18 March 2015

The River of Life

What you confess in the Creeds and pray in the Our Father, the Holy Triune God does for you and gives to you in Holy Baptism.  For you could not find Him, nor could you make your way to Him, but He has come to you in this way, by this way and means of grace, by the water and the Word.

What He has spoken and promised by the Prophets and Apostles, and what He has accomplished for you and for all people in Christ Jesus, He gives to you and accomplishes in you through the waters of Holy Baptism; so that you may live in Him and with Him, both now and forevermore.

Water, in and of itself in this fallen world, is ambiguous.  It is necessary and fundamental to life on earth, but either too much or too little of it can be deadly.  It quenches your thirst, but it can also drown you.  It washes you clean, but it can also wash your home away.  It is refreshing in a gentle rain, but dangerous in the torrential downpour of a raging thunderstorm.

But now, with respect to the waters of Holy Baptism — included in God’s command and combined with His Word — these waters flow from His Sanctuary to give life to His New Creation in the Resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead.

They flow from the side of Christ, from His innermost Being, from His Body crucified and risen — from His Body lifted up on the living and life-giving Tree of His Cross — from the Tree of Life in the midst of Paradise, which is the Throne of God and of the Lamb.

This water that pours out from the side of Christ the Crucified flows in and with and of the Holy Spirit; even as the same Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, is sent from the Father in heaven to give life to the world, and the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.  So does this water of Life now flow with the Word and Spirit of Christ Jesus, as He is spoken and the Spirit is breathed by God the Father in the preaching and administration of the Gospel.

This River of the Spirit and of Life in Christ — though it begins in humility with His death upon the Cross — it does not diminish as it flows into the world, but it grows and increases, even to the ends of the earth.  It gives life in the desert.  It freshens the waters of the oceans and great seas.

It gives life to the nations, and makes disciples of all nations, of both Jews and Gentiles alike.  For the fishers of men, whom Jesus sends in His Name and stead, catch a great multitude of fish of every kind in these waters with the nets of the Holy Gospel.

It is true, the same waters of Holy Baptism drown and destroy the unbelieving world, and Pharaoh with his army, his chariots and horsemen, and so also the old Adam in you.

But these waters are not ambiguous.  They are not fickle and arbitrary.  God drowns and destroys sin and death and all the enemies of man with these waters, in order to bring about the New Creation in the Body of Christ Jesus, and to give real life to His disciples, His Christians.

Therefore, these waters of Holy Baptism wash you and cleanse you of all sin.  They quench your deepest thirst with the Spirit of Christ.  They bring true and lasting refreshment to body and soul.

And by these waters, the living and life-giving Spirit of Christ Jesus, the Holy Spirit — the Author and Giver of Life, who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified as the one true God — He flows in you and through you and from you to others.

As you are born again in the washing of the water with the Word — and as you are washed and sanctified by those waters, so that you have also entered the Holy City of God, that is, the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, the Body of Christ, by the way and means of these waters — and as you eat from the Tree of Life, because you are baptized in these waters, which flow freely from the Tree of the Cross — so have you been planted as a tree alongside these living waters.

In the words of the Psalmist, you are a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; so that whatever you do prospers in the Resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead.  You are a tree after the same kind as the Cross of Christ, suffering whatever you must bear for the sake of love with faith and trust in your dear God and Father.  You thus bear leaves for the healing of your neighbor, and good fruits to nourish those around you.

Each of you does so according to your own proper vocation in life, that is to say, first of all, as a Christian, baptized into the Cross of Christ, living within your own particular place in the world.

You are so fruitful and productive, like the Tree of the Cross, because you are constantly being watered and fed from the Body of Christ, within the Body of Christ, in the Ministry of the Gospel.

You are healed and nurtured and sustained by the waters of your Baptism: not repeated, but always effective, because those waters flow from the Cross and are always sufficient, always increasing, even to the close of the age, constantly cleansing you with the free and full forgiveness of sins.

And you are fed by the Fruits of the Tree of Life, that is, the Body and the Blood of Christ Jesus, which you are given to eat and drink as one who has been washed in the waters of Holy Baptism.

There is no ambiguity in that!  But in the clearest possible way, those sacred waters bring to you and give to you the Life and Love of the Lord Jesus, His Father, and His Spirit, now and forever.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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