Sermon: Romans 6:1-11
Trinity 6Romans 6: 1-11
July 15th, 2007 Faith Ev. Lutheran Church Waterloo, IA
Pastors sometimes get attacked for preaching “impractical sermons”. We are accused of preaching only about things that are abstract or things that are to come years down the road. We are told that we spend too much time preaching about doctrine, and not enough time dealing with what people “really need.” We are told that if we are to remain relevant to the people, we must address the things that they are going through right now. We don’t need old stuff, we need new stuff. We need something more “real.”
Let’s be real. Every living soul must come to grips with the fact that life is temporary, and we are on the clock. Everybody is looking for something to fill in the holes. Deep down, in places nobody talks about, everyone has them. Loneliness, insecurity, fear, loss and need. In this room, there are children who are afraid of the future. There are widows and widowers who are struggling with the loss of their spouse. There are women who feel unappreciated, and men who wonder if they have failed their children. There are those carrying a lifetime of guilt, shame and regret. There are those who pretty much seem to have everything, and yet still feel lack and unease when no one is looking. There are those who feel as though they have nothing, and feel like they want to die. Everybody has holes to fill. Everybody is looking for something to fill in those holes. Everyone is dying to live. How’s that for real so far?
Now, to fill in those holes we need something real. The problem is, we spend too much time trying to fill them in with something unreal. We humans seek every kind of diversion our fallen hearts and minds can devise in order to try and fill these holes in us. Entertainment, and technology, and achievement, and money, and sex, and false spiritualities, and drugs and alcohol. We do everything we can to try and fill those holes, to ease our loneliness, to answer our questions, to fix our brokenness, and to ease the pain. But none of it works, does it? None of it works. For a moment it seems to. For a time it helps us to forget the holes. But these remedies of men in time vanish. And then we are again left with holes.
To fill those holes, we need something real. And that something real isn’t found on Oprah. And that something real isn’t found on CNN or Fox news. And that something real isn’t found on the internet, or on a concert stage, or in the rhetoric of some talking head, or in all the self-help books you can find on the shelf at Barnes and Noble. The real things that fill in the holes are flesh and blood. The real things that fill in the holes are bread and wine. The real things that fill in the holes are wood, and water, and dirt and life and death. The real thing that fills in the holes… is truth. Not lies, not half-truths. Real truth. And to hear real truth, there is only the Word of God.
Hear the Word of your Lord concerning the truth. Hear the Word of the Lord concerning your life today. Our Lord and Savior knew that you were going to need things to hold onto in this life, things to sustain your faith, tangible things you could look to for comfort and truth. He knew that the world was going to kick the crud out of you, for Satan and his demons are not partying it up in hell friends. They are going about the earth looking for souls to devour. They are looking for you. You have been afflicted before, and they will afflict you until your time on earth is done. So to comfort your weary souls and to strengthen your faith, the Lord has given you some tangible truth to hang onto. Witness today’s Epistle text.
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by Baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life.” Here, St. Paul, one of the greatest pastors and missionaries who has ever lived directs the weary hearts of Rome to something they can hold onto. “You are connected to Jesus” Paul tells them. “Remember that time when you were washed with real water. It was combined with God’s Word and something happened to you. This was a real event. The old you died that day, and someone new came out. This really happened. People saw it. Physical, real water, combined with God’s Word. Your entire future changed that day. You were forever connected to the death and resurrection of Jesus. When He died, you died, and when He rose, you rose. And now everything is different. And you can look to that moment when heaven joined itself to water, and you were changed.”
Paul continues, “We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death He died He died to sin once and for all, but the life He lives He lives to God. So you must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Paul here connects two historical events. Christ’s death and resurrection and your baptism. You were connected to the cross at your baptism. Jesus’ real flesh and real blood were nailed with real nails to real wood when He was hung on a real cross and experienced real death. He really paid for all of your very real sins saving you from a very real hell. And when He rose again, He rose to live eternally in a very real heaven. And because you were forever connected to Him at your baptism, you too will live eternally. Really. That is what Paul wanted the Romans, and you, to hold onto when life kicked the crud out of us.
Dear Christian friends, God knew that things were going to be too tough down here on earth for us to simply go around thinking abstract thoughts about salvation. That is why God connected heavenly things to earthly things so that you had something to hold onto. That is why the worship service was meant to fill your senses. You come here to service, and you see that you are not alone. This room is full of God’s beloved children. We confess our sins together, and you SEE that we all share this problem. We take comfort in the numbers of the flock. You SEE things in here that you don’t see anywhere else. An altar, a baptismal font, and a pulpit. These are God’s means for bringing you salvation. When you confess your sins, and I announce the forgiveness of sins to you, it is not a different forgiveness than you receive in your bedroom when you pray. But God wanted you to HEAR it. You HEAR that you are really forgiven. In the liturgy that you and I speak together, and in the sermon, you HEAR that you are a sinner, but that you are saved by God’s mercy alone.
Long ago, church used to have a smell attached to it as well. It was not the Roman Catholics who invented incense; it was God in the Old Testament. The burning of incense in the tabernacle was commanded by God, and the Psalms are full of the language of prayers rising like incense in the temple. Back before we were infected with generic Protestantism, we Lutherans used to know that. Church used to SMELL different than the world too. And it was meant to help put you in a different frame of mind.
God joins His real body and blood to the earthly elements of bread and wine, and thus gives us His real presence and a forgiveness that we can taste. He really joins His body and blood to real bread and real wine that you eat and drink. His body and blood give us life, and they strengthen and renew us so that we are able to cling to the faith in Jesus Christ that saves. Seeing, hearing, smelling, eating and drinking. It seems God has given us a lot of very real things to hang onto in this life. He gives us the things we need to sustain to the end in this life. In this way, Jesus Christ fills in the holes we cannot fill. It is Him alone who can make us complete.
The Christian life is not a perfect life. Christians will be lonely and afraid and they will suffer. Sin on earth, ours and others, has made life what it is. But the Christian life is a life of assurance and hope. As you return to the world this morning, remember your baptism. Real water joined to God’s real Word. In baptism, God has made you alive. Your baptism has washed away your guilt, and pardons your shame and regret. Jesus Christ Himself has made you dead to sin, but alive to God. Look to your baptism daily. There you will find your identity. There you will find your connection to the cross. There you will find your connection to the history of your people. There you will find life and salvation. Look to your baptism. There you will find Christ. The REALITY of Christ. And there is something you can hang onto in the trials of this life. And who says preaching doctrine isn’t practical, eh? Amen.