Sunday, October 15, 2017

Sermon: Trinity 21 and Baptism of Gilbert Hart - 2017

15 October 2017

Text: Eph 6:10-17, (Gen 1:1-2:3, John 4:46-54)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Our Lord reminds us yet again that we are at war.  St. Paul exhorts us to “put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”  He urges us to “take up the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”

While the world is in denial that we are at war – it is made very clear to us Christians.  We are on the front lines of battle “against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil.”

And this war, dear friends, is different than the skirmishes and conflicts and combat between earthly nations.  It is not waged with marching armies and high-tech explosives.  It is not about killing our fellow men.  For the soldiers in this war include every citizen of Christendom, every person in our nation that transcends all nations, every member of our tribe and race that transcends all tribes and all races.  Our warriors include even little children, including our newest enlistee, Gilbert Benson Hart.

To a world in denial that we are even at war, they see nothing more than a baby and an unimportant ritual, an opportunity to take pictures and congratulate the parents on their new child.  But to us Christians, there is more going on.  Warriors are not born, but made.  And like most Christians, Gilbert became a warrior even before he was old enough to steel his body and spirit for battle through training and discipline.  There will be that, of course, as all Christian parents know that it is their duty to train their children through prayer and catechesis, through living an active life in the church, through Word and Sacrament, through a warrior’s vocation of militancy against the “cosmic powers over this present darkness.” 

But, dear friends, in our militant forces of the church, warriors are made by something as common and unassuming as a splash of water, made powerful and active through the miraculous and mighty Word of God – the very same Word that brought the universe into being, the same Word that took on flesh within His creation, the same Word whose mastery extends not only over the chemical properties of water and wine, but even over sickness and death.

Like all warriors, Gilbert joined us in our oath of loyalty to our King as well as oath to repudiate the enemy, his works and ways.  And Gilbert was endowed with a new spirit through a miracle of the Word of God continuing to act in our war-torn land, continuing to call and rally His troops to join in the great victory that He achieved at the cross.

Our Lord was there in the beginning, as the Word brought order to that which was “without form and void.”  The “Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” The Word brought light by His command.  He separated the primordial randomness into beautiful order.  He began space and time itself, and culminated his creation by creating man in His own image, male and female, and placing them in the paradise that He had created.  “And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.”

Every creature, from the mightiest galaxy to the smallest electron knew its place in this order, and obeyed the will of God.  But mankind was given something that no other creature was given: a will of his own.  Made in God’s image, Mankind was empowered to make decisions and was trusted to be creation’s caretaker.  But instead of loyalty, we displayed treachery.  We took the beautiful peaceful universe and turned it into a battleground; we received our beautiful paradise and left it in rubble. 

Dear friends, our Lord did not give up on us, but fights for us. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  The Word became our fleshly King, and He makes war for us, and enlists us to join in the struggle against the “spiritual forces of evil.”

The pinnacle of this war, its turning point, the crucial battle that altered the course of history and assured our victory was the Lord’s crucifixion, death, and resurrection.  Like many military victories, this was an ambush that drew the enemy in, trapped him, and unleashed a torrent of arms upon him, destroying him, and re-establishing peace through victory.  Jesus won this war at the cross, by His bloodshed, by His willing sacrifice, by His obedience to His orders, by His ingenious strategy, and by His love for the nation – our nation that transcends all nations.  And our risen King rallies us all to join in the resistance to the devil, to become Christ’s warriors to save others, and to look forward to the eternal victory triumph when we will eternally serve our King in peace.  For by His blood, our sins are forgiven, order is restored to creation, and the very concept of death yields to a renewed obedience of every galaxy, every electron, and every person created in God’s image once more being happily obedient in eternity.

The worst thing about warfare is death.  There are horrific casualties.  The carnage seems pointless, and often it appears that there is no end in sight.  After our Lord’s first miracle of water and wine, a man prayed to Jesus to heal his dying son.  By the power of Jesus and through the belief, the faith, of the child’s father, death was turned back.  Our Lord would go on to establish a continued ministry of saving the dying, of empowering parents with faith to save their dying sons and daughters by means of future miracles involving water and wine.  And lest we miss the point, the body of our victorious Lord issued water and blood at the point of the Roman spear.  For His death saves us by these means.

Today, we see the ongoing miracle of salvation by means of baptismal water, as well as the wine of the Lord’s Supper.  We witnessed the water and the Word being applied to Gilbert’s head, even as he was helmeted with salvation and girded for battle.  We will take part in the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ forgiving our sins anew by means of bread and wine, through the Word of God, made into His very body and blood, to steel us for battle, to strengthen our faith, and to fortify us for war against the old evil foe.

Though the battle rages, the war is won!  Though we fight to the death, we are assured of life!  Though Gilbert’s parents have turned him over to militant service, they have brought him to eternal life with them and with all believers in the peace that passes all understanding! 

For there is nothing that all warriors value more than “peace.”  This word “peace” was the first thing the risen and victorious Lord said to His disciples after the resurrection.  “Peace” is the meaning of the word “Salem” that our forbears chose to name our congregation.  And “peace” is that which Jesus won for us at the cross, and that which the waters of baptism ultimately remind us of: that peaceful and good creation began when the Word created an expanse in the midst of the waters, when we were created in God’s image, and it was all very good!

Rise to Arms! 
With prayer employ you.
O Christians lest the foe destroy you;
For Satan has designed your fall.
Wield God’s Word, the weapon glorious;
Against all foes be thus victorious,
For God protects you from them all.
Fear not the hordes of hell,
Here is Emmanuel.  Hail the Savior!
The strong foes yield
To Christ our shield,
And we, the victors, hold the field.


In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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