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February 2019 - JOY

 A few weeks ago I read the following quote by C.F.W. Walther in Treasury of Daily Prayer (a wonderful devotional resource for individuals and families!):

     Should the Christian stand all day long at the grave of all joys which he enjoyed in past years? Through Holy Baptism a great stream of joy has been conducted in his heart, which does not drain away, but streams forward with his life until Its waves carry him into the sea of a blessed eternity. Should the Christian be reminded all day long that the flowers of his youth fall more and more? He stands planted by God in the water of his Baptism as a palm tree which becomes greener and greener and whose leaves never wither. Yes, his Baptism makes death for him like a short winter's nap, out of which an eternal spring – an eternal youth—follows.

     For Baptism is a bath that washed me not only once when I received it—washed me pure with Christ's blood—but it continuously washes me clean even daily for as long as I hold it in faith. For just as that same water of the flood drowned the sinners, but Noah with his relatives were brought to salvation

and carried to Mount Ararat, so also did the water of my Baptism drown my sins, but my soul was brought to the eternal mountain of divine grace. And just as once those same waves of the Red Sea, which swallowed up Pharaoh and his army, were a protective wall for Israel, so also has my baptismal water swallowed up all of my damnation and is for me a sure wall before God's wrath and punishment

     Now then, all of you who believe in God's Word, let your watchword for entering the new year be this:

"I am baptized!"  Although the world may laugh at this comfort, the enthusiasts vex its confidence ... nevertheless, abandon any other dearly held pledges and speak only throughout the entire year to come, in all terrors of conscience and necessity through sin and death: "I am baptized! I am baptized! Hallelujah!" And you shall prevail! In every time of need, you will find comfort in your Baptism; on account of it Satan will flee from your faith and confession; and in death you will see heaven opened and will finally come into the joy of your Lord to celebrate a great year of jubilee, a year of praise, with all the angels forever and ever. Amen!

      I had intended to use this quote next January for the new year, but here in the midst of the polar vortex  and one bad news story after another we’ve been experiencing, I thought it not a bad little reminder of the joy that is ours in Christ.  Yes, Lutherans can be joyful.  I know that it is a common humor or stereotype that Lutherans are rather stoic and reserved.  And yes, at least in America and Europe a good deal of that can be cultural.  But remember, joy is not the same as happiness.  There can be joy amidst great sorrow, for Joy is a condition and fruit of the Holy Spirit.   It comes from an eternal perspective – that this world and everything of it will pass away, but our inheritance in Christ never will.  This Joy is part of that New Life we have been born again into by the gracious work of our Lord at our baptism.  That is what Walther was referring to, and why you hear me so frequently bring your attention back to your baptism.  For it is there where you know what God did for you in your life, no matter what you feel or what circumstances you find yourself in or what the devil may say.  There God connected you with Christ.  There you were already killed with Him, your sinful guilt washed away in the cleansing flood of Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness.  There your Old Adam and sin’s mastery over you was drowned, and instead a whole new spiritually alive person was raised up in the New Life of Christ.  

     Our Joy is not based on things that change, but upon our Lord’s view of us in Christ which never changes and never fades.  Though there are many who disdain baptism, view it only as an act of obedience on our part, God’s Word tells us otherwise that it is that which we can turn to every day, for it is in fact to turn and trust in Christ every day.   Remembering it, relying on the Grace that God gave us there, we live in eternal life and hope right now and forever more.  We can join with Walther is saying and rejoicing: "I am baptized! I am baptized! Hallelujah!"


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