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"What is and what will be"

Luke 3:15-22

Rev. Alan Taylor

Epiphany 2, series C
St. John Lutheran Church  
Galveston, Texas

Sun, Jan 13, 2013 

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

People will treasure and even hoard things they consider to be of great value.  The price of gold has risen from around $170 an ounce back in 1975 to nearly $1,700 an ounce early this year.  Even at that level some analysts expect it to double.  The price of gems and other precious metals have risen too.  As the prices of such commodities rise people buy more, expecting prices to rise even higher and as they buy more the prices do rise driven by the demand.

Even things with no intrinsic value though are sometimes hoarded.  In the aftermath of the tragic shooting in Connecticut, gun owners, spurred by the fear that Congress will enact more stringent gun laws, have begun to hoard ammunition.  Store managers can't keep it on the shelves.  As quickly as it's delivered people come in and buy cases at a time.

To some degree, it is true that the way we spend our money is a good indicator of what we value, of what we consider important.  Christian financial counselors often have their clients flip through their check books to see where their money has been going over the last several months. Sometimes the results are shocking.  People see, in dollars and cents, what they have deemed important in life.  They also see, in missing entries as it were, what they consider to be of little importance.  "Where your treasure is ( Jesus said), there your heart will be also."

Now, I don't mean to suggest that a person who buys gold or silver, or, ammunition for their guns, for that matter, has put their heart, their faith, their trust and hope in those things, although that may be the case.  It is true, however, that, due to our fallen nature, we are all afflicted with tunnel vision.  We have a tendency to treasure things of a temporal nature more than we do things of an eternal nature.  Consequently, "what is," tends to attracts our attention more than what "will be."  It isn't just because we crave immediate satisfaction either, although we do that too.  Rather, it is because, when life brings us joys and sorrows we can't envision anything but those events.  In our joys, God becomes almost unnecessary.  In our sorrows, He is seemingly aloof and detached.  Either way, "what is" is more pertinent in our hearts and minds than what "will be."  It is little wonder that we are admonished in the Scriptures "to set our minds on things above, not on earthly things."

Right after Paul admonishes us to set our minds on things above he gives us, both the rationale for doing so, as well as, the means.  He says, "set your minds on things above for you have died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God."

The point is, you couldn't follow Jesus, that is, you couldn't set your mind on things above without dying first.  Your old nature is so against God, so determined to do things it's own way that it had to die before you could follow Jesus.

Today's Epistle reading, actually, all three readings are about baptism. "Do you not know (Paul says) that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?  We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life."

Paul speaks of baptism in lofty terms.  Clearly baptism is more than a ritual or a sign of membership in the Church.  It has the power to kill us, which it must do and has done.  It also has the power to raise us up again in Christ, which it has done!  It has the power to change our lives, the power to turn us away from sin that we might walk in the new life given to us by Christ.  It even has the power to change our whole world view, to give us a new perspective on life and death and everything that happens in between.

Elsewhere in the Bible, Paul wrote about the profound change that took place in his life after he was killed and raised again in baptism. "What things were gain to me (he writes), these I have counted as loss for Christ.  Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and counted them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him."

The problem is, we aren't all St. Paul.  Certainly we were all baptized with the same baptism, and the power of baptism is the same for us as it was for Paul, but, the worldly pressures and temptations that surround us are multiplied a thousand fold.  Consequently we too easily forget what "will be" for the sake of "what is."  "Christians who forget their baptismal vow though are doing what Noah's raven did; when the raven found a carcass, it forgot the ark."

Years ago, a man wrote, "Imagine there was a doctor somewhere who understood the art of saving people from death or, even though they died, could restore them quickly to life so that they would afterward live forever.  Oh, how the world would pour in money like snow and rain.  No one could find access to him because of the throng of the rich!  But here in Baptism there is freely brought to everyone's door such a treasure and medicine that it utterly destroys death and preserves all people alive."  (LC)

Those words were written by Luther in his large catechism.  He reminds us of the incredible gift given to us in our baptisms.  I'd ask you to take note of the fact that he writes about baptism the same way Paul does.  The gifts given to us in our baptisms are present realities.  What "will be" now "is."  You, my friends, have already died with Christ and you have been raised from the dead with Him.  Your old nature was drowned, if you will, in that blessed water, and your new nature has been raised up.  Your life now is really about feeding and nurturing what "is" instead of what "was."

When those joys of life come, you celebrate them with God because there is no true joy in this life apart from Christ and His redeeming love.  Likewise, when those sorrows and trials come, you face them with confidence, knowing that "nothing can ever separate you from God's love in Christ Jesus."

Today we remember Jesus' baptism.  He "who knew no sin became sin that you might be the righteousness of God in Him."  Though you forsook your sin as it was cleansed in the baptismal flood, Jesus took on your sin in His baptism. He was made what He was not that you might be what you were not.

Such is the mystery of baptism.  "What will be" already "is."  You are God's child by grace.  Cleansed by the blood of Jesus you are righteous and holy in the sight of God.  As the Father is pleased with His Son, so He is pleased with you.  You see, "What will be" already "is."  In the name of Jesus.  Amen. 

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

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