Summary: Through the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper, God comes to us that we may come together.
Going on a field trip is something that every elementary student looks forward to. Teachers use field trips to make more tangible the lessons they want to teach. For example instead of just lecturing students about forests, a teacher will take students to a forest where they can smell the pine trees, collect pine cones, and catch little critters. In this way the students experience the forest, meeting it face to face.
If field trips are a good teaching tool, why aren’t there church field trips? Why doesn’t your pastor take you somewhere to meet God face to face so that his presence would become more real to you? Your pastor doesn’t have to do this because God comes to us when we gather for worship. He does so through his Word, as we learned last Sunday, but he also comes to us in a more tangible way through the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. As we continue our sermon series on Lutheran worship, we’ll see that through the sacraments, God comes to us that we may come together.
Perhaps we should begin by talking about the word “sacrament.” This word is actually not found in the Bible and so it has been has been used in slightly different ways by Christians throughout the ages. Lutherans define a sacrament as a sacred act commanded by Jesus, which combines the Word of God with a tangible object like water in baptism. Through this tangible element and by divine promise, God comes to us with his forgiveness. There are only two things in the Bible which fit that definition: baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
We’ll start with a look at baptism. The word “baptize” simply means to wash with water. How you wash is not important. We could baptize by dunking an individual all the way under the water as some churches do, or we could simply pour or sprinkle water as is the custom in the Lutheran church. We shouldn’t think however that we get baptized whenever we take a shower or wash our hands. To baptize in a biblical sense means to wash with water while using God’s name.
Why does God want us to do this? Let’s let the Apostle Paul explain. He said: “for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:27). The water of baptism miraculously clothes us with Jesus just as the water of a bath will wrap itself around you in a warm embrace. While bathwater washes away dirt, the watery embrace of baptism is a miraculous hug from Jesus that blocks our sins from God’s sight.
And even though the sound of water dripping from your forehead has long since died away, the shower of blessings from that event has not ceased. And so your rant against anyone in authority whether teacher or politician, and those impatient words you spoke yesterday - those sins and every other transgression remain covered by the generous shower of God’s grace given to you at baptism.
But there’s more. The covering you received in baptism doesn’t just make you look good before God; it empowers you to do good! Really? Kids will pay top dollar for a jersey with a professional athlete’s name on the back thinking that this will make them better ballplayers. Have you noticed how that doesn’t work? But baptism does. Being clothed with Christ is like being given an army general’s uniform to replace the concentration camp garb you once wore. As an inmate of the concentration camp you could only obey the commands of your guards: the devil and your sinful nature. But now that you are clothed with Christ, now that you wear the general’s uniform, you’re not under your former guards’ control anymore. How sad it would have been if the prisoners the Allies freed from concentration camps at the end of World War II refused to leave their prison but continued to line up for morning roll call and then trudged off to their menial camp jobs afraid that if they didn’t, they would get it from the now non-existent guards. And yet don’t we do the same when we who are baptized give into temptation as if there is nothing we can do about it? Oh but there is! We’re not prisoners anymore. We’ve been clothed with Christ. We wear the general’s uniform. Your sinful nature will keep issuing orders to sin but no general takes orders from a private – especially a private from the enemy army!
Because your baptism still speaks of a present reality, our new baptismal font will be the first thing you’ll see when you enter our new church. When you walk past that font and hear the water flowing over the big rock that will hold our baptismal bowl, think of how God’s love and forgiveness keeps washing over you like that, daily removing guilt and renewing your resolve to serve him by showing love to others.