When you’re stressed out and running on fumes, where do you turn? When you feel the weight of the world’s pressures come down heavy on you, what do you do? When you feel the guilt of sin, the sting of the law, or are faced with new temptations and troubles, where do you go for help?
Advertisers, entertainers, and politicians are eager to set up shop and exploit you for business. They’ll lure you in. They’ll capitalize on all your fear and anxieties, they’ll make you think that whatever they’re selling is the answer for your deepest need. But by the time they’re through with you, to borrow a phrase from our Lord, the last state of that person will be worse than the first.
Who am I? Where am I going? What are my needs? Those are the big questions by which the marketers and manipulators prey upon us and exploit us. Now, we think we’re pretty advanced because we can entertain such lofty questions as “What’s coming out on Netflix, and when are the big Christmas sales, and how can I make sure my retirement account is flush with cash?”
But Advent is a time to cut through all the clutter and ask those questions that really matter. Questions that matter for all eternity, like, Who am I? And who is God and how can I be in a right relationship with Him?
In our Scripture reading tonight, Peter is preaching his Pentecost sermon. His hearers felt the law – they came face to face with their sins and were cut to the heart. And so they asked a big-time question, How can we be saved? Brothers, what shall we do?
Peter gives it to them straight: “Repent and be baptized. Every one of you.” What for? For the forgiveness of sins.
That’s no slogan. It’s no marketing campaign. Peter preached the rock solid truth that Baptism is the ultimate answer to our biggest questions.
Because here’s the thing, when Christ comes again to judge and breaks through the clouds with angel armies and the trumpet blast, and your life becomes an open book, it will be the big questions, the ultimate ones, that ultimately matter.
How can we be saved? is a good and ultimate question. Repent and be baptized, everyone, is the joyful answer. There is joy in turning away from sins. There is joy in Baptism.
“What benefits does Baptism give? Baptism works the forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare. Which are these words and promises of God? Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Mark: whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”
Plain and simple, and how comforting! The Sacrament of Holy Baptism saves us because Jesus is the content of Holy Baptism. In Baptism we are joined to Jesus’ death and resurrection, and all those glorious fruits of the cross are delivered right to us. Baptism is the means by which the Lord delivers His salvation to us, rescuing us from death and the devil, and bestowing on us eternal life. It’s the ultimate answer for sinners who are cut to the heart and lost in their sin.
And that’s good news for us. Baptism is the answer for all of our biggest questions. Who am I? Who is God? What has He done for me and where am I going? Baptism is also the answer for all of our penultimate question. How can I get through exams this week? Well, what a great time to remember your Baptism, your status before God, as a forgiven child, pleasing to Him, and acceptable in His sight.
When you’re stressed out or hanging by a thread, remember your Baptism. During this time the elders at Luther Memorial thought it would be a good idea to have the baptismal font at the back of the church. It’s in the way. You’ve got to walk around it. You can’t ignore it and that’s a good thing. Some folks dip their fingers in the water and mark themselves with the sign of the cross.
It’s no Roman Catholic empty ritual. It recalls the words that your pastor spoke over you when you were baptized. Receive the holy cross upon your forehead and upon your heart to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified.
Also consider the very first words in the Divine Service in the hymnal. And I mean the very first words, the ones in red ink before the invocation. It says, “The sign of the cross may be made by all in remembrance of their Baptism.”
Morning and evening in the Small Catechism Luther writes, “When you rise or when you go to bed, you shall make the sign of the holy cross and you shall say: In the name of the Father of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
In the Large Catechism, Luther commends the practice of making the sign of the cross anytime anything dreadful or frightening is seen or heard, saying, “Lord God, save me!” or “Help, dear Lord Christ!”
But let us be clear: it’s all to keep the name of God upon our lips, and to remember and live out our identity in Christ, who has made us His own. So all that crossing stuff – the point of it all is Baptism!
Dear friends of God, “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ and put on Christ.”
Baptized into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, you have God’s pledge and promise in Baptism that He has forgiven your sins and delivered you from death, hell, and the devil.
In times of doubt, temptation, or any time of need – and especially in the face of death – we can boldly say, “I am baptized into Christ,” and be certain that the comforting words of Romans 8 are true: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Let us pray: “Lord Jesus Christ, You have forgiven our sins by Your blood, rescued us from Satan, and won for us eternal life and salvation in Your resurrection. As you bestow these gifts on us in Baptism, grant that in life and death we may always cling to our Baptism, trusting in your promises, and finally be brought into Your heavenly kingdom. In your holy name we pray. Amen.
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OFFERINGS TO LMC
Please remember your gifts to LMC. There are a few options for giving:
- You can mail your weekly offerings to the church.
- You can also do an online bill pay through your bank account, which can recur each month. Your bank then sends LMC a check with your offering. There is no cost to you or LMC for this.
- You can set up online giving through an App called Tithe.ly. There is a small fee associated with this transaction. You may find this option at www.lmcusc.org/give.