Claimed By Jesus

“Claimed By Jesus”
9th Sunday After Pentecost B
Mark 16:16, Romans 6:3-11, John 15:15-17
July 19, 2015 (Katie’s Baptism)

 

Grace and peace to each of you this day from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ!

(8:00) Today is a special day in our family. Later this morning during the next service our little daughter Katie will be baptized and will be made a part of Christ’s body. So because of that, I’ve had baptism on the mind for the last few days or so, and I have been exploring what that means for us here and now.

(9:30) I just wanted to take a moment before I begin to say thank you for sharing this special moment in Katie’s life with us. A lot of you made quite the trip to come on up to Stacy, so I want to make sure that you know that Amanda and I appreciate it a lot. So, when I was thinking about what to preach on today, I couldn’t help but think about my little Katie’s baptism, and what the promise of baptism means not only for her but for each of us here and now.

The way people get to this point though can be very different. A lot of us here were baptized as young children, like little Katie will be/was. Others among us were baptized later in life as older children or adults. Some may not be baptized yet at all. Some of us here were baptized by having water poured over our heads in a font like this font that we have here. Others may have had the “dunk tank” experience in a large water tank or maybe even were baptized in a river or lake. Does how or when we are baptized matter at all?

Well folks, I am here to tell you that those things do not matter. It does not matter how much water is used or how old you were when you were baptized. Things like that simply do not matter. Jesus never said anything about how much water to use or how old a person should be- He simply said “go and make disciples of all nations- including children- and baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit[1]” That is exactly what we are doing/did for Katie’s baptism and what happened at the baptisms of every baptized believer here today.

The core of what baptism is can be found in our readings for today. We say in the baptism service that baptism is being adopted into God’s family. What does that mean for us though? What does it mean for us to be baptized into God’s family?

Our Gospel reading for today talks about what it means to be brought into God’s family. In verse 15, Jesus tells his disciples that “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends,” The version of the Bible that we use, the New International Version, translates the word doulos as “servants.” However given the context of the time period, the more honest translation is “slaves.” So what is going on here is that Jesus, and therefore God, is calling us his friends rather than his slaves. You see, people throughout history have thought people only exist to serve their gods’ needs. The gods created humanity in order to have slaves to serve them. Jesus is turning this idea right on its head. While other people may say we exist only serve God, Jesus says what he really wants is for us to be his friends, rather than his slaves.

The next thing that Jesus does in this short little passage is that he lets us know that we have absolutely nothing to do with how we get to become Jesus’ friends. The conventional logic that a lot of Christian groups buy into is that we decide whether or not we believe or don’t believe in Jesus; that I make a choice to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Jesus however, rarely agrees with what you and I would call conventional logic. He turns that logic upside down with what he says in verse 16. Jesus says to his disciples that “you did not choose me, but I chose you.” Jesus chose each of us to be his friend in baptism long before any of us could make a decision to believe. Your ability to make a decision doesn’t impact Jesus’ choice at all. Each of us were chosen at baptism first before any of us could believe.

What this means for us is that we can trust in what Jesus says about baptism. Jesus’ promises that he makes for us at the time of our baptisms are not dependent upon our own thoughts and feelings on any given day, and thank God for that! I know that I for one cannot trust my own weak feelings and my own feeble faith for my baptism to work. All I need to do is trust that God is serious about his promises, which are so much easier to place faith in than myself. Our reformer and theologian Martin Luther said the same thing when he said:

For even if I were never certain anymore of faith, I am still certain of the command of       God, that God has bidden to baptize… But we are not to base baptism on faith. There is         quite a difference between having faith, on the one hand, and depending on one’s faith           and making his baptism depend on faith, on the other.[2].

 

Our faith is not something that we come up with from within ourselves that we respond to with baptism, it is the other way around. We are chosen by Christ in baptism, which gives us something from God to depend on since we cannot depend on our own weak faith.

Our Gospel reading tells us how Christ claims us by His own choice, not our own. However, it is in our First Reading from Romans that we see what happens when Jesus calls us as his friends.

In that reading, St. Paul tells us that in baptism all of us are joined together with Christ entirely, with all of our being. This joining is life giving to us. Paul even says in verse 4 that “just as Christ was raised from the dead… we too may have new life.”

However, there can never be a resurrection without a death. This death and resurrection is kind of like how forests can begin the new stages of their life only when a fire comes through and destroys all of the old life there. Just like the forest, there can only be new life in Christ in our lives after there is a death.

This death is the cost of being a friend of Jesus. It is the cost that Pastor Mary Ellen was talking about last week in her sermon about the cost of being a disciple of Jesus. It is the cross that Jesus was talking about in Luke 9 verse 23 when He says “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” This death is not a nice comfortable thing. It will claim everything of who you are. Remember Dietrich Bonhoeffer? He was a Lutheran pastor from Germany in World War 2 that was executed by Hitler. What he said about it was: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die[3].”

What kind of death is this though? I get it that Pastor Bonhoeffer’s death is not what most of us had in mind when we read that passage from Romans, although sometimes that does happen. Think of the Christians in the Middle East right now. What I think what it is is the forcible destroying of our own sinful natures, that is the part of us that is always thinking selfishly, the part of our inner being distorted by original sin. Luther talked about that in his Small Catechism, the same one that some of us may have studied during confirmation. In it he said

 

It signifies that the old creature in us with all sins and evil desires is to be drowned and die through daily contrition and repentance, and on                   the other hand a new person is to come forth and rise up to live before God in righteousness and purity forever[4].

 

This old self in us needs to be killed every day in the waters of baptism. It’s a continual process, since the old self in us is something that each of us struggle with every day and never truly goes away in this life. In the words of Walter Sundberg, one of my seminary professors, he said that old self is “one heck of a swimmer!” That is why we need the waters of baptism to be there to remind us every day to repent and drown that old self, or to crucify it in the words of St. Paul, and to come out of it a newly forgiven person that is good in God’s eyes because of Christ’s own death and resurrection.

With that new self that daily comes out of the waters of baptism, we then can live to be people free from the pains of death, and to be free from the guilt and shame that comes from our bad deeds and sins, no matter what they are. Like Paul said in verse 10 about Jesus, each of us are left free to live life living to God, to be the handpicked chosen friends of Jesus, not his slaves.

Let us pray. Thank you Lord, for the gift of Word that comes to us in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. Thank you for taking something so ordinary like water and turning it into living water that kills our old sinful selves and creates something new and beautiful. Thank you Jesus for choosing each of us to be your friends and for desiring to be in relationship with us instead of wanting to be our master. Thank you Holy Spirit for coming to dwell within each of us in our baptisms. We pray this in your Holy name, amen.

 

 

[1] Matthew 28:19 NIV

 

[2] Luther, Martin. Concerning Rebaptism. In Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings.(Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2005. 2nd ed). p 253.

 

[3] Dietrich Bonhoeffer Cost of Discipleship

 

[4] SC, Baptism. 4:12. in BC, 360.

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