In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Well, that justice came in an unexpected way. It did not come by the blood of the guilty being shed satisfying a tit-for-tat vengeance. Rather, the blood of another innocent was shed upon the ground. The holy, spotless Lamb of God. His blood spilled down the cross of Calvary till it watered the ground at the foot of that tree. It showered down righteousness upon the earth blotting out all of the injustices which have stained our soil for so many years. His blood cries out from the ground a far better word than that first murdered brother’s. Christ our brother took on Himself your sins’ debt. The murdered Son of God let His blood be shed to satisfy justice’s requirements. In Himself He balanced the scales of the universe. He righted all wrongs. He took on Himself all human wickedness, weakness, sin and injustice, and delivered to you everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness from His Father.
Salvation and righteousness rain down from the cross. Recall that when our Lord hung on the cross balancing of the scales of justice by His payment for sin, that after His death at the thrust of the Centurion’s spear, blood and water flowed from His side. Blood and water showered down upon the earth, watering the ground. Blood for our chalices. Water for our Baptismal fonts. For in the chalice of His Supper, and the font of His Baptism He rains down His mercy on us. The water with His Word washed your sins away in Holy Baptism. And wine poured down our throats connected with His Word pours His life blood into you imparting His blood shed for forgiveness.
It is Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God who comes to you through this blood and water. He is the One raining down upon the earth, washing it clean of all the wickedness that stains it. He is what Lady Macbeth needed to remove the stain of her guilt, and get out her spot. He is what Judas Iscariot needed to remove the affliction of His guilt. For His blood does not stain. It cleanses. It cleanses consciences before God. It cleanses hands of wicked deeds. It cleanses your record in God’s law courts.
This is what John the Baptizer delivered: a fresh, holy person through water and God’s Word of promise, known by us as Holy Baptism. It is what James has received this day. A rich salvation like rain. Not the somewhat depressing rain we’ve had of late that comes in the depth of winter with overcast skies darkening our days and washing away our snow, icing our roads, and making travel treacherous. But big, huge, cool water drops in the middle of the summer’s heat. A fresh, cool wind to bear away the stifling heat. A gentle torrent of moisture enlivening the parched land and robing deserts in blossoms and buds. This is what the Scripture is talking about. Rain as salvation. The rain of God’s grace upon the earth. New life breaking forth.
Rain that brings rejoicing. Rain that enlivens your heart. Rain causes you to throw off your sadness, cast off your cares and dance in the streets. Rain that lifts you up in midst of your depression. Rain that gives you hope and a future.
John came baptizing pouring out a bit of that rain. A bit of Christ`s righteousness to the world. Preparing people’s heart for the Christ. But as great as John was, as much St. Jean Baptiste is still remembered today, Christ Jesus is better. In comparison John is not even worthy to be the lowest of the low, the servant at the door in Roman times, who loosens the stinky sandals of his master, and washes his sweaty, dust caked feet.
John is not worthy of this because any power John has to rain down righteousness comes from Christ. It is Christ’s cross which pours out salvation on the earth. It is His baptism which imparts His rain into your life.
To the heart that accepts this, who acknowledges it as true, there is joy. Rejoicing. A thrilling to the sound of this news. But this is not the joy of our world. It is not an mere emotional exuberance. An emotion which is here today gone tomorrow, as changing as the wind. It is not an in your face gushing forth of emotion which is so foreign to the stoic Finns and other North Europeans who tend to populate these pews. No. This joy is the all pervading knowledge that Christ has washed you clean in Baptism, and feeds you with the blood of His cross poured down your throat.
This joy is what St. Paul called “reasonableness”. It is a meekness, a quiet confidence, a graciousness toward others even when they put you in stressful situations, a forbearance or putting up with their ridiculousness. It is a joy or peace of mind in us worked by what Christ did for us on the cross and does for us each day of our lives. He does not pour out His wrath against your stupid selfishness. He does not mutter under His breath at how frustrated He is with you. He is in fact, quite unreasonable in His forbearance with you and I. We who claim we love Him, but never seek Him where He promises to be in His Word and Sacraments, nonetheless He waits for us, forbears with us when all our talk of faith in Him is not matched with action. We who say we believe in Him but go on living our lives as if He was not there, rarely stopping to ponder Him, His Word, His Law or His promises to us, we who say all this church stuff is important but only don’t actually want it in our weekly lives. He is near. His coming is closer now. Wise up. Rest in Him. He is graciously waiting for you.
In fact, He is unreasonable in His reasonableness. He forgives our neglect of Him. He comes to you again and sets a table for you in the presence of your enemies of unbelief, apathy, and personal sin. He makes Himself available to you. He comes to you in His preached Word and the Sacraments. He opens His arms to you offering His peace once again. He invites you to come to Him and rest in Him, casting all your cares on Him. For He is near to you here where His Word promises Him to be.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON