I Have Been Baptized

(Homily for Easter Sunday)

Bottom line: Baptism joins us to the Resurrection of Jesus – by which our sins are forgiven.

A happy and blessed Easter to you! In this Easter homily I will address what Easter means for us – and why baptism is such an important part of Easter. That's a tall order. This Sunday I will only scratch the surface, but fortunately we have the fifty days of Easter (until Pentecost Sunday) to reflect together on these mysteries.

To illustrate the meaning of Easter, I begin with a story. The story is not mine. A university professor named Dr. Phillip Cary told it in order to explain what Christians mean by justification - how the resurrection bring forgiveness of sins.* The story begins with a tragedy: a girl pushes her brother down a stairs. To her horror, the fall causes him to break his neck, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down. She did not intend to paralyze him, but that was the result of her malicious action. All day and all night she is thinking about what she has done. The next day she must face her father. As she approaches her dad's room, she is afraid. What she fears is not so much that her dad will punish her. In some ways she would welcome any punishment. No, what she fears is that her dad will say that she is no longer his child, that he will banish her from the family. But when she enters the room, she sees a glorious sight. Her brother is sitting on his father's lap - completely restored. He says to her, "sister." And she hears her father say, "my daughter."

Now, she will have to face some punishment for what she did. But she bears it gladly because of the great joy she has. In a similar way the Resurrection of Jesus restores us. We hear Jesus say, "It is I. I live." Then, in spite of our sin, the Father says, "you are my son."

The Resurrection gives a joy that no one can take from us. After Peter proclaimed the Resurrection of Jesus, he said, "Everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins though his name." After listening to Peter's Easter homily, the people asked him: "What must we do?" He responded plainly, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus." (Acts 2:38)

By baptism we are joined to Christ’s death and resurrection. At the Easter Vigil adults and children have their sins washed away in the waters of baptism. Then all of us have the opportunity to renew our baptism by a renunciation of sin and profession of faith. The remembrance of our baptism should bring us great joy.

Recently, I came across something, which beautifully expresses the joy of baptism. It was written by a German girl who immigrated to the United States at the end of the eighteenth century. She sewed the words on a sampler.** A sampler is a piece of cloth embroidered with a design or motto. These are the words she embroidered:

I have been baptized.
Even if I die, how can the cold grave do me harm?
I know my homeland and my inheritance, which I have with God in heaven.
After I die, there is prepared for me the joy of heaven and the robes of glory.
I have been baptized.
I stand in covenant through my baptism with my God.
So say I always with glad lips
In crosses, tribulations, troubles and needs:
I have been baptized.
I rejoice in that.
The joy remains forever.

Because of our baptism you and I also have a homeland, an inheritance, a covenant with God. No matter what trial or distress we face, that joy remains.

I have been baptized.
I rejoice in that.
The joy remains forever.

**********

*The story comes from Dr. Cary's course Luther: Gospel, Law, and Reformation. The story has power because it touches something that Luther knew dramatically and that Peter's audience took for granted: we are guilty and, for that reason, the resurrection is the best news. It offers the one way out of guilt. You cannot, by the way, escape guilt by blaming the Catholic Church. Anyone who has read ancient literature knows that guilt pre-existed the Catholic Church. Likewise modern literature and drama testifies that guilt continues to exist even in a secularized culture.

**Source: ibid. I presume the sampler which Dr. Cary referred to is now in a museum in Pennsylvania.

Spanish Version

From Archives (Easter homilies):

2015: Disciple Makers Week 1: Totally Fixable
2014: Journey to Hope Week 1
2013: Peter's Joy
2012: To Get Rid of My Sins
2011: Seek What Is Above
2010: Forgiven
2009: Eternal Life Begins Now
2008: His Will Is Our Peace
2007: I Have Been Baptized
2006: Peering into the Tomb
2005: Transformation
2004: Ready for Combat
2003: Something To Live For
2002: The Weakest Link
2001: A New Identity
2000: Born Again!
1999: Why I Believe

Easter Vigil Homily: "At the entrance was something like a small swimming pool with three steps leading down one side and three steps leading up the other. At the Easter vigil they were led into the pool. The priest asked..."

The Meaning of the Resurrection: "Forgiveness is the one new thing that has entered the world. Without forgiveness human history is bleak. Frederick Nietzsche the philosopher who stated 'God is dead,' thought the driving force of history is resentment..."

THE EVIDENCE FOR JESUS’ HISTORICAL RESURRECTION (For Seekers, For Those Who Know Him, And For the Plain Skeptical)

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One of our neighboring pastors, Rev. Gary Jensen of Shorewood Lutheran has written a nice pamphlet on the Evidence for Jesus' Historical Resurrection

Bulletin (Knights of Columbus - Silent No More Poster, Divine Mercy Confessions)

Cathedral Walk, March 24, 2007

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Reasons Young People Leave Their Faith - Presentation for Monroe Christian Pastor. (For pdf format click here)

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