Today my husband is guest blogging his sermon from yesterday’s baptismal service for Kyrie. He preached on the assigned text for the 4th Sunday in Lent, John 3:14-21. Enjoy!
Grace, Mercy, and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Dearly beloved, my friends, God loves you. “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him might not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) I remember my dear mother laboring as my 3rd & 4th grade Sunday School teacher to help me memorize that verse, not to mention all the other rowdy kids she graciously and meticulously taught it to over the years as well. She’s a saint if there ever was one!
It was in her classroom that I first heard John 3:16 called the Gospel in a nut shell, and it’s true and I’m glad she helped me understand that. This verse captures the will of God, the Good News, that our God, Who is love, sent His only-begotten Son into the world for the life of the world. He came, not to kill and condemn, but to restore and justify the ungodly. Jesus dies the death of all sinners on the cross and rises again victorious over death that we might have a share of His divine life (2 Peter 1:3-4), eternal life, communion with God for all eternity. As John says, Jesus was not sent for the purpose of condemnation but salvation! “For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:17) Jesus is the love of God in human flesh and when you believe in Him you have everlasting life.
If John 3:16 is the Gospel in a nut shell, then Holy Baptism is the Gospel in a sea shell. [The sea shell, of course, referring to what I use to pour the water on the one being baptized.] The blessed water of Holy Baptism has given Kyrie Rose the Gospel, the gift of faith, complete and total trust and belief in Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. The gift of everlasting life, won for her on the cross, is given to her today by this means of grace that Christ our Lord has established.
Baptism is a gift, a pure gift. One does not work for a gift, otherwise it would not be a gift. A gift is given freely, out of love. Baptism gives the gift of faith, not only a personal trust but the entire Christian faith. Everything we believe, everything that is necessary for salvation, the whole faith belongs to this little girl. Baptism is a mystery that one enters and grows into on our journey into the Kingdom of God. Baptism unites us with Jesus as His name is placed upon us.
The mystery of union with God in those waters is somewhat similar to marriage, and I mean that in this way: The day you married your husband, the day you married your wife, you did not understand fully what that would mean. Marriage is a gift from God. A union that is meant to bring a man and woman together for life, a union that we grow into, that changes as we age, that flourishes in different ways at different times. It’s a gift we don’t fully understand on the day that we say “I do”, nevertheless, we receive the full gift all the same.
Baptism a gift, a work of the Spirit, not a work of man. Baptism gives us everything we need for life in the Kingdom of God. We get a new name as we take on the name of “Christian”, membership in God’s family, and a seat at Christ’s table where he nourishes us with His heavenly gifts. The gift of faith is given, complete, total, and whole with the promise that God will never leave us, nor forsake us, even if we run far away from Him, even if we sprint away from Him as fast as we can at times. Even if our faith grows weak or cold, even if we say we reject the faith we were given, nevertheless the promise remains, for God never goes back on His promise or give up on even His prodigal children even if we are unfaithful. God is love and does not forget His children even if we forget Him.
God does not lie and He will not change His Word, He will not change the promises He made to Kyrie this day and He will not change His promises to you. He loves you. In His union with you He has promised to never leave you, nor forsake you. He will provide all that you need to support this body and life. He will feed your soul through His Word and in His Body and Blood. He promises to forgive you all your sins and raise you from the grave. Should you flee to the darkness and delight in your sins, still, He does not change. His love for you compels Him to search for you, to wait for you, to long for your return home to His house. Baptism comes with the promise that God is always for you, even when He disciplines you and allows you to feel the sting of your sins, it’s never because He hates you, but always because He loves you as a dear Father loves His dear children and desires you to repent and return to His loving embrace and to hear His assuring Word of forgiveness.
Baptism gives you everything. The fullness of faith. A mysterious union between us and God that we cannot fully explain at the time, but only later do we learn how to describe what we have. Our life together in the Church, our worship, our service, our teaching, our studying, our living and learning, is about unpacking the gift of Baptism, not adding something to it, learning to understand what we already possess by faith, growing into the reality of who God says we already are by His grace. None of the things we do as Christians in Church add anything new to what we were given, rather they sustain and keep the new life in Christ growing as we ourselves grow and change.
We ought to remember and celebrate our baptisms better than we do. What better thing is there to make a big fuss over than the gift of faith, new life, forgiveness and salvation? I really can’t think of any. All the other gifts we get for birthdays one day break, or rust, or we lose interest in them. But the gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation we receive never go bad!
Remember your Baptism. Be intentional about it. You won’t regret it. In the Small Catechism Luther suggests each Christian make the sign of the cross to remember Your baptism, for when you were brought to the font you had the sign of the cross placed on your forehead and on your heart to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified. The sign of the cross is the perfect link between the Gospel in a nut shell and the Gospel in a sea shell. This practice teaches us to never forget that the cross and Baptism always go together. Both are the work of God for the salvation of world, for the salvation of you. “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him might not perish but have everlasting life.” That same love and promise are your gift in Holy Baptism. Thanks be to God! Amen.