I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you" (John 14:15-21)
Tonight we observe the Vigil of the Pentecost where we commemorate and prepare for the festival of Pentecost on Sunday morning. Tonight St. Paul, whom our church is named after, has found some disciples in a place called Ephesus. He asks if they have received the Holy Spirit to which they reply “No, we have not heard of the Holy Spirit.” So Paul tries again, “well then, have you been baptized?” These early, somewhat confused disciples tell Paul that they were baptized by John the Baptist.
Paul responds: “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling people to believe in the one who was to come after him”, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. And so tonight Carter Joseph is baptized too. Not in Ephesus but in Wittenberg, Wisconsin.
Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Matthew “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.” Why? What benefit does baptism give? It gives the forgiveness of sins, that’s what. Baptism rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation.
Jesus says in the last chapter of Mark “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
Saint Cyril writes wrote in the 4th century the following on Baptism. “Great indeed is the Baptism which is offered you. It is a ransom to captives; the remission of offences; the death of sin; the regeneration of the soul; the garment of light; the holy seal indissoluble; the chariot to heaven; the luxury of paradise; a procuring of the kingdom; the gift of adoption.”
How can water do such things? Certainly not just water, but the Word of God in and with the water does these things, along with the faith which trusts this word of God in the water. For without God’s word the water is plain water and no Baptism. But with the Word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit as St. Paul says in Titus, chapter three: “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ, our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”
St. Paul writes in Romans chapter six “We were therefore buried with Him 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.”
If we believe what our Lord Himself says about baptism, we have enough to study and ponder our entire lives. For in this washing we are joined to the very death and resurrection of Christ.
Which brings us to tonight’s Gospel text. Jesus is speaking to his disciples in the upper room before his arrest and crucifixion. He will be taken away from them. He will be beaten and thrown that night into a dark prison in Herod’s dungeon. But He promises that He will give His Holy Spirit to His disciples. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.”
Jesus is speaking about the little while when they will see him no more. They won’t see him when he will be wrapped in a linen shroud and buried in the earth in death. He will suffer on the cross for sins he didn’t commit and he will die our death. But death will not hold him. He will walk out of the grave and live and they will see him again in the Resurrection. And because I live, He says, so shall you live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”
In Baptism you are joined to this victory. You are joined to the resurrection of Christ. You are joined to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. You are joined to the whole family of God. You are baptized. You are forgiven. It’s not that you WERE baptized. It’s that you ARE baptized. That is to say, baptism for the Christian is never in the rear view mirror. It’s a present reality. In our daily struggle against sin, our best hope is to remember our baptism, make the sign of the holy cross, and to simply declare to the devil, the world, and your own sinful flesh “I am baptized!” This is what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
In our Gospel text tonight Jesus reminds you that you are not orphans. Even though we live like rebellious children. Even though we forget about God, rebel against Him and refuse to speak with him in prayer, we are not cast off. Like the Prodigal Son, it’s impossible to exhaust the grace and love of God. Tonight as we await the festival of Pentecost we confess our sins. Mainly that we have forgotten our baptism and do not treasure it as we ought to.
In baptism we daily die to sin and rise to new life. We put down the evil desires of our sinful flesh that wage war against our souls and we point to Christ who is our champion. In baptism we wage war against sin, death, and the devil and proclaim the victory that our Lord Jesus has secured for His children.
Dear Christians, the christian life is not a picnic – it’s not a walk through the roses – but it’s all worth it. And if Christ recognizes you in the present strife, He will recognize you in heaven as well.
For you are, after all, washed clean in baptismal waters. You are scrubbed from head to toe in the blood of the Lamb. Sprinkled with the blood of Christ. Your sins are forgiven. You’re a child of paradise. You are loved by the Father of mercy. Loved by the Son and loved by the Holy Spirit. You are sons and daughters of the Most High God and inheritors of heavenly treasures. This is the meaning of baptism and what joy it ought to bring to you and to the family of Carter Joseph. In the name of Jesus. Amen.