Holy Baptism: Delivers

The Solemnity of Christ the King, 20 November 2022
A Sermon on Colossians 1:11-20 by Samuel D. Zumwalt, STS

Colossians 1:11-20 English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles

11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. The word of the Lord.

HOLY BAPTISM: DELIVERS

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Good Lord, Deliver Us

“Whom are you seeking?” asks the Risen Lord Jesus Christ of Mary Magdalene early on Easter morning in John 20. She cannot yet recognize Him. Not until He calls her by name, “Mary!” Only, then, does she answer “Rabboni” (my teacher). Even seeing and hearing Jesus risen from the dead, Mary Magdalene does not yet know who Jesus is. Inaptly named Doubting Thomas will be the first to exclaim, “My Lord and my God.”

What about you? Do you know whom you are seeking when you come to the services of God’s house and why? Do you know who it is calling you by name this (evening) morning and why?
When you kneel or stand at the altar and reach out with empty hands to be fed, do you know who is there really and who you are receiving really?

There are millions who call themselves Christians who would tell you quite passionately to whom they belong. Yet, I suspect because of a deep-seated anti-Catholic prejudice, millions do not believe that Holy Baptism and Holy Communion are necessary. Despite our Lord’s clear word in Matthew 28:19, despite Peter’s clear word on Pentecost in Acts 2:38, and despite Luke’s clear description of the newborn Church in Acts 2:42, millions will say that baptism and the Lord’s Supper don’t really mean anything. How is it that rationalism, that is, what seems reasonable to “me” overrules and denies the clear Word of God? Perhaps, millions don’t know, after all, who it is that commands both Holy Baptism and Holy Communion and why. Like Mary Magdalene, even when they see the Risen Jesus, they do not yet really know who Jesus is.

For you see, what we do speaks louder than what we say. What we think reasonable or possible actually becomes an obstacle to following Jesus and confessing Him as Lord and God. Perhaps, deep inside millions of Christians, including you, know that confessing Jesus as my Lord and my God will disrupt your old life irretrievably and leave you unable to go on with business as usual.

But we haven’t gotten to the core of the problem, dear ones. It’s not simply a matter of resolving to reorder your priorities like making New Year’s resolutions or going on a diet so you can look good in a swim suit at spring break. The core of the problem is unbelief. We do not fear, love, and trust God the Father above all else. We do not fear, love, and trust God’s Son Jesus above all else. We do not fear, love, and trust God the Holy Spirit above all else. We are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves, and the old tempter, the devil, is happy to strengthen our unbelief. For if we really knew whom we are seeking when we come to the services of God’s house, we would not be able to be so indifferent to our Lord and our God or to Holy Baptism or His Holy Supper.

We need Jesus to deliver us from the domain of darkness not once but always. Because of sin our age-old rebellion, we struggle with unbelief, which is the devil’s favorite target. Even the baptized children of God can fall back into unbelief, despair, and to self-centered living. Our Father has sent His Son to deliver us from the domain of darkness. He wants us to be His own.

Getting God’s Gifts to Us

The means of grace, that is, those specific ways God gets His unmerited grace and mercy in Jesus Christ to us sinners are the Word and Sacraments. We have spent the last year reminding ourselves that Holy Baptism is necessary. Jesus commands it in Matthew 28:19. Jesus insists on it in Mark 16:16. Jesus describes it in John 3:5. And the Father sends the Holy Spirit on us through Jesus Christ in the preaching of the Good News of Jesus Christ crucified for sinners and through our Baptism into His death and resurrection (Acts 2; Romans 6) and through our eating the bread and drinking the wine of Holy Communion (Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22 and 24, Acts 2, 1 Corinthians 10 and 11, and John 6). The notion that God’s grace in Jesus Christ is only acquired through spiritual as opposed to material means doesn’t cohere with Scripture.

