Sunday, January 11, 2009

Epiphany 1

Almighty God, You have poured into our hearts the true Light of Your incarnate Word. Grant that this Light may shine forth in our lives; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

There are many great days in your life. What might they be? Could it be a wedding, or a graduation ceremony from high school or college? It might be winning a state football title at Lucus Oil Stadium. How about the birth of a child? You’ve heard the one that says, “The happiest day in a man’s life is the day he bought his boat…and the second…is the day he sold it!” There are many great and wonderful days the Lord has given us. In this New Year of 2009 I pray there will be many happy and wonderful great days the Lord will allow you to experience.

Yet, as Christians there are three great days in our life; the day we are born into this world, the day we are born again, that is, when we are born spiritually in Baptism and finally, the day we are born into glory. This morning, on this, the Baptism of our Lord, we focus on the first two great days of your life with a brief comment of the third.

The two great days of your life –

1. The first important day of your life is the day of your birth. Mark reminds us, “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth” (Vs.9) Life is a great privilege. It is an adventure. It’s not to be measured in how many breaths you take but rather in how many breaths you take away.

The education of our youth is very important. It’s a time for discovery; finding out not only what you can do but what you can do well. It’s the occasion for you to develop those skills and put them to use. This all started on the day of your birth. It all began on your birthday.

The Lord has given you talents, abilities, gifts. Each is to be used for the Lord to honor Him. We do this as we love God and serve our neighbor. Mike Davis, the former coach at IU, when being interviewed, would often begin with the statement, “I’d like to that God for giving me this opportunity…” Unfortunately, he would more often then not say this only when his team had won. He wouldn’t use the statement when they lost.

Do we honor God, or give Him credit only when we are successful? What is the measuring stick by which we determine success? Every circumstance is an opportunity for you to love God and serve your neighbor. Consider your station [of life] according to the Ten Commandments, whether you are a father, mother, son, daughter, master, mistress, a man-servant or maid-servant.[1] Whatever you do with faith in your heart and done to the glory of God your heavenly Father sees this as something that is good. By definition a “good work” is everything that a child of God does, speaks, or things in faith according to the Ten Commandments for the glory of God, and for the benefit of his neighbor. [2] St. Paul would remind us, “Whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.” [1 Corinthians 10:31] Life is a gift. Life is a treasure. Each birthday affirms that the Lord can and will use you for His purposes.

There is the day of your birth into this world. There is also the day you were born into the family of God.

2. Then there is the day of your second birth – the day of your re-birth – Baptism. Why is this so? In Holy Baptism you are given a new life. In baptism you are adopted into God’s family. This we have witnessed in the life of Parker this morning.

The Father spoke saying, “This is My beloved Son”. (Vs.11) The Father declares that Jesus is His Son. Here Jesus receives the knowledge of His identity, His self-understanding, and of His mission in life to be your savior. From now until Easter Sunday we will focus on those specific steps Jesus took proving that He really is God’s Son and your savior. He will prove Himself faithful. He will prove Himself worthy to carry your sin and meet all of the requirements the Father has placed upon Him to be your substitute. It is important to remember that you will only know who we are and what we are to do in relation to the Father. That relationship began in your baptism.

In Jesus’ baptism, God the Father proclaimed Jesus as His Son, whom He loves. In His baptism, our sins are washed into Jesus. The baptismal waters are sanctified, that they might wash our sins off of us.

We, too, are beloved of God. The day of our Baptism is one of the greatest days in our lives, when our old man was drowned in those sacred waters, and our new selves, righteous and holy, were brought forth to “live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”[3]

St. Paul reminds us, When we were baptized into Christ Jesus, we were baptized into His death. We were buried with Him by our Baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live a new life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His. [4] In baptism we die to sin and a raised to a new life in Christ.

A tradition in many homes, one which we have adopted as our own, is to have the baptismal certificates framed and hung on the wall in a prominent room in the house. Every time you pass those certificates you are reminded not only of who you are but also whose you are.

When we know whose we are, we know who we are. Baptism for us is the time of adoption as children of God. By His grace we are accepted as children of His kingdom. Baptism is the initiation and incorporation into the body of Christ.

Of course the third great day of your life is the day you are born into glory. That birthday comes when you talk a walk, from one end of God’s Kingdom to the other - from the Kingdom of grace into the kingdom of glory. It happens when you close your eyes to this world only to behold the Father’s face. Yet this day can not happen nor will it happen unless the second birth happens first. The Savior reminds us, “You must be born again.”[5] You are a redeemed child of God. Live and experience in your life the benefits of your baptism namely, the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. And then live in that hope and faith each and every day of your life. May that be a reality in your life. We say this in Jesus’ name.

[1] Luther’s Small Catechism, the Office of the Keys & Confession, - what is confession?
[2] Luther’s Small Catechism, the Apostles Creed - what is a god work in the sight of God.
[3] Luther’s Small Catechism, The Sacrament of Baptism, - the significance of baptizing with water.
[4] Romans 6: 3-5
[5] John 3: 7

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