Too Much Baptism…

I always enjoy the comment, “You Lutherans always talk about Baptism too much.”

To paraphrase “Phineas and Ferb”: “Yes, yes we do.”

This of course begs the question, “Why?”

First off, what is Baptism? Is it man’s work? Is it just some water and special words? Let me quote Luther’s Small Catechism here,

“Baptism is not simple water only, but it is the water included in God’s command and connected with God’s Word.”

There it is! Baptism is the command of God, given by Christ, through His Word. It is the Word that completes the work, not the man who pours the water, the one who receives it, or the congregation who witnesses it. It’s the power of God, working in His Holy Word.

So, what does it do? Baptism, quite simply, “saves.” That’s it. 1 Peter 3:21, “Baptism…now saves you.” It sanctifies us (Eph. 5:25-27), brings forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:13-14), and through the Holy Spirit in the Word, plants faith in our hearts for belief in Jesus Christ (Eph 2:8-9).

Baptism is, in effect, Jesus Himself come to us, for He is the Word (John 1). When we preach of Baptism, we preach about Jesus, who saves and brings us faith and life eternal. We talk of Baptism because we spread the Word of Christ, who is in the water and comes into our hearts through the Word. And it is this Word that, through God’s Grace, gives us eternal life by the Faith received at Baptism in Christ alone.

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Civility and the Pundit

On Being Civilly Obedient, or How I Learned to Turn Off the Political Pundits and Love the Government.

It’s amazing what a good class on the Book of Concord can remind you of, and teach you, in a 57-minute class.

We were reviewing Article XVI of the Augsburg Confession, and discussing who grants the government authority, and who gives the government to us.  And, oddly enough, the answer is quite clear.

Government is from the Lord.  Not the individual politicians mind you (although we are all God’s children), but the role of government is God-given as the authority over our lives, the protector of our society, and the institution that God established.

What a difficult concept to comprehend! Our government, made up of the sinful humans (as we are all well aware of many days) who make decisions that drive us crazy and make us question our sanity for electing them, is a blessing for which we should be thankful.

It is an American right to decide on the direction and purpose of our government, and to choose those who would lead us.  It is NOT our Christian right to criticize, denigrate, and hate our politicians.  As much as politics can upset and frustrate us, we are not to look down upon or disrespect those in authority.  The meaning of the Fourth Commandment in Luther’s Small Catechism says it well, “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents and other authorities, but honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them.”

Can you say that you cherish the President, or Congress, or the police officer by whom you were caught speeding?

It is true that God commands us to follow Him first, and to submit to authority when it does not conflict with His commands.  But how many times do we use that argument to speak poorly about the members of our government?  Political pundits on television, radio, and the Internet skirt, bump, and sometimes run over with a Mack trunk the Fourth and, many times, the Eighth Commandment.  Have you?  Is it regular water-cooler discussion for you at the office, when you are with friends or family?

Always remember to pray for those in authority, who make the difficult decisions when leading us, for the families of those who serve us, and for ourselves that we may be loving and patient with them, and that we may cherish them in their God-given duty.

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  This is good, and pleases God our Savior.” – 1 Timothy 2:1-3

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” – Romans 13:1

When putting your feet up is a bad thing…

Having gotten justifiably indignant earlier today about a conversation I had regarding the Lord’s Supper, I was all prepared to write a post of the efficacy of the Sacrament.  I was reading in Luther’s Large Catechism when I came across an interesting passage, and felt the need to share.  So I figured I’d let my head cool a little while discussing a different topic.  But, never fret, we will have discussion on The Sacrament of the Altar soon, for it is a topic that requires regular treatment.  But I digress…

Luther says in his Large Catechism, in Part V:  The Sacrament of the Altar:

“Therefore, the Sacrament is given as a daily pasture and sustenance, that faith may refresh and strengthen itself [Psalm 23:1-3] so that it will not to fall back in such a battle, but become ever stronger and stronger.  The new life must be guided so that it continually increases and progresses.  But it must suffer much opposition.  For the devil is such a furious enemy.  When he sees that we oppose him and attack the old man, and that he cannot topple us over by force, he prowls and moves about on all sides [1 Peter 5:8]  He tries every trick and does not stop until he finally wears us out, so that we either renounce our faith or throw up our hands and put up our feet, becoming indifferent or impatient. Now to this purpose the comfort of the Sacrament is given when the heart feels that the burden is becoming too heavy, so that it may gain here new power and refreshment.” – Concordia:  The Lutheran Confessions, ed. Paul Timothy McCain.

It is this phrase “throw up our hands and put up our feet, becoming indifferent or impatient” that caught my eye the most.  How true is this when thinking about service for the Church?!  How many times have we all felt this way?  We are put off by the slowness of our congregations, or the lack of “getting things done,” and we choose to ignore the problem.  Or we walk away and say to ourselves, “Let somebody else worry about it, I’m done!”  We become agitated or aggrieved by our congregation’s actions, the decision at a Voters’ Meeting, or upset about the discussion with members of a Board on which we serve.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  Luther mentions this verse specifically.  But what if the lion is not roaring and gnashing his teeth?  Instead, what if he is just slowing, quietly, chewing our leg off?  (Happy metaphor, I know…)  Seriously, though, why must Satan always seek to tear us limb from limb, when he can softly extinguish our faith with the breath of indifference and unattentiveness, like blowing out a candle?

This is why faithful attendance on Sunday morning is so important.  The burning flame of faith can only be brightened and strengthened by God’s Word, and the Holy Spirit working through the Word.  Regularly receiving the Lord’s Supper strengthens faith and forgives sins.  It builds us up to fight off the devil’s efforts, whether like the lion or the wind.  It keeps us steadfast in our faith so that indifference or impatience cannot take root.  Isn’t it interesting that the thing which makes the membership of a church function most successfully (faith) is the thing the church comes together to build in the membership, through the power of that which built the church in the first place (God and His Word)?  Let that one soak in for a while…