Archive for January 17th, 2020

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.

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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

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