Preaching God’s Word of judgment shows us our sin. Preaching God’s Word of unmerited forgiveness in Jesus Christ shows us our Savior. But then God’s Word is joined to water in Holy Baptism to make us disciples and children of God by joining us to Jesus’ death and resurrection. And God’s Word is joined to bread and wine in Holy Communion to give us Jesus’ real presence for the forgiveness of sins so that by receiving Jesus we receive eternal life and the promise of salvation. When God’s Word of forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name is spoken by pastors and trusted by believers, then we actually receive forgiveness. God uses earthly means to get His gifts to us as we gather for worship in the name of the one God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).

This is strange for those who grew up in a revivalist tradition of worship, which dominates American Protestantism. If you have never heard that Baptism is necessary and saving, then you cannot see that Scripture clearly teaches this. If you have never heard that Jesus is truly present in the Holy Communion, then you do not know what the Church has believed from its beginning and you cannot understand what you are missing. Jesus commands Baptism and Communion. Why would anyone who says he or she loves Jesus not want to do what He says and to take Him at His Word of Promise? Again, anti-Catholic prejudice blinds far too many protestants to what God wants. God wants us to have forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation in Jesus Christ through His Word and Sacraments. These are how God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) gets His gifts to us!

Confessing Christ as King Is All-Encompassing

Jesus Christ is not just a man and He is not just a creature. He is the image of the invisible God and in Him the fullness of God is pleased to dwell. He is the King of kings and the Head of the Body of Christ, which is His Church. He is the only way to be reconciled to the Father. He is risen from the dead, ascended to the seat of power, the One through whom all things were made and in whom all things are held together. If you want peace with God, peace with yourself, and peace with others, you need Jesus. If you want to be delivered from the domain of darkness, you need Jesus. If you want to have eternal joy and share in the inheritance of the saints, you need Jesus. If you aren’t baptized, you need Jesus. If you are baptized, you need Jesus here today!

We begin each Divine Service with a confession of sins. It is called the Divine Service, because God serves us in worship. It’s not about how we feel or the music we like to hear and sing. Instead of babbling up until the music begins or perhaps even while the preservice music is occurring, take a few minutes to read through the preaching text for the day. If that text is not referred to in the welcome printed in the bulletin, then turn to the place where the sermon title is printed in the bulletin to see which text is being preached, and read through it. Listen for how the Holy Spirit is showing you your sins. So that, when the Confession begins, you aren’t just mouthing words without a reference to your life. You know darkness has encroached on you. You know you need Jesus to deliver you even when you are baptized and say He is your Lord.

If worship here seems strange to you, the problem isn’t with worship. This is how the Church has worshiped from the beginning – Baptism, Repentance, Word, Prayers, and Meal. If you want worship to be about you, the problem is with you. Confessing Christ as King encompasses everything: how you think of yourself, how you live, what you do with your body, whom you marry, how you raise kids, with whom you hang out and what you do when you hang out, how you make and spend money, and indeed whom and how you worship. When you worship here, you find out in a big hurry that it’s not about you and what you like. It’s not about the preacher.

You may have been a Christian for years but still think it’s all about you. That’s the root sin of unbelief that is the greatest proof the domain of darkness has far too much sway over you and that you need Jesus to deliver you. Ignorance of Jesus’ lordship is understandable when one has been raised by unbelievers. Ignorance of Jesus’ lordship is understandable but not defensible when one has been raised by those who have been taught wrongly. Militant ignorance of Jesus’ lordship is damning, because such a person insists he or she doesn’t want or need Jesus. We can only pray that the militantly ignorant be brought to a place of humility and despair of himself.

If you haven’t been baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection, let’s begin a conversation. If you have been away from your Baptism, chasing other gods and living for yourself, come home, confessing your sins today. Come with empty hands to receive Jesus in the Host and the Cup. Stop dabbling in so-called spirituality as if you were the center, picking and choosing what you will and won’t believe. There is no cosmic cafeteria. You need Jesus. Christ is the King, and His Lordship is all-encompassing. It’s not about you. You need Jesus to deliver you today, tomorrow, and at the last. You need the real Jesus. He is Lord.

