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The Heavens Were Opened

Matthew 3:16-17

Rev. Kurt Hering

Trinity Lutheran Church  
Layton, Utah

right-click to download MP3 of this sermon

Sun, Jan 10, 2010 

Preaching to the saints of the Lutheran Church at Christ-Elkhart and Faith-Hugoton in Kansas since February 8, 2015. All sermons prior to that date were preached either at Trinity Lutheran Church-Layton or First Lutheran Church-Tooele, Utah.

Dear Baptized,

To listen to the sermon preached for the BAPTISM of OUR LORD at Trinity Lutheran Church of Layton, Utah this morning, click on the MP3 link provided above. The audio includes the Hymn of the Day, "To Jordan Came the Christ, Our Lord," and runs through the Prayer of the Church. The sermon begins at the 6:40 mark.

Have a great week knowing you are seated with Christ in the heavenly places!

Rev. Kurt Hering, Pastor

Trinity Lutheran Church

Layton, Utah

Here is the preaching manuscript.

TEXT: Matthew 3:16-17 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."

Dear Baptized,

How does it feel to be in heaven?

Well, for now, no different than being here on earth.

You heard the text, right? At Jesus Baptism the Spirit descended upon Him and God the Father proclaimed to the world that this was indeed His beloved Son with whom He was well pleased. And then what happened? It also marked the beginning of His ministry, His walk to the cross.

At His baptism the LORD laid on Jesus the iniquity of us all that He carried to the cross. That was His ministry. His life between His Baptism and His resurrection was not easy or delightful. His joy was in knowing having [Heb 12:2] endured the cross, scorning its shame, He would then [sit] down at the right hand of the throne of God. and bring as many as would believe in Him along with Him. His joy was in what He accomplished for us—no less than opening heaven to us—now!

According to His apostle, Paul, the crucified and risen Son of God, Jesus Christ, has ascended to the right hand of the Father for one reason—to take all who are baptized and believe in Him to heaven with Him, now and forever, once and for all. 

• God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, Ephesians 2:4-6

• you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. . . . having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. Colossians 2:10, 12

Baptism is all about reversals—God taking on Himself what we deserve and giving to us what we do not. When Jesus was baptized, the great reversal was that the Son of God was baptized into a life that identifies Him, the One who knows no sin, as the One who now bears our sin. When we are baptized, the great reversal is that we who know nothing but sin now bear the righteousness of Christ.

But as with the Son of God, after we are baptized, we too must remain in this world even as heaven has been opened to us and we have been declared by God the Father to be His beloved in whom He is now well pleased. We too will endure the cross--the cross of living in a world that will often treat us just as it treated our Baptized Lord.

Baptized into Christ, we will look no better to the world, in fact we will have no beauty or majesty to attract [the world to us], nothing in [our] appearance that [the world] should desire [us]. [We will be] despised and rejected by men, [children] of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces [we will be] despised, and . . . esteemed . . . not. Baptized into Christ we will feel no different.

What dear little Alexa--and her parents, and all who know and love her--have been through this past week is a perfect illustration of the life of the Baptized. Do you think it felt like heaven to her? Do you think she felt beloved by God? Did you? I didn't.

As with Christ Himself, the life of the Baptized remains a life of temptations to sin and turn away from God and His Word; a life of trials to your faith in what remains unseen; a life of tribulations of the flesh.

That is why Baptism is so important. Through all of this, God gives you your Baptism which never ends so that you will never forget, that in your Baptism God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit says to you: "I am you're your God and You are my child. In you I am well pleased." By believing this you will never really die, but have eternal life. That you are baptized means that you are no longer dead in your sins but alive in Christ and though the world will surely hate you and make this life difficult at best, as God's redeemed, baptized children, you know you are loved by Him forever.

That is also why it is so important to hear the Word and receive God's forgiveness often—it reminds you of and even keeps you in your Baptism—and thus with Christ and His Father in heaven.

As tough as it is for those of us who regularly hear the Word of Baptism, receive the forgiveness and name of God, and partake of the very body and blood of Christ, think of how it must be for those who do not—for those who have separated themselves from Baptism and the name of God by not hearing His Word and receiving His gifts.

Even though it didn't look or feel like it to her, or any of us, Alexa was really in the best place of any of us—secure in the baptismal grace of God. For Baptism is God's help for the helpless, His hope for the hopeless, His heaven for those ravaged by the hell sin brings to earth.

The ones we really should be concerned about are those who are not hearing the Word of God, who have better, more important things to do. The ones who are really in trouble are the ones who prefer not to be helpless before God and throw themselves on His mercy. These are the ones, especially those we know and love, whom we should be pursuing and inviting back to where heaven is open to them too—back to Baptism--and the preaching of everything our Lord has spoken for the forgiveness of sins that is a continuance of Baptism—the gift of God that ensures in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:34-39

Dear Baptized, despite whatever you may be going through and see others going through, heaven has been opened to you and all who are baptized, because you have been baptized into Christ, His suffering, His death, His resurrection, and His ascension. And God uses you to bear fruit and bring the kingdom of heaven to others through your suffering, just as He spoke, and continues to speak to so many who have been touched by what our dear little Alexa is going through.

You too are God's beloved child in whom He is well pleased because in Baptism you are forgiven all of your sins, now and forever, in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Insofar as this sermon is a true proclamation of the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ, it belongs to Him and His Church. Therefore its use is free to all who deem it worthy and beneficial.

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