14 March 2018

The River of Life from the Body of Christ

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.

Now, water by itself, apart from the Word of God, is just plain water.  But water, in and of itself in this fallen world, is ambiguous.  It is certainly necessary, to be sure.  It is fundamental to life on earth, but either too much or too little of it can be deadly.  Not enough water, and there is the danger of deyhdration.  Too much water, and it puts pressure on your heart; it can cause a heart attack.  Water quenches your thirst, but water can also drown you.  Water washes you clean, but it can also wash your home away.  It is refreshing when it falls in a gentle rain, but it is downright dangerous and deadly in the torrential downpour of a raging thunderstorm or a hurricane.

But these waters of Holy Baptism — water 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.

These waters 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.

And these waters of your Holy Baptism — which are poured out for you from the riven side of Christ the Crucified — they are Spiritual waters that flow in and with and of the Holy Spirit.  For 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 Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.  The flowing of these waters thus begins with the Father, who in love pours out the Spirit upon you through Jesus Christ, His Son.  Indeed, the Holy Triune God pours Himself out for you in the waters of your Baptism.

And those same waters of Life continue to flow with the Word and Spirit of Christ Jesus, as He is spoken and the Spirit is breathed by God the Father in the Ministry and preaching of the Gospel.

Now, this River of the Spirit and of Life in Christ — though it begins in humility with His death upon the Cross, where it appears that everything is coming to an end, as though Christ were defeated — this River does not diminish as it flows into the world, but it actually grows and increases, even to the ends of the earth.

You’ve heard that from the Prophet Ezekiel.  That flow of water which begins as a little trickle, a little stream from the Temple, just south of the Altar, the further out it flows, the deeper it gets: Up to the ankles, up to the knees, up to the loins, and then finally so deep that you can’t ford it but have to swim in it.  That is what this River of Life is like.  It flows from the Throne of God and of the Lamb, from the Altar of the Cross, from the Temple of the Body of Christ, to give life in the desert, streams in the Arabah, to freshen the waters of oceans and of great seas.

This Spiritual River from the Cross of Christ gives life to the world and makes disciples of all nations, of both Jews and Gentiles alike.  Right?  That’s what Jesus says: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them — not apart from His Word, but by the washing of water with His Word, and by the ongoing catechesis of all that He has taught and commanded, unto the ongoing significance of Holy Baptism.  So do those fishers of men whom Jesus sends in His Name and stead catch a great multitude of fish of every kind in those waters with the nets of His Gospel.

It is true, the same waters of Holy Baptism drown and destroy the unbelieving world, as surely as the world was drowned in the days of Noah in the waters of the flood, and as surely as Pharaoh and his army, his chariots and horsemen, were drowned in the waters of the Red Sea.  So are you also drowned and put to death in the waters of your Baptism, along with all your sins and unbelief.

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

So it is that the waters of Holy Baptism wash you and cleanse you of all your sins.  They cleanse your conscience before God.  They wash you inside and out.  And they quench your deepest thirst with the Spirit of Christ Jesus.  They bring true and lasting refreshment to your body and your soul.

These Spiritual waters of Holy Baptism give you divine, eternal life with God.  Yet, they are free.  They flow to you freely from Christ the Crucified, who has paid the price that you might live with Him by grace.  Not for any amount of money, neither gold nor silver, but by faith in His Gospel.

Though His Baptism has put you to death, and it continues to do so by contrition and repentance throughout your life on earth, it gives you life and health and peace and every blessing of God.

So also, by these waters the living and life-giving Spirit of Christ Jesus — that is to say, 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 as a River of Life to others.

That’s what Jesus says.  His words point, certainly, to His own Cross, to His pierced side, and to the blood and water that flow from His innermost being in the completion of His Sacrifice.  For everything that becomes true for you is first of all accomplished in Him, in His Body, for you.  But He speaks these words about the Holy Spirit flowing as a River of Life from the innermost being of those who believe in Him, those who receive the Spirit from Him.  And that includes you.

You have received the Spirit in your Holy Baptism.  You have received the Holy Spirit through the forgiveness of the Gospel.  So now that Spirit of God wells up in you, as a Fountain of Life, and as a River of Life that flows from your innermost being out into the world around you.

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 are without spot or blemish or any such thing; you are holy and righteous before God — and as 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 those waters — and as you eat from the Tree of Life, because you are baptized in those waters, which flow freely from the Tree of the Cross; you have washed your robe and made it white in the blood and water of the Lamb who was so slain — so have you been planted as a tree alongside those 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.  For you have received and learned to love the Word of Christ, and you have received His Spirit in your Baptism, in His forgiveness of your sins, and in His Body and Blood at His Altar.  So are you a tree after the same kind as the Cross of Christ, suffering whatever you must bear for the sake of love, while exercising 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.

You do so according to your own vocation and stations 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.  That is where your leaves give healing.  That is where your good fruits feed your neighbors.  In the particular ways that God has called you and given you to serve, that is where and how the fruits of your Baptism and the Spiritual waters of Life are multiplied and increased in your body and life.

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!  There is no iffyness, and there are no contingencies upon the Word and promises of God in Baptism.  Those sacred waters bring to you and give to you the very Life and Love of the Lord Jesus Christ, who with the Father and the Spirit is one God, now and forever.

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

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