One of the clichés of counseling back 20-30 years ago was, he’s carrying some baggage. It meant the negative aspects of the past that the person has not left behind – so a person with “baggage” makes life more difficult for him  by carrying around the burden of the ‘unfinished business’ of their life. It was an overused metaphor and a shallow diagnoses. So much of the negative aspects of the past are not unresolved emotional problems per se, but those bad feelings arising from wrong unforgiven:  baggage, that is, weight, burden, burden of sin.  All those folks coming to be baptized by John for repentance was not on account of unresolved Oedipal complexes, but the complex of sin, death and the power of the devil.  And the sinless One who had no need whatsoever to repent came to the Baptism of John’s for full immersion into our sin. John the Baptist was overwhelmed by Jesus coming to the Jordan.  John’s question from the Greek was more like, “I, I myself need to by baptized by YOU, and do you, yourself come to me?”

“This is that mystery which is rich in divine grace to sinners: wherein by a wonderful exchange our sins are no longer ours but Christ’s, and the righteousness of Christ not Christ’s but ours. He has emptied himself of his righteousness that he might clothe us with it and fill us with it; and he has taken our evils upon himself that he might deliver us from them.”-Luther

He was baptized so I may be baptized into Christ. 2 Corinthians 5 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Who’s the greatest sinner who ever lived, most likely in hell, and the usual answer is Adolf Hitler.  I do have an answer that may surprise you:  the worse sinner who ever lived was Jesus Christ.  He became a thief, a murderer, an adulterer, an idolater and the like as He bore the sin of world in His sinless body.  He was absolutely pure yet bore our sins in Himself thus becoming, in a sense, the worse sinner who ever, ever lived. Passively carrying our sin, never actively committing sin. John the Baptizer was incredulous that Jesus came to him to be baptized in a baptism of repentance.  John knew he needed Jesus to baptize him.  No says, Jesus this is to fulfill all righteousness, the righteousness of God by which He justifies, makes right those who cannot in a million lifetimes self-justify themselves. As foretold by Isaiah centuries before:

11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
    make many to be accounted righteous,
    and he shall bear their iniquities.
Isaiah 53:11 English Standard Version (ESV)

 I like the discussion of who is the worse sinner because it makes me feel good, I’m not so bad…not as bad as Hitler!  In response to the question, who is the worse sinner, no one ever says, Oh, yeah, that would be me.  St. Paul jumped in with the right answer, I am the chief of sinners.  Paul knew that he could not make himself right.  He knew that on account of Jesus Christ because He was made right. Further note that when one discovers the  wrong by what was thought, said or did, there is no escaping, like deer caught in the headlights of God’s Law.  The overwhelming flood of feeling is, yes,  I am the worse. It’s like the weight of the world is on you. I can’t believe what I did.  Believe it, says the Lord, this is the beginning of contrition, sorrow over sin and believe My Son, My Christ. The light then shines on Christ and His Cross for you.  He  was immersed into a baptism of repentance He did not need, baptized into a baptism of repentance He did not need so the need of forgiveness is fulfilled, all righteousness, so that you can repent and be saved, washed, as if all over again. The wages of sin is death…Jesus did not receive the minimum wage, but all the wages of our sins, once and for all.  The free gift is eternal life.

When the voice of the Father sounds forth, there is no thunder, no lightening, only grace and peace, This is my Beloved Son with Whom I am well pleased.  The Son comes out of  Jordan River waters, the Holy Ghost descends and the Father speaks. -Luther

The Holy Spirit appears in the lovely form of an innocent dove. Among all birds, a dove is known for its gentle nature, peaceful and not aggressive. (And when Noah wanted to know if there was dry ground after the rains had ceased, he finally sent out a dove who returned with an olive branch in it’s beak.  The sign of shalom, peace once more with God was made through His  grace) So the Holy Spirit reveals himself in the friendliest of forms to show that he is not wrathful toward us, but wants to help us become holy and rescue us through Christ.”(Luther)

St. Ambrose, preaching on the Baptism of our Lord: “Why are you plunged into the water?  We read:  ‘May the waters bring forth living creatures (Gen 1:20).  And the living creatures were born.’  This happened at the beginning of creation.  But for you it was reserved that water should bring you forth to grace, as that other water brought forth creatures to natural life.  Imitate this fish, who has received less grace.”

Many of the icons depict Jesus up to His neck in the waters, which one day would overwhelm Him to fish us out of the deep by Baptism into Christ, Romans 6.  The icon above cover shows Jesus with fish in the water.  Jesus said to the Apostles, I will make you fishers of men. Imitate the fish, who has received less grace. Jesus would sleep with the fishes, drowned by the sin of the world, to rescue us from the depths.   I like that: imitate the fish for we have received the greatest grace:  life in Jesus.

And so, we are enjoined by the Lord in His Word to pray unceasingly.  What but by Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power? This means we need to pray at all times, walking wet in our Baptism.  

