And the font sits in the corner. And the certificate is somewhere in the attic. And the date goes unremembered and uncelebrated. And the concept as a whole is just plain lost even though we claim to be Lutherans who cling to Word and sacrament. And what is it but word and water, the sacrament of baptism?
Why would God give us such a sacrament, one that kills and makes alive, drowns and saves at the same time? Why would God give us such a sacrament, one that is relived daily through the confession of our sins and God’s forgiveness? Why? Because what wretched men and women we are! How quickly don’t we run back to sin and death, like a dog to its vomit and a sow to wallow in the mire! Why do we shower every day, or several times a day even? Because we get so dirty. Why must we return to our Baptism every day, pleading our union with Christ and his death through it, begging God’s mercy? Because we get so dirty. Because we are in constant need of newness of life. Because, by grace, God gives it again, just as he first did in baptism, by grace and grace alone, God brought many of you to the font in the arms of parents, without asking you beforehand, without giving you any opportunity to run away, and he made you his just like that, and he has kept you that way to this day, even though, as your legs have gotten stronger they have so often raced you away from the cross, the font, the altar, the pulpit, the Bible.
Now what? Live in newness of life. Do not sin that grace may abound, but also do not become so foolish so as to despair as if grace did not abound, because it does. The gospel is not an excuse for sin; the gospel is the forgiveness of sins. The gospel does not merely pronounce a freedom from bondage, but a new freedom to serve as a slave to the Savior and not only to the Judge. Why serve? “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.”
You have been crucified with Christ. You have died with Christ, and the death Christ died was a death to sin. Consider yourselves dead to sin. It is no longer your master. It is no longer the measure of your happiness. It is no longer the object of your addiction. It is no longer the center of your universe. It no longer sets your equilibrium; rather, it disturbs your balance and walk with Christ. Have you sinned? Be baptized. Drown your sin in those waters of salvation, confessing them to God, confessing them to your pastor, who speaks in God’s stead, if they particularly trouble you. Drown your sin, but don’t just drown your sin. Drown yourself as well, because that is what happens when the absolution is proclaimed: death. No, not a death like Adam’s death, but a death with Christ to sin, and a death that, as we heard yesterday, brings life.
The font should never sit in the corner. In fact, you should never see or pass this fountain of grace thoughtlessly. The certificate should not be packed away in the attic; it should be more prominent than some trinket you bought at a garage sail or a painting of a barn. The date shouldn’t go unremembered or uncelebrated, because it is your better birthday, the date you were born with Christ to new life rather than born with Adam to die. No, it should never be just a concept you learned in catechism class or heard pastor wax eloquently about in bible class. Concepts are abstract. Water is concrete, and water with the Word hits the old Adam and the hardened sinner like concrete, knocking the old way of thinking out of their ears and proclaiming a new Life, a new Way, a real Truth. In short, it shouldn’t be any of these things listed in the first paragraph, because it should be baptism, and baptism is never just a place or certificate or date or concept, baptism is death with Christ and life in his resurrection. Baptism is freedom from slavery and freedom to serve. Baptism is the voice that every morning cries into your ear: “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Tune down all the distractions and hear it, because baptism is Christ and Christ is in your baptism.