The Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 January 2021

A Sermon on Romans 6:1-11 by Samuel D. Zumwalt, STS

Romans 6:1-11 English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were 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. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 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. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

THE WORD OF GOD: LIVES

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

A Parable

Dead

“My parents were not bad people, Pastor,” the young man said. “They were certainly responsible adults in the sense that they went to work every day, never got into any more trouble with the law than an occasional speeding ticket. They stayed together from the time they met when they were serving in the Peace Corps in Africa. All three of us kids were well fed, protected, kept healthy, and taught right from wrong. I’m sure most people looking at them as a couple and as parents would have said they were model citizens. And yet….”

His pastor said, “And yet in the one thing needful, they were no-shows. Right?”

“Yes, you remember all our previous conversations, don’t you? My parents were raised in the late 1940s and 50s when everyone felt pressured to belong to a church, and so their parents dropped them off at Sunday School and picked them up afterwards. They never caught the Christian faith, and so what they learned was to be nice, volunteer, and do good works. And, then…”

The pastor said, “And then when you three came along, you were certainly never baptized. You were never brought by your parents to the services of God’s house, and what you learned was to do random acts of kindness without the going to Sunday School or the God talk.”

The young man said: “You do remember all our previous conversations. My parents never thought for a moment that they were spiritually dead or that they were leaving their children that way, too. I don’t think there was any place in their hearts, or minds, or vocabulary for evil or hell or, especially, the devil as a very real and present danger with his taunts and lies.”

The pastor continued: “And so you came of age, were well educated, got a job, made friends, and started to look for love.”

The young man said: “And I was doing well checking off education, job, friends, a first house, and so all that was missing was someone to share my life. And….”

The pastor said: “And you married Jill, and you went places, and had fun, and began to talk about a family. But….”

The young man said: “But she didn’t want what I wanted. And one day she said words I never thought I would hear, ‘I love you, but….”

“But I’m not in love with you,” the pastor said. “And your world fell apart, because you thought you were following the same script as your parents, and so it all should have worked.”

The young man said: “But it didn’t. I’ve never felt so lost and lonely and hurt and finally hate filled, because I was such a good person by my parents’ standards. And she threw me away.”

The pastor said, “And it was then that you knew what it means to be dead, because your whole world as you knew it and decorated it and inhabited it was spiritually dead. One big lie.”

He answered: “And I never would have known that or thought that if Marie had not invited me to worship. I’ll admit I would rather have gone just about anywhere with her but worship, but she was so different from anyone I had ever met. And….”

The pastor answered: “And you were willing to go anywhere she asked just to be with her, but, more than that, you wanted to understand why she was different than anyone you had met.”

He said: “And now look where it all has led. Today, I am going to be baptized, and the old me is going to be crucified with Christ. My old sinful self is going to die and be…

Buried

“And be buried,” said the pastor. “And you will no longer live under the kingdom of sin.”

The young man said: “That’s the amazing part. Jesus will transfer me from the reign of sin, death, and the devil into His glorious kingdom where I will no longer be enslaved to sin. My old sinful self will die the only death I ever will really have to die even though my body will die.”

“Yes,” said his pastor, “you will be crucified, dead, and buried with Christ as you are baptized, so that your sinful self will be nullified and made of no count. Just as He destroyed the dominion of death, so being crucified, dead, and buried with Christ will be the death of your death.

“And that changes everything,” the young man said.

“Yes, your Baptism into Christ changes everything, because Christ changes everything. Remember how in His Baptism, the Holy Spirit was poured out on Jesus. And from then on, all the way to His cross, Jesus drove out Satan. Jesus reclaimed what was His for the Kingdom of God. Even when He was crucified, dead, and buried, that wasn’t the end. Because Christ was …”

Raised

“He is risen indeed! Alleluia!” said the young man.

“And that changes everything,” said his pastor. Think of when Jesus says, ‘I am the Vine, and you are the branches.’ In your Baptism, you will become a new branch of the Vine, and your life will intertwine with all the other branches. You will be crucified, dead, and buried, but you will be raised to a new life that begins now and goes on forever. In other words, your Baptism is not just about what will happen someday when you physically die. It’s not like a fire or life insurance policy that pays you someday in the event of tragedy. No, your Baptism changes everything, because you know when you are raised with Jesus in Baptism, you are already living in the Kingdom of God. You already have a new life that goes on forever. It begins today. Now.”

The young man said: “God really does work in mysterious ways, because when I accepted Marie’s invitation to worship, I had no idea I would end up here today about to be baptized.”

The pastor laughed, “You had no idea that your attraction to Marie, which I’m sure you thought was strong in other ways, would be the very thing that God would use to draw you in.”

He answered, “There was no question that I wanted what she had, and then I wanted to be with her more often, and then over many months our friendship turned into love and….”