And to what end? Paul says: “That you may be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” That’s the bottom line. Knowing who and Whose you are changes everything. You know whom you are seeking when you come to God’s house. You know whom you are seeking all your days. You know, finally, that it is not you who is seeking but that God in Christ is seeking you always that you may live in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness… forever!

In the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

©Samuel David Zumwalt, STS
szumwalt@bellsouth.net
St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church
Wilmington, North Carolina USA

Bulletin insert

Holy Baptism: Delivers

Praying

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the people of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen” (The Daily Prayer of the Church, 624-625).

Listening

Colossians 1:13 “… and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son…”

St. Augustine [Late 4th – early 5th century Bishop of Hippo Regius, Algeria]: “… we pass over from the devil to Christ, and from this tottering world to his most solidly established kingdom. And therefore we pass over to God who endures so that we may not pass over with the passing world” (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Colossians, 8).

Colossians 1:15 “He is the image of the invisible God…”

St. Gregory Nazianzus [4th century Patriarch of Constantinople, Turkey]: “He is called ‘image’ [ikon] because he is of one substance with the Father; he stems from the Father and the Father from him, it being the nature of an image to copy the original and to be named after it… Here we have a living image of a living being, indistinguishable from its original to a higher degree than Seth from Adam and any earthly offspring from its parents” (11).

Colossians 1:17 “And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

St. Ambrose [4th century Bishop of Milan, Italy]: “The Father is not ‘among’ all things, for to him it is confessed that ‘all things serve Thee.’ Nor is the Son reckoned ‘among’ all things, for ‘all things were made by him,’ and ‘all things exist together in him, and he is above all the heavens.’ The Son, therefore, exists not ‘among’ but above all things. Indeed, after the flesh, he is of the people, the Jews. Yet at the same time he is God over all, blessed forever…” (17).

Colossians 1:18 “And he is the head of the body, the church….”

Ambrosiaster [4th century commentator on St. Paul’s letters] “Christ is the head of the church, if things heavenly and earthly live together in him, such that if the whole body is ever deprived of its head, that is, separated from its Creator, there would be an insane and empty chaos” (17).

Colossians 1:20“… to reconcile to himself all things… making peace by the blood of his cross.”

St. Basil the Great [4th century Bishop of Caesarea Mazaca, Turkey]: “For the true peace is above. Yet, as long as we were bound to the flesh, we were yoked to many things which troubled us. See, then, after peace, a release from the troubles of this world. Possess a calm mind, a tranquil and unconfused state of soul, which is neither agitated by the passions nor drawn aside by false doctrines that challenge by their persuasiveness to an assent, in order that you may obtain ‘the peace of God which surpasses all…’” (21).

Reflecting

1. Does the way I worship and receive Him in the Eucharist proclaim that Jesus is Lord and King?

Learning

THE CREED (from Luther’s Small Catechism)

As the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to his household.

The Second Article

Redemption

I believe in Jesus Christ, His only son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.

What does this mean?

I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person,, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.

Doing

1. Pray for every unbaptized child and adult you know and for the child’s parents, too.

2. Pray for your unchurched loved ones and friends. Invite one or more of them to worship.

3. Discuss with your spouse, your family, or a friend how the Second Article of the Creed helps you to understand how much God loves you and every human being, born and unborn.

4. Consult Lutheran Book of Worship, p. 192, for the daily lessons for the Week of Christ the King and following (Year Two) and read them daily before offering your prayers on behalf of your family, the world, our nation, our state, and our local communities.

5. Reflect on the end of all things whether at the hour of your death or when the Lord Jesus returns in glory. Ponder how you have been purchased by the Blood of Jesus so that you may be His own. When He comes again to judge the living and the dead, will you have lived as His own?

For Husbands and Wives

Repeat daily: “I (name) take you (name) to be my wedded wife (husband), to have and to hold from this day forward; for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish until death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance, and thereto I pledge you my faith.”