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Water and Word

January 3, 2012

New Year’s Day was a day of wonderful new beginnings in our family this year.  Our son, Anders Kristian, was baptized into Christ.  Surrounded by the St. Peter’s family and joined by our families – who travelled from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, and Florida to be with us – we watched as my father-in-law splashed water on Anders’ forehead and spoke words of blessing and promise.

Such small things, words and water.  Such small things and yet we believe that through word and water God brings about forgiveness, grants redemption from death and the devil, and confers the gift of eternal life.  In his Small Catechism, Martin Luther asks a question that still resounds for us today.  Perhaps in our enlightened Western world, Luther’s question is even more important: “How can water do such great things?

Luther answers his own question: “Clearly the water does not do it, but the word of God, which is with and alongside the water, and faith, which trusts this word of God in the water.  For without the word of God the water is plain water and not a baptism, but with the word of God it is a baptism, that is, a grace-filled water of life and a ‘bath of the new birth in the Holy Spirit,’ as St. Paul says to Titus in chapter 3, ‘through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.  This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  The saying is sure.’”

Grace-filled water.  It is to this water that my wife and I brought our son this past Sunday.  Anders may be cute and cuddly, but his life will not be exempt from the forces of sin, death, and evil.  We do not – we cannot – know what his life has in store, how his future will play out.  We have hopes and dreams, but life has a way of imposing itself upon people.  So we do not know where Anders will go or how he will live.  But thanks to the little gifts of water and word, we know that God will go with him.  We know that the Holy Spirit lives in him.  And we know that he is marked indelibly with the cross of Christ.

On Sunday we heard in Luke 2 of how another set of parents brought their first son before the Lord to be dedicated to God’s purposes.  Mary and Joseph had a little more insight into their son’s future than we have into ours, but there is a similarity to the situations.  Jesus’ parents could not have imagined his full future, nor could they have wished anything but health and happiness upon their baby boy.  Yet they were willing to entrust him to God the Father and his loving, saving vision for the whole world.

I have many hopes for Anders’ life and I am excited to see how it all unfolds.  But whatever happens, we have given him back to the One who gave him to us.  Anders belongs to the Lord, marked forever with Jesus’ own cross, a cross undertaken for Anders.  A cross borne for the whole world.  A cross endured for you and for me.  In this cross, by God’s Spirit, Anders’ life will unfold.  I do not know what it will hold, what joys and sorrows await him.  But I know he is the Lord’s.  And I pray that God’s word and God’s grace-filled water will wash over him each and every day.  Thanks be to God, who in grace has named us, claimed us, and made us heirs of his eternal Kingdom.  The saying is sure.

“Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”  Romans 6:4

From → Odds and Ends

One Comment
  1. Marla permalink

    We all pray as fellow members of the church that Anders will live a beautiful life with all the things that little boys are made of… and that he continues on with the knowledge of God’s unconditional love (and that he learns to love the ups and downs of a Royals’ season.)

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