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A Feast To Celebrate

January 12, 2019

Verse: Psalm 29:3

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Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
January 13, 2019
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

The Baptism Of Our Lord
A Feast To Celebrate

The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over many waters. (Psalm 29:3)

The prophecy we just heard was fulfilled at the Lord’s baptism; it was made to come true when the voice from heaven thundered above the waters: You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.

Why does the church celebrate this feast with such delight? Because Jesus’ baptism is our baptism; and the thundering approval he receives at the Jordan, we, too, receive by virtue of our own baptism into him.

Cleansed by the blood of the cross we stand blameless before the judge of the whole earth; the only judge that counts; and it is a wonder to behold!

Further, all of the Scripture lessons appointed for this Feast work together to bless God who gives us new birth; and installs faith within us by means of the church’s primary Sacrament.

In today’s Psalm we find a combination of baptism’s 3 vital elements: God’s Voice, Water and Fire! This corresponds to today’s Gospel in which John the Baptizer tells who hope for salvation: I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and Fire!

But there is more than correspondence going on. If we don’t know it yet, let us learn today, that all of Scripture testifies about Jesus; and is brought to its completion and conclusion and finds its fulfillment in him; and in all that he did for us men and for our salvation: this includes the baptism we celebrate this day with great joy.

The things we hear in today’s Psalm were specifically accomplished at the Lord’s baptism. As Jesus comes up from the water; and still deep in prayer (even as we are today) the sky opens and a thundering Voice from heaven, the Voice of Psalm 29:3, drowns out “all music but its own” – and positively declares of Jesus: “You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”

At the same time the Holy Spirit descends bodily in the form of a dove, and remains upon him indicating that this Man is truly the God-Man; who makes us God’s men and women still today by holy baptism.

We find this to be the case in today’s Old Testament lesson where the prophet proclaims, “When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers they shall not sweep over you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned; nor shall the flame consume you.”

We learn here that baptism is the water that does not harm; and the fire that does not destroy. Indeed, in this divine union with the thrice Holy Lord we are like the burning bush that Moses encountered at Sinai. We are aflame with the Holy Spirit, radiant with divine light, the finite containing the infinite but blessedly not consumed!

(So much for John Calvin - Finitum Non Capax Infiniti)

Yes, the fire and water of baptism work in concert to purify us from every sin; every wrong; every obstacle that separates men from God and God from men – and what God has joined together by baptism let not man put asunder by: false belief, false living and other great shame and vice.

Today’s epistle is more of the same! St. Paul informs us that by baptism we perfectly identify with Jesus, and he with us! What happened to him, happened to us.

In it we are sacramentally crucified with him; entombed with him; and raised to newness of life with him; and what happened to us sacramentally at the Jordan of our baptism will also happen to us factually.

We, too, will one day breathe our last as Jesus did on the cross. We, too, will be buried. We, too, will be raised again by the glory of the Father as his beloved sons in whom he is well pleased.

But, as always, the gospel lesson is the crown of Christian worship. Its subject matter is the Lord’s baptism which is, as we said earlier, the fulfillment of Psalm 29:3. But we must realize that there are two parts to the Lord’s baptism.

Jesus says in Luke 12: 50, “I have a baptism to be baptized with and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!” The Lord was speaking here about the death he would die for our sins; the death wherein “one died for all; and therefore all have died.” (2 Cor. 5:15)

Although his baptism in the Jordan “by water and the Spirit”, and his bloody baptism on the cross were separated by time, separated by a space of 3 years, they are one and the same thing.

In the Jordan he was anointed the world’s Savior. The one who came to do the Father’s will. To gain redemption for all people. A mission he accomplished, completed, finished and fulfilled on the cross – where the ransom was paid that releases all men from the iron-grasp of sin’s hopelessness. And so, like the Baptizer we have a gospel to preach!

A gospel by which we have obtained the greatest gift of all. The Holy Spirit who makes us holy even as his name implies. It is he, who by the power of divine love, makes us like God; worthy of God; fit for God; capable and ready to live and reign with him for all eternity, in a world without end.

And so do not “abandon hope all ye” who because of your sins, who by the sins of your fathers, and the violations committed against you by others, are locked up in prison tighter than John in Herod’s jail.

The heavens will open for you!

The Son will set you free.

And the Thundering voice of the Most High God will say to you: You are my beloved son in whom I am well-pleased. Amen.