“…every time we bend our knees for prayer and then rise again, we show by this action that through sin we fell down to earth, but our Creator, the Lover of Mankind, has called us back to heaven.” (St. Basil) 

Jesus was baptized and He still is baptized.  Falling in prayer is not failing, but acknowledging our failing. We can confess our failings, and called back to heaven by the Lord is the renewing flood of Baptism.  Falling in prayer is adoring Him who created and redeemed us and all mankind in Christ Jesus. He calls us back and we need His call back every day.  Luther wrote in the catechisms that living our baptism is daily dying and rising in Christ Jesus.  He is baptized and so we are. We can lay down our baggage, don’t look to yourself, look to Christ, He lifted that weight of sin in the weight of His glory for you.

The One God in three persons was revealed when the Lord was baptized.  The Son comes out of  Jordan River waters, the Holy Ghost descends, and the Father speaks. Clasp onto your heart day by day the Name of the Lord in prayer, praise and thanksgiving. The Lord does not love us the way we are, but on account of the way we are He was baptized to set us free from the way we are and have been to be His. He is baptized so others may be, dying and rising, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

Hymn Verse of the Day

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Creator Spirit, by whose aid
The world’s foundations first were laid,
Come, visit every humble mind;
Come, pour Your joys on humankind;
From sin and sorrow set us free
May we Your living temples be.

Lutheran Service Book #500

Hymn Verse of the Day

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The Law of God is good and wise
And sets His will before our eyes,
Shows us the way of righteousness,
And dooms to death when we transgress.

Lutheran Service Book, #579

Hymn Verse of the Day

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Baptized into your name most holy,
O Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
I claim a place, though weak and lowly,
Among your seed, your chosen host.
Buried with Christ and dead to sin,
I have your Spirit now within.

Lutheran Service Book, #590

“Baptism doesn’t actually do anything but if you don’t do it the right way the nothing that it doesn’t do doesn’t happen so you need to do it again so that the nothing that it doesn’t do does happen” is one of the stranger theological positions in Christendom

Collect of the Day:

Almighty God, You revealed to Your Church Your eternal being of glorious majesty and perfect love as one God in a Trinity of Persons. May Your Church, with bishops like Basil of Caesarea,Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa, receive grace to continue steadfast in the confession of the true faith and constant in our worship of You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who live and reign, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Reflection:  I have not read much by the Gregorys, but I have read St. Basil’s On the Holy Spirit.  Basil was responding to a heresy that denied the equality of the three persons of the Holy Trinity.  The heterodox were claiming the subordination of the Holy Spirit to the Father and the Son, instead of the Trinity being co-equal.  These heretics taught that the conjunctions (of, and, etc) used in the Bible, referring to the Holy Spirit,  demonstrated this inequality and so Basil went through the New Testament to logically show this is not the case by a word by word  study of the use of the conjunctions in the Bible referring to the Holy Spirit!  St. Basil made this observation based upon his study of the Biblical conjunctions:

“Instruction begins with the proper use of speech, and syllables and words are the elements of speech. Therefore to scrutinize syllables is not a superfluous task…If a man spurns fundamental elements as insignificant trifles, he will never embrace the fullness of wisdom. ‘Yes’ and “No’ are only two syllables, yet truth, the best of all good things, as well as falsehood, the worst possible evil, are most often expressed by these two small words.”

I find the St. Basil’s book is faith-strengthening.  It is faith strengthening, not because of Basil’s ‘personal testimony’ but he taught the orthodox Word of God. How is heresy refuted?  By personal testimony or by the Scripture?  By appeals to the self or appeals to the work of the Holy Spirit, that is, Christ and the Bible? When we testify to our thoughts, then we can be led astray by the devil and lose Christ. We do not testify to our faith but to the Author of our Faith, and to God the Holy Spirit who has written the Word into our hearts by the sacrifice of Christ Jesus, who is God the Son in the glory of God the Father: one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism.

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Sermon Text, from St. Luke chapter 2:

40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.

52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

The Lord said to Solomon: “Ask what I shall give you.”  Wow. Solomon did not ask as the Lord said, “… long life or riches or the life of (his) enemies”.  Solomon knew when it comes to being king, “I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in.”    At this time, Solomon was an adult, had a child himself, his father was none other than King David,  but Solomon knew, that “… your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude.”   He confessed to the Lord that he was overwhelmed being ruler. He knew his limitations.  If only in today’s Old Testament reading could our presidential candidates be taught…and to see in Solomon’s life how great the fall from grace can be.  Solomon knew by faith His Lord and by that faith is salvation. For the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and so Solomon prayed for wisdom to discern between good and evil. So, the Lord granted Solomon his prayer, and He so answered Solomon’s prayer because he did not ask for long life and wealth and his enemies, so the Lord gave Solomon wisdom…and then some, the Lord gave Solomon the promise of long life, wealth and his enemies as well!  Is this the genie granting three wishes and then some or what?! No.  This means that long life, wealth and conquering one’s enemies are a snap compared to having wisdom, knowing the difference between good and evil and especially, avoiding the evil and doing the good.

