29 July 2018

Through the Water Out of Death into Life

From the waters of the great cosmic deep when God created the heavens and the earth, to the worldwide flood by which He cleansed creation; from the crossing of the Red Sea to the crossing of the Jordan River; from the cleansing of Naaman the leper to the Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ — so also in your own Holy Baptism — God really likes water, and He chooses to use it to accomplish His purposes.  According to His good and gracious will, He uses water to save you from sin, death, the devil, and hell, and to give you life with Himself in Christ Jesus.

He makes all His disciples, yourself included, to get on board His boat, His Holy Christian Church, as the vessel and the means by which (and within which) you pass through the water to the other side.  His goal for you, and your destination as His disciple, is life with God forever in both body and soul, in that good land that He has promised you, the land of health and strength, flowing with milk and honey and every good thing.  That is where you’re going in the boat with Jesus.

So, then, here you are now, out in the boat in the middle of the sea, with water to your left, and water to your right, and water all around you.  And how is that going for you?

Truth be told, you’re frequently tormented, you’re tossed about by massive and violent waves of water, and you’re straining at the oars because the wind is against you.  For the Law is always accusing you, and, try as you might, your own works cannot make any headway against it.

So there are these turbulent winds and waves which are constantly buffeting you, inside and out.  For the frantic pounding of your heart and the surging of the blood in your veins is not unlike the howling winds and towering waves that rage around you in the world, actually and metaphorically.

On top of all of those troubles, in the midst of all that you are struggling with, it appears that Jesus has abandoned you.  As He went up the mountain to pray, so has He ascended to the right hand of the Father, where He ever lives to make intercession for you.  But where is He now when you need Him?  It seems, on the surface, that He is far away and gone, and that you are left on your own.

Will you then drown and die in these waters forever?  Will the Flood really end in newness of life for you and all of creation, or in the permanent destruction of your body and your soul in death?

Be sure of this, that Jesus has not forgotten you, and He has not forsaken you, either.  He keeps His eye on you, He sees you in your distress, and He cares for you.  So does He move in love to save you.  He passes through the water ahead of you, by way of His Baptism, even unto His death upon the Cross.  And He surely does go up the Mountain of God, by the way of that very same Cross, in order to pray and intercede for you.  Even more than that, He becomes your Prayer.  He becomes the sweet-smelling Incense that ascends before your Father in heaven and is pleasing to Him.

All the while, He is also the new Moses who is bringing you out of Egypt; and He is the new and greater Joshua who crosses the Jordan, and blazes the trail, and brings you with Himself into the heavenly Promised Land.  He brings you through the waters of Holy Baptism, through death and the grave, into His Resurrection and His divine, eternal Life.  Your dear Lord Jesus does not leave you all alone!  He comes to you, He journeys with you, and He brings you safely to the Father.

Why then do you harden your heart against Him?  Why are you so incredulous and frightened by His presence?  Why do you act as though death will have the last word?  Repent of that.

There is but one Flood that does put you to death.  There is that one Baptism for the forgiveness of your sins, which crucifies and buries you with Christ Jesus.  But it does so in order to raise you up with the same Lord Jesus Christ, to grant to you His Life, in both body and soul, as part of His New Creation.  And never again shall any other flood destroy you.  Not now, and not forever.

In the cloud of His Glory — which is the Gospel of His forgiveness and salvation — in that cloud you see that He has set His sign, that of His Holy Cross, and the crimson-colored rainbow of His holy and precious Blood, which He has shed for you.  His Cross and His Blood are the seal and the sign of His gracious Word and all His promises to you.  You shall not die, but you shall live.

The sign and seal of His Cross, with which He has marked your forehead and your heart in Holy Baptism, is not simply a reminder to you, though it is and ought to be that.  But, no, God sees that sign of the Cross, and He remembers His holy Covenant.  That is to say, He acts in love to keep His promises to you.  He does not forget you, nor will He ever leave you alone or forsake you.

Consider the incident of the Loaves, or we might even say, the Covenant of the Loaves, in which He takes the bread, He blesses and gives thanks, He breaks the bread and gives it to you to eat.  And with that Holy Food, He likewise pours out the New Covenant in His Blood for you to drink.

Does that incident not make plain, without a doubt, that the Lord Jesus is with you and for you?  Thus does He abide with you in love, with His Body and His Blood, that you might live and abide in Him, unto the resurrection of your body and the life everlasting of your body and soul.

Therefore, listen to His Voice!  Do you not hear how He calls out to you and speaks to you?  He come to you here and now, within His Boat, and He will not pass you by or leave you alone to die.

Take courage!  Do not be afraid.  He is calling out to you in love.  He is speaking to you in mercy.  And He is all compassion.  His atoning sacrificial death has quieted the wrath and judgment of the Law, and from His Cross He grants a peaceful calm to your troubled heart and mind, and genuine peace to your whole body and life, already now by His forgiveness, and hereafter forevermore.

He is here in the Boat of His Church along with you.  And do not doubt that He shall be here with you until He brings you safely to the other side in and with Himself.  His Baptism avails for you.  His Baptism has become your Baptism.  His death is your atonement and your reconciliation with God.  His Resurrection and Ascension are your prayer to the Father who loves you, who has given you His own Name in this same Son, Jesus Christ.  So are you a son of God in Christ, and so does your dear Father care for you, provide for you, and protect you at all times and in all places.

Rooted and grounded in God’s love for you in Christ Jesus, you are strengthened by the power of His Holy Spirit through the forgiveness of all of your sins — day after day, week after week, by the Word and promise of His Gospel.  Not because you’re getting it right; and not because you’re trying so hard; and not because you sincerely want to do better.  He strengthens you by His Holy Spirit through the forgiveness of His Gospel for the sake of Jesus Christ, His beloved Son, who keeps on coming to you with His Word and in His own Body of flesh and blood, crucified and risen from the dead.  All the fullness of God dwells with you in the Body and Blood of Christ.

The preaching of His Word to you — His Word of the Gospel, His forgiveness of all your sins — and His Holy Sacraments — these are the hem of His garments, these are the fringe of His cloak, by which you lay hold of Him, and you are healed of all of your iniquities.  And at the last, when He shall raise your body from the dust of the earth, and He shall glorify your body with the Glory of His own crucified and risen Body, then you shall be cured of all your infirmities forevermore.  Whatever it is that now wracks your body with pain, whatever assails your heart and mind, all of that is healed by the touch of Christ, who comes to you, calls out to you, and heals you in peace.

And as surely as you lay hold of Him by faith in the garments of His Gospel, all the more so does He clothe you with the garments of His own righteousness, holiness, innocence, and blessedness.

With Him, in Him, and through Him, signed with His Cross, named with His Name, and anointed with His Holy Spirit, you pass through the waters out of death into everlasting life.  And out of the depths you also ascend the Mountain of God to worship the Father in His Son and by His Spirit.

Even though it often looks and seems and feels as though Jesus has left you all alone, He has not.  And even though it can seem as though He were going to pass you by and leave you behind, let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.  The Lord is with you.  He is here to save you.

The waters of your Baptism will not destroy you forever, though they do put sin and death to death in you.  The wind of the Spirit now breathes forgiveness into your body and soul, and that brings with it a peace and quietness such as this world could never give, but Christ gives, and it is yours.

Look, and listen.  The incident of the Loaves has not ceased.  The incident of the Loaves continues for you here in the Boat.  Take, and eat, not a ghost, but the Body of Christ, His sacred flesh; and drink His holy and precious Blood of the Covenant, which He does pour out for you and for the many, for the forgiveness of your sins, for the resurrection of your body and the life everlasting.

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

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