Shining Waters of Life
Friday of Pentecost 14
26 August 2016
"Why can't things just go on as they have been? Why can't we continue to be complacent, indeed both fat and happy?" When that happens in our daily lives we become sluggish, unproductive, and quite useless to those who depend on us. Our Lord was never satisfied in His life with "fat and happy." He Himself looked forward to His cross and its suffering, considering it even to be a joy set before Him (Heb 12:2).

Christ sets out the very real threats of His judgment under fire (Lk 12:49), and the sword of division (Lk 12:51); right in the very midst of this, He refers to his own upcoming suffering: "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished" (Lk 12:50). The cleansing judgment of God does not fail first to burn over the life of the eternal Son of God, who himself needs no cleansing, from whom no dross needs to be burned off. Yet the baptism of suffering is still His planned future. Elsewhere, He says "No one takes my life from me, I give it up of my own accord" (Jn 10:18). He gives up his life, He undergoes the burning wrath of God, and He suffers right down to being a man left naked hanging from a tree; a public sign of derision.

He warns us "If they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry" (Lk 23:31)? The well-seasoned wood of the cross was consumed by the o'er-passing wrath of God that swallowed Christ in the conflagration of death. There was a baptism of blood yet to be undergone for Jesus. But he will not flinch from it. He resolutely turns his face toward Jerusalem. He knows it's coming. Even though those around Him do not know how to interpret the signs of the age (Lk 12:54-56), Jesus, who warns about them, knows them best of all.

The baptism of Christ's death shows us the ultimate end of God's wrath for us. In His death, Christ consumed all of God's wrath that it might only burn over us taking from us all that is unworthy and leaving all that is redeemed by His cleansing blood. He is like a refiner's fire (Mal 3:2). That will not change. For those who belong to Him, who stand looking upon the baptism of His death, that fire leaves us just where we need to be; completely dependent on the God who is baptized into our suffering and death and how great is His distress until it is accomplished (Lk 12:50)! It has been accomplished for us. Christ's baptism into death on the cross becomes our baptism into His death in the font. The crucifix glimmers in the shining waters of life.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
"For if Christ by the touch of his most innocent flesh has hallowed all waters, yes, even all creation, through baptism, how much more has he by the same touch of his most innocent flesh and blood sanctified every form of death, all suffering and loss, every curse and shame for the baptism of the Spirit, or the baptism of blood! Of this baptism of suffering he says in Luke 12, 'I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished' (Lk 12:50)! Here you see how he is distressed, how he pants and thirsts to sanctify sufferings and death and to make them things to be loved, for he saw how we stand in fear of sufferings, how we tremble and shrink from death. Therefore, as a godly pastor and faithful physician, he hastens to set limits to this our evil, and is impatient to die and by his touch to commend suffering and evil to us. Thus the death of a Christian is now to be regarded as the bronze serpent of Moses (Num 21:8-9), which in all respects has the appearance of a serpent, yet is completely without life, motion, venom, and sting. Though in the eyes of the unwise the righteous seem to die, they are at peace.

"In death we are like all other men: the outward mode of our dying is not unlike that of others, except the thing itself is different, since for us death is dead. Likewise, all our sufferings are like the sufferings of others, but only in appearance. In reality, our sufferings are the beginning of our freedom as our death is the beginning of life. It is this which Christ says in John 8, 'If anyone keeps my word, he will never see death' (Jn 8:51). How shall he not see it? Because in his death he enters upon life, so that because of the life that he sees he is not able to see death. Here the night shines as the day (Ps 139:12), since the dawning life is brighter than the waning death. This is assured not for the unbelievers, but for all who believe in Christ." 

Martin Luther, Fourteen Consolations, 7
Psalm 88

O LORD, God of my salvation; I cry out day and night before you. Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry!
For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am a man who has no strength, like one set loose among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, like those whom you remember no more, for they are cut off from your hand. You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep. Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves.
You have caused my companions to shun me; you have made me a horror to them. I am shut in so that I cannot escape; my eye grows dim through sorrow. Every day I call upon you, O LORD; I spread out my hands to you. Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the departed rise up to praise you? Is your steadfast love declared in the grave, or your faithfulness in Abaddon? Are your wonders known in the darkness, or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?

But I, O LORD, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you. O LORD, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me? Afflicted and close to death from my youth up, I suffer your terrors; I am helpless. Your wrath has swept over me; your dreadful assaults destroy me. They surround me like a flood all day long; they close in on me together. You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness. (ESV)
Lord Jesus, You were distressed and anxious as You approached the baptism of Your death. How greatly You desired to sanctify sufferings and death and to make them things to be loved by us. You see how we stand in fear of sufferings, how we tremble and shrink from death. Therefore, as our godly pastor and faithful physician, set limits on this evil, set before us Your death and commend suffering to us. Amen.

For all those who are on vacation, that they would be refreshed in body and spirit

For all those who have lost confidence in the power of the means of grace to deliver forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation to the people of God, that they might be called back from their unbelief and once again repose in the care of a gracious God

For all those suffering from inclement weather, that the holy angels would watch over them bringing them rescue
Art: Durer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2016
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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