The pastor said, “And Marie made clear that her husband would have to share her faith if he wanted to share her life and become the father of her children. He would have to be God’s man.”

He said, “But she didn’t want me to want to be baptized for her sake or as the way to her heart. I needed to come and see for myself. I had to begin a conversation with you and to practice the faith without receiving the Lord’s Supper since I wasn’t baptized. And my yearning grew.”

His pastor said: “Your yearning grew for that empty place in you, that God-shaped hole in you to be filled at last. As Augustine said, ‘You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.’”

He said: “So, I did as you asked, pastor. I invited my parents and my sister and brother to be here today. It was awkward, because my parents looked at me as if I were judging how they raised us, and my brother and sister were like, ‘Why would you become a Christian?’ So….”

“So you wonder,” said the pastor, “if the Word of God will be able to live in them, too.”

He said: “That’s it exactly. I want them to be called from death to life and not say no.”

“So,” his pastor said, “now you will become, like Marie, a sign of God’s Kingdom. Oh, yes, you will be a work in progress. Some days, it will be one step forward and six back. But you will no longer obey sin. You will no longer live under the kingdom of death and the devil. And as they see Christ alive in Marie and you, the Holy Spirit will use the Word of God planted today.”

“I hope so, pastor, I hope so,” he said.

“Well, do they like Marie?”

The young man answered, “Oh, they love Marie. They think she’s the best thing that has ever happened to me. That I’ve become a better man since she came into my life”

The pastor said: “That’s good, son, that’s good. Now… let’s go crucify you with Christ.”

“And,” the young man said, “don’t forget to show up at our wedding on June 5 at 1:30.”

“It’s in my book, son. I’m looking forward to the day with great joy.”

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 Ev. Lutheran Church

Wilmington, North Carolina USA

Insert

The Word of God: Lives

Praying

O God, by the birth of your only-begotten Son you have begun the wondrous work of our redemption: Strengthen the faith of your people so that by his guidance we may attain the promised gift of glory; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen” (The Daily Prayer of the Church, 270).

Listening

Romans 6:2 “How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

St. John Chrysostom [Late 4th – early 5th century Patriarch of Constantinople]: “Being dead to sin means not obeying it any more. Baptism has made us dead to sin once and for all, but we must strive to maintain this state of affairs, so that however many commands sin may give us, we no longer obey it but remain unmoved by it, as a corpse does” (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Romans, 153).

Romans 6:4 “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death…”

St. John Chrysostom: “What the cross and burial were to Christ, baptism is to us, though not in all respects. For Christ died and was buried in the flesh, whereas we have died and been buried to sin” (154).

Romans 6:4 “…as Christ was raised from the dead… we too might walk in newness of life.”

Theodoret [Early 5th century bishop of Cyrrhus, Turkey]: “The sacrament of baptism itself teaches us to turn away from sin. For baptism is a type of the death of Christ. In it we have become participants in the death and resurrection of Christ. Therefore, because we have shared in Christ’s resurrection, we ought to live a new life now” (156).

Romans 6:6 “We know that our old self was crucified with him… no longer be enslaved to sin.”

St. Basil the Great [4th century Bishop of Caesarea Mazaca, Turkey]: “By these words we are taught that he who is baptized in Christ is baptized in his death and is not only buried with Christ and planted together with him but is first of all crucified with him. Thus we are instructed that, as he who is crucified is separated from the living, so also he who has been crucified with Christ in the likeness of his death is completely set apart from those who live according to the old man” (158).

Romans 6:9 “…Christ, being raised… will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.”

St. Gregory the Great [Late 6th – early 7th century Bishop of Rome]: “Where his body is eaten, there his flesh is distributed among the people for their salvation. His blood no longer stains the hands of the godless but flows into the hearts of his faithful followers” (161).

Romans 6:11 “… consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

St. John Chrysostom: “We are told to live for God in Jesus Christ our Lord and to lay hold of every virtue, having Jesus as our ally in the struggle” (162).

Reflecting

  1. Do I understand that practicing my Baptism daily is to be crucified with Christ daily?

Learning

THE LORD’S PRAYER (from Luther’s Small Catechism)

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

The Fourth Petition

Give us this day our daily bread.

What does this mean?

God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.

What is meant by daily bread?

Daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.

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 what daily bread looks like in your life and together compose a gratitude list for all that your heavenly Father has provided you.
  4. Consult Lutheran Book of Worship, p. 179, for the daily lessons appointed for the week of 1 Epiphany (Year One) 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 speed and manner in which you typically pray the Lord’s Prayer. Now, slow it down to carefully say each petition thoughtfully. Meditate daily on this week’s introduction.”
  6. Start 2021 off right by attending adult Sunday School and/or Crossways Bible Study.

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.”