Christ Lutheran Church
January 9, 2022
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
The Feast of the Lord’s Baptism
Now when all the people were baptized, and Jesus too was baptized and was praying, Heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended appearing as a dove upon him; and there was a voice from heaven, "You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." Luke 3:21-22 (DKV)
As we hear today’s gospel let us once again remember to think of the 4 gospels as 4 different liturgies of our Lord’s life. Like 4 brothers they resemble one another, and while each maintains his own personality, at the end of the day they are brothers, conceived by the same Holy Spirit of God.
Today, from St. Luke, we focus on a particular portion of the Liturgy that the Lord Offered for us: his baptism in the Jordan. Jesus did this for us because as offspring of Adam corrupted by sin we, like Cain, are incapable of making an acceptable Offering to our God. Incapable of pleasing God as beloved sons.
Now there can be no question that God loves his whole creation with an everlasting love. But as rebellious children we do not love our Father in return. It cannot be said about us, as long as we are outside of Christ, “this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” As such we were all prodigal sons strip mining the vast resources and gifts that our God richly supplies to us, and squandering them on our passions; tuned in and turned in only to our own sensuality, refusing to “fear God, love God and trust in God above all things.”
But the Father love is constant and he never stops calling us home. Never ceases to watch, and at the first distant sign of our return, to run out to meet us, and treat us as if we had never left; to anoint us with the glorious baptismal garments of Christ, and to bring us into the Eucharistic Feast.
But until we hear that call, or as in the case of most of us, until we are brought by the love of our parents to the exhilarating waters of baptism, we remain at enmity with the One who is our True Father; and continually fall short of his glory. (Romans 3:23)
Now this is not obvious because most of us meet or exceed the very low bar that culture puts in place, one that is lowered each day until there is virtually no bar at all. At this present time it is set so low that we can crawl over it and still be praised and lionized by the world.
But beware of anything that the world would praise you for. Beware of the world’s approval. For it is a sure sign that you are running afoul of God.
But as for God’s bar it is so high that no one can even see the top of it, much less jump over it. And so none of us can say based on our own goodness that we are: God’s beloved sons, in whom he is well pleased.
But the Father does say this about the Son as he anoints him with the Holy Spirit. And the same is now said of us who are baptized into Christ. We who by Blessed Baptism have clothed ourselves with Christ, which makes us his beloved sons. (Gal. 3:27)
Now if being clothed with Christ is not Life and Salvation, pray tell what is?
Why do we say this? Because the entire American Evangelical enterprise: that of mega churches, of religious broadcasting, and internet religion. They all raise their voice against the benefits of baptism. And somehow their voice reaches our ears, and robs us of the comfort that Christian Baptism provides. And so we must re-affirm the true doctrine of Scripture at all times, and in all places.
In today’s epistle, Romans chapter six, St. Paul uses different imagery but with the same point. Here he teaches us what happens to us in Baptism. He tells us that by submitting to this holy sacrament that we are made “one” with the Lord’s death, burial and resurrection. That we sacramentally experience all these things with Jesus. But beware … because sacramentally does not mean make-believe!
Now there is a difference between the Lord’s baptism and ours in that he did not need to be baptized for the remission of sins, because he has none! Nor to make him the Son of God, for he is that by nature. But he was baptized in order to ratify every future baptism the church would ever perform, including yours.
However baptism is not, as we said, the charade that the Evangelical enterprise keeps saying that it is, or that our own sinful flesh might think it to be. But baptism is the “Gift of God” that answers for the “wages of sin” (Romans 6:23) and there is nothing better than that! It is: eternal life!
The baptism that makes us sons of God is, according to John the Baptizer, a baptism in “the Holy Spirit and Fire.”
Now the Holy Spirit, who is the 3rd person of the Godhead, is also the power source of all creation, redemption and sanctification; and without him there is utter stillness in the cosmos.
We first encounter the Spirit in the opening verses of Sacred Scripture. We find him “hovering” over the face of the chaotic deep, so that what was “formless and void” should come to life and made beautiful.
He has done the same for us. All men born according to the course of nature are born into chaos. Into the domain of darkness and they act out its dark dictates in thought, word and deed day by day. But in baptism we are relocated. Moved from that dark and deadly domain, into the Kingdom of God’s own dear Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Col. 1:13).
In baptism we are, moreover, anointed with the oil of the Holy Spirit, just like kings and priests before us. Just like our Lord himself. As such we are all bearers of holiness; bearers of Christ and aflame with the Fire of the Holy Spirit, so that we too might show forth the praises of him who has called us out of darkness, into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9) So that we too might Offer our bodies as “living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God.” (Rom. 12:1)
And so let us be what God made us, beloved sons in whom he is well pleased. May this status, which is no mere symbol, define our lives each day. Amen.