My Pure and White Robe

I once again had the great privilege of baptizing a little baby this morning. This is always one of my favorite parts of being a pastor; not that I have the power to do something to the baby, but that God gives his forgiveness, life, and salvation through it!

The baby at the baptism today had a little white robe that her older sister had also worn. So as I was paging through the newest book of Luther’s Works today, I found a quote on baptism that even alludes to it as a pure and white robe, since by it we were clothed with Christ. Check it out!

In Christ — indeed, in our Baptism, since we are baptized into Christ — we have the forgiveness of sins without ceasing. So even if you fall and sin out of weakness — as happens, alas, too much and too often, without ceasing — then run and crawl to your Baptism, in which all your sins are forgiven and washed away; draw comfort; lift yourself up again; and believe that in Baptism you were washed not only from one sin but from all your sins. For just as the baptized Jesus Christ does not die, but lives and remains in eternity, so the forgiveness of sins is also eternal, [the forgiveness] that He won for you and gave you as a gift. Therefore, Baptism is a glorious washing, one that washes away and purifies. Whatever is not washed away and remains left in us is forgiven. Accordingly, whatever Baptism does not purge away altogether is nevertheless completely purified through the forgiveness of sins that we receive in Baptism. The pope knows nothing of this but supposes that Baptism is a transitory thing. That is why he makes up many works through which the rest of the sins must be washed away and removed. No, that is not so! If I stumble and fall into sin, then I should repent and crawl to the cross, go there and fetch my pure and white robe with which I was clothed in Baptism, where all my sins, if they are not all completely washed away, are nonetheless forgiven, because the forgiveness is altogether pure. That is what I cling to!

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, American Edition, Vol. 58, CPH, 2010, p.367-368.

 

A Child’s Picture of Baptism

Since this past Sunday’s Gospel was Jesus’ baptism, the children’s bulletin had a baptism theme. My six-year old daughter went at hers with her usual determination. I thought it was     worth sharing.

Baptism is so important, and I think this shows that my daughter gets that — which makes dad feel great!

By the way, I’m not sure if the purple on the paraments was in anticipation of Lent, or if purple was the only color crayon on hand!Bulletin Drawing

31 Years Ago Today…

Baptismal Font at the Chapel of the Christ at MLC in New Ulm, MN 31 years ago today, I was baptized. Sure, it was a neat day for my parents, who baptized their son while family, friends, and congregation looked on. Sure, it was  neat for people like my grandparents who got their picture taken holding me. But my baptism means to most to me, not because of the pictures or the the family-togetherness of the day. No, it means so much to me because of what God did to me there. He clothed me with Christ. He made me God’s own child.

The benefits of my baptism were important for me that day, and they’re just as important for me now. I will share a couple of short quotes from Luther’s Large Catechism on this topic.

Imagine there was a doctor somewhere who understood the art of saving people from death or, even though they died, could restore them quickly to life so that they would afterward live forever. Oh, how the world would pour in money like snow and rain. No one could find access to him because of the throng of the rich! But here in Baptism there is freely brought to everyone’s door such a treasure and medicine that it utterly destroys death and preserves all people alive.

We must think this way about Baptism and make it profitable for ourselves. So when our sins and conscience oppress us, we strengthen ourselves and take comfort and say, “Nevertheless, I am baptized. And if I am baptized, it is promised to me that I shall be saved and have eternal life, both in soul and body.” …

In this way one sees what a great, excellent thing Baptism is. It delivers us from the devil’s jaws and makes us God’s own. It suppresses and takes away sin and then daily strengthens the new man. It is working and always continues working until we pass from this estate of misery to eternal glory.

(Large Catechism, IV, 43-44,83, quoted from Concordia: the Lutheran Confessions, CPH, 2006.)

Do you remember your baptismal day in some special way? Or do you have tips for how we can make better daily use of our baptism? I’d love to hear it in the comments!

God’s Own Children

I got the chance to baptize a little baby last weekend. That probably doesn’t seem too remarkable; after all, I’m a Lutheran pastor. I baptize lots of babies, right?

Ever since I started my ministry I’ve kept a little notebook with a record of all the baptisms, weddings, and funerals that I have done. After updating it, I found that the baby I baptized last weekend was my 19th baptism. They were mostly babies, but there has been one adult and a couple of older children.

Nineteen may or may not sound like a lot. (I think it’s quite a few for being the pastor of a small church.) But the point really isn’t the number. And I don’t bring up the number to brag or to speak of these baptisms as if they’re my accomplishment. They’re not. At all.

Baptism is God’s work. He made these people his own through their baptism. He made them his own children by faith. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. (Gal. 3:26-27) God adopted these baptized people. He wrapped them in the perfection that Jesus accomplished for them. He made them his children by faith.

This list of people I baptized is a great comfort for me. I don’t always feel like I’ve done a good job as a pastor. I see my shortcomings and sins all too easily and clearly. But when I look at that list, I can see how God has used me, his imperfect servant, to bring his gifts to his people. I am not worthy of God using me in this way, but he does anyway. I need this comfort, and God gives it!

This connects with the comfort of baptism itself, of course. I just thought I’d close this post by quoting one of my favorite “new” baptism hymns (it’s new to me but was written long ago) that I think expresses the comfort of baptism so well. Enjoy!

God’s own child, I gladly say it: I am baptized into Christ!
He, because I could not pay it, gave my full redemption price.
Do I need earth’s treasures many?
I have one worth more than any that brought me salvation free,
Lasting to eternity!

Sin, disturb my soul no longer: I am baptized into Christ!
I have comfort even stronger: Jesus’ cleansing sacrifice.
Should a guilty conscience seize me
Since my baptism did release me in a dear forgiving flood,
Sprinkling me with Jesus’ blood?

Satan, hear this proclamation: I am baptized into Christ!
Drop your ugly accusation; I am not so soon enticed.
Now that to the font I’ve traveled,
All your might has come unraveled, and, against your tyranny,
God, my Lord, unites with me!

Death, you cannot end my gladness: I am baptized into Christ!
When I die, I leave all sadness to inherit paradise!
Though I lie in dust and ashes
Faith’s assurance brightly flashes:
Baptism has the strength divine to make life immortal mine.

There is nothing worth comparing to this lifelong comfort sure!
Open-eyed my grave is staring: Even there I’ll sleep secure.
Though my flesh awaits its raising,
Still my soul continues praising:
I am baptized into Christ; I’m a child of paradise!

Text: Erdmann Neumester (1671-1756), Tr. Robert E. Voelker (b. 1957)
Tune: BACHOFEN – Johann Caspar Bachofen (1695-1755, alt.)
Christian Worship Supplement
737 / Lutheran Service Book 594