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Psalm 86
 
Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you - you are my God. Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day. Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me. 
 
There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours. All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God. Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol. 
 
O God, insolent men have risen up against me; a band of ruthless men seek my life, and they do not set you before them. But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant, and save the son of your maidservant. Show me a sign of your favor, that those who hate me may see and be put to shame because you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me. (ESV)
An Act of God
Tuesday of the Last Week of the Church Year
24 November 2015
The Lord who gives the gift of baptism stands behind its validity. The baptizer is not the one who gives it validity. We can easily question the piety or personal holiness of our parish pastor. And if we reduce our relationship with him to a matter of law, he will lose every time. This is why Paul says, "From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh" (2Co 5:16). The way of the flesh is the way of the law.  By its implacable standards none of our pastors will ever be found to be adequate. If baptism depended on the piety of the preacher, none would be validly baptized. The weakness of our preachers, instead of being a testimony to the failure of the Christian faith, should be seen as the triumph of the cross of Christ. The men who serve in our pulpits and chancels don't have anything much to commend themselves to us (1Co 1:26). Their weakness commends the strength of God made perfect in weakness to us all the more powerfully. God's power is wonderfully displayed when His will is done through the Gideons whom He places in our churches. Perhaps, like Gideon, the Lord Himself reduces the forces available to our shepherds, forcing them to rely on Him and to confess when the church triumphs, that the Lord has done it all.
 
Our parish pastor, whoever he is, has had the authority of Christ placed in his hands to baptize children and adults. He is not working for himself and he speaks for none but his Lord Christ (Lk 10:16). When He baptizes his hands are our Lord's and his voice is our Father's. No one has been baptized by a mere man in the church. Baptism by a man would be the baptism into John, to which Acts 19 alludes (Acts 19:3-4). No, the baptism of the church is a powerful event in which God acts and we receive from Him. It sets us in God's name. (Acts 19:4-6). Nothing can remain the same afterward. We can no longer look upon anyone in a fleshly way. We cannot look upon our baptizer as anyone but God, our heavenly Father, for whom our pastor speaks. For that reason every baptism is of equal prestige, glory, and honor. None is lesser than the other; made inferior by the human means by which our heavenly Father carries out his will to give new life in the waters of baptism.
 
The Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8, was so well catechized that he was eager to be baptized. As he and Philip rode through the wilderness of Gaza, he espied water and eagerly cried out, "What prevents me from being baptized" (Acts 8:36)? He didn't ask if Philip was held in high esteem by the Sanhedrin of Jerusalem, or if he were an intimate of Herod, or a friend of Caesar, so eager was he to receive the gift that baptism offered. None of that mattered. For he knew that baptism was an act of the Almighty God. When disaster strikes a community and homes are destroyed it is called an act of God. Why should we believe that such a disaster is an act of God, but baptism is not?

 

Gregory Nazianzus

"Let nothing hinder you from being baptized, or draw you away from your readiness. While your desire is still passionate, seize that which you desire. While the iron is hot, let it be tempered by the cold water, lest anything should happen in the interval, and put an end to your desire. I am Philip. You are the eunuch of Candace. Say, 'See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized' (Acts 8:36)? Seize the opportunity. Rejoice greatly in the blessing. Having spoken be baptized; and having been baptized be saved. Ah, you who are an Ethiopian body, be made white in soul. Do not say, 'A Bishop must baptize me, and he should be a Metropolitan and from Jerusalem.' For grace does not come from a place, but from the Spirit. Do not say, 'I am of noble birth. It would be a sad thing for my nobility to be insulted by being baptized by a man of insignificant family.' Do not say, 'I do not want a mere parish priest, even if he is a celibate, religious, and displays a holy life. It would be a sad thing for me to be defiled even in the moment of my cleansing.' Do not ask for the credentials of the preacher or the baptizer. For another is his judge (1Sa 16:7) and He examines what you cannot see. For man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart. Consider everyone worthy to perform the rite of purification, as long as he is one of those who have been approved, not of those who are openly condemned, and not a stranger to the church.
                                   
"Do not judge your judges, you who need healing. Do not make fussy distinctions about the rank of those who will cleanse you, or be critical about your spiritual fathers. One may be higher or lower than another, but all are higher than you. Look at it this way. Take signet rings; one may be gold, another iron, but both are rings and have engraved on them the same royal image. Therefore, when they impress the wax, what difference is there between the seal of the one and that of the other? None. From the seal try to detect the material of the signet in the wax, if you are so clever. Tell me which one is the impression of the iron ring and which of the gold? How do they come to be the same? The difference is in the material and not in the seal. And so anyone can be your baptizer; for though one may exceed another in the holiness of his life, yet the grace of baptism is the same. Anyone may be your consecrator who is formed in the same faith." 

Gregory Nazianzus, Theological Oration, 40.26
 
Prayer
Lord Jesus, help us to look beyond our pastor to see Your hand and listen beyond the mouth of our pastor to hear our Father's voice when our loved ones are baptized. Amen.
 
For those recovering from health issues, that the Lord of all would grant them recovery of health and strength
 
For William Heine, Headmaster of Memorial Lutheran School, that the Lord would be with him as he leads the school into the Lord's futures
 
For families that are grieving at this holiday time, that they would be comforted with the Good Shepherd's care of His little lambs
Art: Dürer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 

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