. Our Lord cleansed us on the day of our baptism. Daily He cleanses us as we pray for daily bread and ask Him to forgive us our trespasses.
Our Confirmands have the Fourth Question from the Small Catechism’s section on Holy Baptism as their memory work: What does such baptizing with water indicate? It indicates 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.
Where is this written? St. Paul writes in Romans, chapter six: “We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead to the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Romans 6:4
CPR: In the recent film on the life of Martin Luther, Luther the monk is tormented by his inability to rid himself of his sin. His superior, Johann von Staupitz, asks Luther, “What do you seek?” Luther cries out, “A merciful God—a God I can love—a God who loves me!” And where does his closest confidant direct the despairing eyes of Martin? To the uncovered majesty and voice of holy and righteous God? [No.] To within the monk’s own fallen heart and good intentions? [No. He says,] “Then look to Christ. Bind yourself to Christ and you will know God’s love. Say to him, ‘I am yours. Save me.’” Years later, Luther wrote in His commentary on Genesis: “Indeed if I had the matter under my control, I would not want God to speak to me from heaven or to appear to me; but this I would want—and my daily prayers are directed to this end—that I might have the proper respect and true appreciation for the gift of Baptism, that I have been Baptized” (LWAE 3:165). There in Baptism God has bound Himself to us. He says, “You are mine” and saves us.
5For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Because He rose, you will rise. Isn’t that what a Kleenex box teaches? I used to use the illustration of a Kleenex box for Sunday School lessons until a child made his parent’s living room look like Resurrection Day—tissues all around the room and an empty box besides.
Sin enslaves. We cannot free ourselves. We need help from the outside. And that help came in the person of Jesus. The devil uses hidden, unconfessed sin as blackmail against you. You pay and feel guilty and ashamed, and the devil rejoices. Once that sin is confessed, Jesus forgives it and takes away the power and guilt of sin. The devil will remind you of that old sin, to lure you back, but you can say, “I am baptized! That sin is forgiven! Go back to were you came from, devil!” That’s how Luther handled the old evil foe, especially when the Old Adam was vulnerable.
Death itself had one chance to defeat Jesus and it failed miserably. Death has lost its sting and its victory. Jesus is the Victor! In Christ, you have His victory. To be sure, death separates our soul from our body and separates us from our loved ones, but only temporarily! Believers in Christ will see one another again, because those who die in Christ are with Christ and therefore, with one another in heaven.
Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ. The ultimate outcome of the war between God and the devil is decided. Jesus declared that when He said, “It is finished.” Yet, the battles rage on within you as the new Christian man and the Old Adam pull you back and forth in a lifelong game of tug-of-war. Repentance cannot be seen as just a one time thing, or even a thing we only do once a year in Lent. 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. Daily we sin. Daily we drown the Old Adam because daily he keeps floating to the top. Daily we need to confess, repent, be forgiven, and get on with our lives and vocations.
Christians are like little fish, swimming in the waters of Holy Baptism, the waters of absolution. And you know what happens to a fish out of water.
DTL 69: Just water, you say? Yes, Holy Baptism is a washing in water. That part you can see with your eyes. But there is a hidden reality as well. This water is…God for us…for our benefit. For wrapped within this water is the Word of God Himself.
“Stepping into the Jordan and that bath of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, Jesus Christ consecrated all baptismal water as a washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). The Jordan runs through every baptismal font. In our Baptism we are given a share of Him who is our life. It is both a sharing in His burial and in His resurrection, in His death and in His life. The death He died He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God (Romans 6:10).
“Consider then, these things: the water of creation, which was the power of God’s creative Word and His life-giving Spirit; [the flood of Noah’s day, the destruction of sin and the new creation;] [the water of the Red Sea, the destruction of Pharaoh and the salvation of Israel;] the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, the death of sin and the eighth day of God’s new creation. Consider Circumcision: the mark [of God’s new life] on [the body of every eight-day-old male and] Abraham’s own body. Consider the sign of the cross: the invisible seal of consignment into the death and resurrection of Christ and the indelible mark of His love.
“Now look again. You need the eyes of faith to see the hidden reality in Baptism. It is a link with both Jordan and Calvary, river and cross, water and blood. Holy Baptism offers here and now all our Lord accomplished for us then and there. And by faith we receive all He offers.
“Baptism is our personal water of life in this dying world, for Baptism is our link with Christ. And there is life in Jesus Christ.” (Harold Senkbeil, Dying to Live)
You are alive to God in Christ Jesus. Amen.
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.