Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Twentieth Sunday after Trinity and Holy Baptism of Luther James

"And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  For many are called, but few are chosen" (Mt. 22:11-14).

When folks asked Mrs Larson and I when she pregnant what we were having, we would usually respond by saying that we were going to have a sinner.  And it happened.  We will never have to teach our boy how to hit his sister.  I will never have to teach him to disobey his mother.  I will never have to teach him how to become angry or feel hatred toward his own parents, but no doubt someday he perhaps will.

We don’t have to teach our children how to sin.  They quite naturally do that on their own.  King David sings in Psalm 51 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.  And whats worse, my son’s father is first among sinners.  St. Paul writes in Romans chapters 5 that sin entered the world through one man and was passed down to me.  Luther James, comes from a long line of sinner fathers.  And he inherited a terminal disease which we all bear in our bodies.  And the penalty for sin remains the same as it did for Adam and Eve our first parents.  The day in which you eat of it you shall surely die.  Our boy will work by the sweat of his brow, he will toil, and he will die someday because of his own sin.  That is the fate of sinners, despite all our hospitals, doctors, world class medicine.  Despite our medicare, Medicaid, Obama care, you name it.  Sin will get us all in the end.    

When we carry our little children to baptize them, we carry them toward burial.  Leave a kid in the kiddie pool unattended and you get the picture.  Water kills, water drowns, water purifies, but water also saves.  Think Noah’s ark.  Think about the Red Sea – think about the water from the rock in the wilderness.  Think about the water that flowed from Christ side at his death.  St. Paul writes in Romans chapter 6 “We were therefore buried with Christ through baptism into DEATH in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”  What does this mean.  It means that the Old Adam in us should by daily sorrow and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.  That’s what the Bible says.  Hear the first words of Jesus in all four Gospels.  Repent and be baptized everyone of you FOR the forgiveness of sin.  Jesus calls out in Mark chapter 16 “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”  As Jesus ascends into heaven he leaves his disciples with these words “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” 

A criticism of us Lutherans is that we make too big a deal about baptism.  But Jesus seems rather obsessed with Baptism and he doesn’t really ever stop talking about it.  And so I think we should follow his lead on this.

Kristina and I have made a habit of always speaking to our children in the womb.  Our children know our voices, they trust us, and love us.  All parents know that this is true.  And indeed if they can respond to the voice of sinful parents, How much more do they respond to the voice of their Father in heaven, in both faith and love toward Him.  God is not waiting up in heaven for Luther James to make a decision whether or not to follow him.  God has decided for Luther and has made up his mind.  He has claimed him as his own.  He has been drowned in the waters of holy baptism, and has come out a saint on the other side.  But as Luther writes in the Large Catechism, the devil is a good swimmer.  Therefore Christian children are taught the virtues of repentance, and faith, and holy living.  They are taught to mortify the flesh, and struggle against their sinful desires and passions.  They believe in Jesus after all. 

The warning in the Gospel text today is clear.  The one who is silent and not dressed in the wedding garment is cast into the utter darkness.  He is bound hand and foot and cast into hell.  In that place there is a weeping and gnashing of teeth.  For many are called, but few are chosen.  The meaning is this:

God does not wink at our sins.  He doesn’t smile and look the other way.  We cannot hold on to our sins, and become comfortable with ourselves, and approach the Lord’s Table again and again.  The man who was cast into the darkness was not dressed with the righteousness of Christ.  He trusted in Himself and not the baptismal robe of God’s holiness.  It takes humility and helplessness to let someone else dress you.  It takes a certain desperation to let another person wash you and give you a bath.  But this is precisely the shape of the Christian life.  There is no room for pride and self-help here.  God does not help those who help themselves.  The Gospel is only for the helpless, and the weak, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. 

Jesus said “I did not come to call the righteous but only sinners to repentance.”  The man cast into hell was comfortable with his own sins – he wasn’t bothered by them.  He was not terrified of them, he did not struggle against his sin, he thought he could show up at the wedding feast, as himself.  Sort of like those church signs, “Come as you are.”

He thought he could show up for church and the Lord’s Supper while refusing to truly repent of his own sins.  This Gospel teaching today is important. 

It means God cannot be mocked.  As Scripture plainly says “if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.”   

In confirmation class I often ask our confirmands, which statement is better.  To say “I was baptized” or to say “I am baptized.”  Thanks be God, they get it right.  You see baptism is never something in the rear view mirror.  It’s a present reality.  In fact your foreheads are still wet and dripping in his name.  Your hearts are still sprinkled with his blood and he has washed you clean.  Put on your wedding garment.  Let Christ dress you to the nines in His love.  Remember that you are baptized and that promise is with you just as much now, than the day your mother carried you to the font.   

Repent and be baptized everyone of you. Put on Christ.  Be helpless.  Let yourself be desperate and weak.  Receive good gifts from God.  And join the wedding feast.    

Although it should have been you, it was Christ after all who was bound hand and foot and cast into the outer darkness.  Don’t forget it was he who took your place in hell that you might receive a place in heaven.  The Father raised him on the third day because death could not hold him.  Hell has been ransacked and the goal posts have been torn down.  Sin, death, and the devil have been destroyed.  And now we can scorn and laugh at the devil and dance on our own graves.  
Rejoice and be glad Christian.  You are baptized.  You are friends of God and sit with him as the guest of honor.  Enter the feast prepared for you since the foundation of the world.  Come the Passover Lamb and been sacrificed.  Death has passed over us.  And most importantly our children have been saved.
In Jesus name.

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