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Matthew 28:18-20

 

And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (ESV)

 

Enough Is Enough

Johann Sebastian Bach, Kantor 

28 July 2014

The congregation I serve used to have a very simple baptismal font (the new font is pictured above). It was a small box on a wood stand with an aluminum kitchen mixing bowl to contain the water. While this takes simplicity to extreme lengths, there is something to be said for such simplicity. Simplicity is the rite of baptism itself. What is a little water connected with a few words? How hard could it be to baptize? What is the big deal about something so, well, so simple? We should not be blinded from what baptism gives by baptism's lack of show. It can be overlooked or even despised because it is seems so "little." Many churches today ignore it, reject it outright, or deny that baptism conveys a gift from the God who sets his name on us in it. They walk by sight, not by faith. They are led to this neglect by baptism's simplicity.

 

The simplicity of baptism should not blind us to the reality that God's own great power stands behind its great gifts. In fact, I find it supremely comforting that God has seen fit to veil His power under the signs of water connected with Gods' Word. God does not use His power to overpower us with glory but hides under the sigs of its opposites. God puts his hand over our face and sets us in the cleft of His Word to keep us from being blinded by the power of His majesty. How gracious He is that He refuses to "tart up" the signs of His grace in the world. He reduces the scale of His presence by bringing us to Himself in such lowly things. In preparing a five-year-old boy for baptism on Sunday, I led him to the little font of our church. It had a little water in it, left over from last week's baptism. A little water is exactly the scale the child needed. He and I talked about the triune Name together. This fits very well with what he is learning in Lutheran School.

 

The very "littleness" of the rite of baptism also means that those who do not believe so easily despise it. Their wonderment at baptism leads them to wonder why Christians bother with it at all. The very thing that confirms its blessedness to us, becomes for unbelievers a confirmation of its uselessness. Bigger and showier may not be better. God keeps His gifts little for the purpose of requiring from us the faith elicited by the gifts themselves. When God says, "Baptism now saves you," (1Pt 3:21). He is not kidding, no matter how insignificant baptism may appear.

 

Sometimes less is more. A friend of mine was trying to maintain a yard of a new home for the first time in his life and asked me for advice about killing the weeds in his lawn. I suggested a liquid weed killer especially formulated for the type of lawn he was trying to improve. After reading the directions, he reasoned that since it killed weeds, if he mixed it at double strength it would kill twice as many weeds. Um, not exactly. He killed all the weeds and along with them the lawn too. Sometimes enough is enough. So it is in baptism. This little gift is exactly the right way to kill death and Satan and give the life of Christ to those who undergo its drowning and rising to new life. Enough is enough when it is God's. 

 

Tertullian

 

"How great is the force of perversity for so shaking the faith or entirely preventing its reception, that it impugns it on the very principles of which the faith consists! There is absolutely nothing which hardens men's minds more than the simplicity of the divine works which are visible in the act, when compared with the grandeur which is promised in their effect. From the very fact, that with so great simplicity, without pomp, without any considerable novelty of preparation, finally, without cost, a man is dipped in water, and amid the utterance of some few words, is sprinkled, and then rises again, not much physically (or not at all) the cleaner, and yet he receives eternityis considered the more unbelievable. I am a fraud if, on the contrary, it is not from their circumstance, preparation, and expense, that the worship of pagan idols' or their mysteries get their credit and authority built up. Oh, miserable unbelief, which quite denies to God His own properties, namely simplicity and power! What! Is it not also a wonder that death should be washed away by bathing? But it is the more to be believed if the wonderment is also the reason why it is not believed. For how is it beneficial except that the quality of divine works engender above all wonder? We also ourselves wonder, but it is because we believe.

 

"Unbelief, on the other hand, wonders, but does not believe. For the simple acts it wonders at, it considers useless; the grand results, impossible. Well, then if we grant that it is just as you think: that the simple is useless and the grand impossible, the it is sufficient to meet each point with the divine declaration which has gone before: the foolish things of the world God chose to confound its wisdom (1Co 1:27); and the things very difficult with men are easy with God (Lk 18:27). For if God is wise and powerful (which even they who pass Him by do not deny), it is with good reason that He lays the material causes of His own operation in the opposites of wisdom and of power, that is, in foolishness and impossibility; since every virtue (baptism) receives its cause from those things by which it is called forth (God's power)."

 

Tertullian, On Baptism, 1
 
Prayer
Lord Christ, You have offered Yourself to us in the humble means of water connected with Your Word, and in it granted forgiveness of sins, new life, and salvation. Give us grace to live in baptism every day of our lives that clothed with you we might live in peace and joy. Amen.

 

For Bud Obert, that the Lord Jesus would grant healing and that he would be strengthened in his faith and confidence in divine mercy

 

For the family of Harry DeNeau, that they would mourn with the hope of the resurrection and the life of the world to come

 

For LCMS World Relief serving the needs of people in the midst of suffering, that they might experience relief of both body and soul 
Picture: Courtesy of Martha Fredenburg

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