 First, what is wisdom? Just as Solomon asked:   Godly wisdom is discerning between good and evil.  How do we know the difference?  Answer: God’s Word, that is, His Law, the 10 Commandments.  To do the good:

  1. fear, love, and trust in God above all things
  2. call upon the Lord’s Name in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks
  3. hold God’s Word  sacred and gladly hear and learn it, the Scriptures which make us wise unto salvation
  4. honor our father and mother, and others in authority, serve and obey them, love and cherish them.
  5. help and support our neighbor in every physical need and so promoting life from conception to natural death
  6. husband and wife love and honor each other.
  7. help our neighbor to improve and protect his possessions and income.
  8. defend our neighbor, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.
  9. help and be of service to our neighbor in keeping his neighbor
  10. but urge our neighbor’s servants, employees  to stay and do their duty.

If you haven’t caught it, I just went through Luther’s explanations of the 10 commandments in the Small Catechism.  The discernment of good and evil means to do the good and avoid evil.  So simple, huh? It is…but not so easy and this the reason why Solomon prayed for wisdom from the Lord. We know a lot of stuff nowadays, we can fix computers but not the heart, we can go to the moon but forget to go to our neighbors in need, we know how to prey upon each other but not to pray to the Lord for our neighbor, we can build skyscrapers reaching into the heavens but not build each other up, edify each other on the way to heaven. I know how to be a wise guy but not be wise. I can have all knowledge but if I have not love, then I am sounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

First, Biblical wisdom to do the good and avoid the evil. It is simple but by no means easy.

Second, we can do God’s good to a point.  I may refrain from calling someone a jerk, but I’ve already judged the guy 8 ways to Sunday, well, actually, FROM Sunday.  The Lord in His Law shows me my heart and the Gospel shows me the heart of God for us sinners: His Son, Jesus Christ.

Therefore, third, we must pray because first we are commanded, invited and inspired by the Lord to so pray  and we pray for God’s wisdom, from the Epistle of James,

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 

This, writes James, is asked in faith as the Lord gives wisdom, the wisdom of His Word and now in the fullness of time, the wisdom made flesh, Jesus Christ our Lord. As true man, He grew in wisdom and as true God taught us the wisdom of God as He is the wisdom of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption. (1 Corinthians 1)

Later in James,

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 

Our Lord taught clearly on prayer,

And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (St. Luke 11)

Fourth, wisdom is taught.  And Jesus increased in wisdom…. Even sinless flesh needs to be taught wisdom, to avoid the evil and do the good, how much more you and me! And He alone can teach us to avoid evil and do the good, as in prayer, Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, For Thine is the Kingdom, Thou are our King, rule and reign in us by Thy Word.  The work of the Holy Spirit is to teach us the wisdom of God, Jesus Christ, the power unto salvation, wise unto salvation. Only in His grace we grow.  This is the reason why the Lord directed us to pray for the Holy Spirit. The Lord Holy Spirit has a lesson plan for our lives to grow in faith and the love of God and neighbor:  The Word of the Lord, made flesh and written, the Lord’s eternal text book, the Bible. In

“… the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight…making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.  (Ephesians 1)

His lesson plan is from the Lord’s free and freeing library His Book is always on loan to us.  Jesus increased in wisdom…The Word of God is not a magic bean that grows overnight. It takes time to grow a plant. The Word of God so germinated grows in good soil which is to learn and be transformed in the renewal of your mind which is yours in Christ Jesus. From James: Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.  And just before that verse, James outlined the problem: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.  In this age of rage in which so many have a hair-trigger response of anger, we are called by the Lord in His so great a salvation to respond in wisdom not rage. We need His wisdom as does the world.  Not   Jesus that day in the Temple listened to the teachers first, quick to hear.  Hearing in order to be taught by the Lord in His Word.

Oh how I love your law!
    It is my meditation all the day.
98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
    for it is ever with me
. (Psalm 119)

Let us ever attend to His Word, in the Divine Service and the Service of the Word in teaching the precious truths of God.  A pastor’s cincture is a rope.  My cincture is doubled and it can remind us that God’s Truth in the Scripture is likewise two-fold:  the Word of the Law and the Word of Promise/the Gospel, yet one cord. By the Law we know our sin and the way to live and by the Word of Promise we know our Savior and the power to live in Christ Jesus.  As we are encouraged in Ephesians 6:  Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truthThe belt is part of the listing of the “whole armor of God” in Ephesians 6.  Generally speaking, a belt at that time was used to hoist up one’s robes so as not to trip.  God’s Truth of Law and Promise keeps us from being tripped up by falsehood and unbelief.  The Roman soldiers’ belt was to hang his sword.  And the Christians’ sword is, “…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6: 17). In His Word is the wisdom of God and in Christ all the wisdom of God. As the Lord prayed, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (St. John 17: 17).  In the Name of the Father, and of the +Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

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