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Psalm 19
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their measuring line goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. (ESV)
Baptism Does It All
Tuesday of Pentecost 25
17 November 2015
Baptism is the universal sacrament. It gives entry to the kingdom of Christ. And whom does our Father not want in the kingdom of His Son? Our heavenly Father has placed no barriers of age or status upon the gift of baptism. If age would be a barrier for baptism, what would keep us from applying other barriers to those seeking the gift of baptism? If age puts a limit on baptism, what would keep us from applying other limits? Of course, our Lord does not place limits of age on the sacrament of baptism. He says, "Go, baptize all nations." Who exactly would that command leave out? Who could not be included in the designation "all nations?" Whom has our Lord forbidden us to baptize? But if age limits baptism, wouldn't it be conceivable that other barriers, such as social status, just as easily prevent those who are otherwise eligible to be baptized? While it might seem unlikely to us, the early church struggled with precisely these questions.
How easily we humans apply our standards to God, as though He were limited by our conceptions. We may not limit the universal applicability of the sacrament of baptism based on these faulty conceptions. Those in the early church who treasured the celibate life began to discount the importance of baptism, delaying it because they thought so highly of their own virginity. Gregory Nazianzus will have none of it. He explicitly argued that baptism was applicable in every human situation. This is certainly the teaching of the apostle Paul: "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:27-28). Perhaps, we could even add here: "neither young nor old." Whether we are young or old, slave or free, male or female, married or single, etc. baptism puts us into Christ. That "putting into" is a permanent resource for our Christian life. If we live in Him, we will live in His way.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of sharing our holy faith with a Kurdish man who, suspicious of Islam, asked good questions about the faith of Christ. I had such a joy to be able to say that Jesus is our way to the Father. Christianity is not a path, at least not in the way in which a road map charts a path. No, Christianity's way is a person: Christ Himself. Christianity is not a way of living. No, it is a life that is Christ's own life. He is your life and you are hidden in Him (Col 3:4). Christianity is not a truth. No, it is the truth in the flesh of God's own Son. The man heard these words with tears in his eyes. "Is this your God?" he said wonderingly.
Baptism sets us into the one who is the way, the truth, and the life. This is who we are because we are in Him, not because we follow a prescribed pattern of life. Baptism gives us Christ and places us in Him, and provides resources in whatever station of life we may find ourselves; whether we be single, married, young, old, male or female. We are adorned with Christ and His righteousness. We are kept holy in the chastity of marriage. We are maintained in the righteousness of Christ in the single life. Baptism does it all.


Gregory of Nazianzus

"Are you single? Be sealed by the purification of baptism. Make this the sharer and companion of your life. Let this direct your life, your words, every member, every movement, every sense. Honor baptism, that it may honor you; that it may give to your head a crown of graces and with a crown of delights shield you.
"Are you bound by wedlock? Be bound also by the seal of baptism. Make it dwell with you as a guardian of your continence, safer than any number of guards or doorkeepers. You not yet wedded to flesh? Do not fear this consecration. You are pure even after marriage. I will take the risk of that. I will join you in wedlock. I will dress the bride. We do not dishonor marriage because we give a higher honor to being single. I will imitate Christ, the pure bridegroom, since He both worked a miracle at a wedding, and He honors wedlock with His presence (Jn 2:1-11). Only let marriage be pure and unmingled with filthy lusts. This only I ask; receive safety from the gift of baptism and offer the oblation of chastity in its due season, when the fixed time of prayer comes round, and that which is more precious than business. And do this by common consent and approval. For we do not command, we exhort. We would receive something of you for your own profit and the common security of you both (1Co 7:5).
"In a word,there is no state of life and no occupation for which baptism is not profitable. You who are a free, be curbed by it. You who are a slave be made of equal rank. You who suffer grief, receive comfort. Let those who are glad be disciplined. Let the poor receive riches that cannot be taken away. Let the rich be made capable of being good stewards of their possessions. Do not play tricks or lay plots against your own salvation. Even if we can delude others, we cannot delude ourselves. For to play against oneself is very dangerous and foolish."

Gregory Nazianzus, Theological Oration, 40.18
Lord Christ, You have given us an inexhaustible treasure in our baptism because it sets us into Your death and resurrection. Help us to depend on this treasure because it puts us in Your death and resurrection. Amen.
For Walter Friend, as he recovers from cancer, that he would be strengthened in his body
For clement weather, in thanksgiving to the God who sends the rain and the sun
For all those who despise baptism because of its apparent weakness, that the Lord by his word might lead them into the truth
Art: Dürer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 

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