Sunday, August 18, 2013

Proper 15 Epistle

In faith Abraham offered Isaac, being tested, and the only begotten he offered, the one having received promises, to whom it was spoken that in Isaac your seed will be called, considering that even out of dead ones God was able to raise, from which him also in a parable he received...And these all having been witnesses through the faith did not receive the promise; God, concerning us, a better thing He foresaw, in order that not apart from us they be perfectly-completed. For this reason also we, being enveloped in so large a cloud of witnesses, may we lay aside all impediments and the constricting sin, through perseverance we run the contest before us, we fix our gaze unto the Beginner and Completer of the faith–Jesus, Who on behalf of the joy He was devoted to, endured a cross, a disgrace he despised, and on the right of the throne of God He has been seated. For you consider the One enduring such a hostility by the sinners into Himself, in order that your souls not become weary (or) give out.    

A rookie ball player is called up to the majors, taking his first at bat. He is baptized by fire. A young marine is deployed into a war theater, facing his first tastes of battle. He is baptized by fire. A newbie volunteer fire-fighter responds to her very first call. She is baptized by fire, but hopefully not literally. Being baptized by fire is not an easy thing. It's dangerous, dreadful and sometimes deadly. You don't want to be baptized by fire, if you can help it. But one person couldn't help it. His name was Jesus!

You see, Jesus' baptism was quite different from yours. Oh, it looked similar when Jesus was in the Jordan river with John. But your baptisms was to wash your sins off of you. Jesus' wasn't. His was a baptism by fire. Fire is a symbol in the bible of God's judgment. Where you and I are cleansed from our unrighteousness in baptism, Jesus wasn't. Quite the opposite. Jesus came to embrace sin and death. Jesus was so devoted to the joy of your salvation that He willingly endured the cross for you.

Not just for you, but for everyone. Jesus endured His baptism by fire at the cross for all people of all times and; places. Your Savior received God's fiery judgment against your sins nailed to Himself, and also Abraham's sins Christ bore in His body on the tree. All the guilt, shame, and; disgrace of every single sin of mankind Jesus became at Calvary. It wasn't a shame Jesus liked. He despised it. Yet He was willing to endure it for your sake, and for the  whole world. He's baptized by fire, for you.

With such an awesome thing that Jesus was willing to do for you and all people, you'd think everyone would look to Him with awe and wonder. But people don't. Sometimes you don't. You consider Jesus on Sunday, then He's out of your mind by Tuesday. Or sometimes even by the time you get to the church parking lot. Your consideration for Jesus and what He does for you is often lacking.

Abraham, by faith, considered God's promises, trusting beyond all logic as God told Him to kill his only son Isaac, through whose line the Savior Jesus was promised. Abraham would have done it, trusting that God who gives life could restore it to Isaac in resurrection. You are given to consider God and His promises in the same way. You are to consider Jesus who took Isaac's place in death, and your place as well on the cross. You consider the only-begotten Son of God baptized by fire for you.

With such a great cloud of faith-filled witnesses in the bible, you ought to be just as faith-focused as they were. But often you aren't. Your gaze drifts away from Jesus who bore your sins on the cross, and instead you find your eyes fixed on your favorite sinful habits. You gossip, waste money, indulge your whims and act selfishly until your sins become impediments to your Christian walk, ensnaring you.

Yet Jesus remains there for you, at the right hand of God's throne. This is not a location, but a power. God's mighty right hand comes down to wash you in your baptism, to mark you with the sign of the cross in Holy Absolution, and to feed you with His body and blood at Communion. Jesus, by the power of His Spirit re-fixes your gaze to Himself, and where He promises to be for you in His Word and in His sacraments. For there Jesus promises to be to forgive you, save you, and give you life forever.

So when life's race becomes rough making you feel you are being baptized by fire, there is no reason for you to despair or grow weary. For your Savior has already been baptized by fire in your place at the cross. For in Christ Jesus there you are perfectly completed. Your faith in Christ a gift He both authors and finishes for you, keeping you in the true faith unto your life everlasting. He likewise does everything by His grace for you, announcing it from the cross, "It is finished!" to you, Abraham, and all.

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