It's Go Time
Topic: Biblical Verse: Romans 6:1–6:11, Luke 3:21–3:22
The Baptism of Our Lord[i]
St. John's Lutheran Church, Alexandria, VA
Romans 6:1-11; Luke 3:21-22
“It’s Go Time”
Splash! You’re dead.
Let’s start here with a little survey. Did you make any resolutions for this new year? New year, new beginning, right? You resolve to do what you can to have the new year be better than what’s come before. Follow-up question: If you did make a resolution, are any of them still standing?
Think about some of those resolutions that people make year after year. Lose weight or get more exercise? God might not want you to be 50 pounds lighter, but we are each called to be good stewards of our health. Save more money, spend less? God doesn’t need you to be rich, yet we are each called to be good stewards of the wealth with which we’ve been blessed. Get organized? Your home and office don’t need to look like they’ve been overhauled by Japanese tidying expert Marie Kondo, though we are each called to be good stewards of both time and possessions. There’s a pattern here: these are all good goals, actions that should simply be a part of everyday life.
So why is it so hard to keep those good goals going? Let’s be honest: it’s usually because something you want more runs counter to your resolution. When pressed – if you’re hungry, or short on time, or just see something that you REALLY NEED TO HAVE – your resolutions sort of get elbowed out of the way. In the moment, you’re less likely to consider what it means to be a goods steward, or how God calls you to use what you’ve been given. Something keeps people from considering the good goal and following it. That something is, underneath it all, sin.
Sin isn’t simply and abstract, external concept, floating around out there. Sin is in us. It is integrated into you and me and everyone else that has ever lived, save one. And it will wreck your good intentions. We’re born as prisoners of sin – and the only way to escape from the power of sin is death.
This weekend of the season of Epiphany, we remember and celebrate Jesus’ baptism by John. It took place in the Jordan River, in that region where John had been at work to call the people to repentance and warning them of God’s wrath against sin. You heard Luke’s report of Jesus’ baptism: “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’” (v22-23) Jesus, the Son whom the Father loves, is different from all the other people who have come to receive John’s baptism of repentance. He’s different from us. Sin is in us, not him. Sin justly earns God’s wrath; it doesn’t please God. But the one with whom the Father is well pleased comes to be baptized by John for us. This is the launching point of Jesus’ public ministry. He’s come to be the one who stands in our place, taking the full force of God’s wrath against your sin and my sin. It’s on! It’s go time!
But what, really, has Jesus’ baptism done for you? In today’s reading from Romans 6, Paul invites us to explore the implications. He shows us that in Christian baptism, in our baptism, we are united with Jesus’ baptism. You are united with Christ.
Splash! You’re dead.
Baptism connects you to death. Paul’s words here aren’t a metaphor. You are connected to Jesus’ death, to Jesus’ burial. Your old self, the self that was a prisoner to sin, died with Christ. Your sin died with him – it has happened, it has been accomplished, it is done. You are no longer sin’s slave. You are literally dead to sin: sin can’t command you to act any more than someone could command a corpse to act. Your guilt? Jesus carried it away from you. It was buried with him – and he left it in the tomb. So now? It’s go time.
Splash! You’re alive.
Baptism connects you to life. You are connected with Jesus, who rose from death to bring life to our world wrecked by sin. Jesus has changed your reality: connected to our living Lord through Baptism, you have freed life now – and you will have resurrection when he comes again. The life that you have through Jesus now is a small sample of what’s to come when sin and death are put away forever. This time in-between is different from what came before. Temptations to sin will still come, but sin is no longer your master. You can now resist it – you are joined to Christ, who has destroyed the power of sin! You have life in him.
As we remember the Baptism of our Lord in this weekend’s services, we invite you to join in the reaffirmation of baptismal vows as a reminder of what God has done for you and of the new life which He has given you in Christ. Take comfort in the fact that Christian Baptism is God’s work, not ours: it never needs to be redone. But you can daily remember your baptism and God’s promise to you to never leave you behind or without hope.
Going into this new year, don’t get hung up on the resolutions that you have or have not kept; instead, look at each new day as what it is: a new day of life in Jesus. Following Jesus, we walk the walk. We live to God in Christ, forever connected with him, dead to sin. That new life is new, every day, despite our fault and failings to temptations. Your sin died with Christ. And baptized in Christ, you and I are alive in him.
It’s go time.
[i] Passage for memory:
[A]nd the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” – Luke 3:22