1 Corinthians 1:26-31
In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
But after the futility, the wilderness wandering which is the lot of all who live on earth, what awaits the Baptized is the final crossing over the waters of the Jordan into the Promised Land. On one side the Israelites were homeless, wandering pilgrims in a parched, desperate land where they could not survive if God did not miraculously provide for them. On the other side of the water they were home, in a land rich like Eden, a land flowing with milk and honey, a land provided by God, which provides for them. Thus, the phrase “crossing over Jordan” has through the ages come to signify going home, to your eternal heavenly home.
God used that Jordan River crossing not only to foreshadow our safe crossing to our eternal home across the floods of death, but especially to mark that though Moses had led them out of slavery and through the wilderness, it was Joshua—the first bearer of the name we know as Jesus—who would lead them home. For us it is not Moses nor the Ten Commandments which lead us home. Though they lead us through this wilderness by telling us how act, it is only Jesus who will lead us home.
For who is Jesus? Is He merely a leader God raises up for His people? Or is He God Himself? He is both the Leader of His people and God Himself. And of course on what day did Joshua lead them over the water? The third day. The day when Jesus rose. The day when God saves. For God is three persons, three persons who save you.
When the Ark of the Lord rested in the water—the ark where cloud of God’s presence always hovered above—we see an image of Creation. For in the beginning when God created the heavens and earth the Spirit of God hovered over the waters as the Triune God called into being all that is. And so at this salvific water crossing—a crossing where one side those saved are weary, homeless wanders, and on the other side are given rest, safety, home, security, and all good things—as they cross from one state to another the Spirit of God hovers over the waters.
Hundreds of years later God again goes down into the waters of the Jordan. Again the Holy Spirit hovers over the water coming to rest on Him who stands in that water. This time God the Father speaks from heaven itself for all to hear, “This is my Son, my beloved, in whom I take great pleasure.”
This time the waters are not stopped up like at the Red Sea or Joshua’s Jordan river crossing. This time the waters flow freely. For this second Joshua, this Jesus, came to the Jordan to fulfill all righteousness. Righteousness is a word in the Bible which is shorthand for “God’s righteous actions to save you”. Jesus goes down into the Jordan to be baptized by John so that His righteous third day actions might be completely fulfilled. The cross of Christ is salvation for the world. But how does this salvation flow freely to all? Through the waters of Holy Baptism!
This is where God makes known His choice of you. It is where He declares you to be His Son, His beloved with whom He takes great pleasure.
Consider that calling brothers: both men and women. Consider that calling in which God your Father named you His beloved Son, so that in Christ you have an inheritance in Our Father’s kingdom, you are Our Lord’s brothers, seated on Our Father’s throne with He who is our Lord and saviour.
Consider that calling. Whether you were young or old when you received it which of us was considered terribly wise, powerful, important, of royal birth, or a mover or shaker in the world? Few of us. In fact, when someone becomes a Christian a common by product is that what power and importance they had in the world tends to wain as the world sidelines them and shunts off the mainline so that the name of their God will not be named in public. And conversely, to be called by God and faithful to Him often means you can not play the world’s power games and thus can not achieve nor rise as high in the world’s esteem as others. You will be considered foolish if you should name the name of Christ. But when God called you, important or not, He gave you His wisdom, His esteem, His wealth, His royalty. He gives it to you in Christ. He calls you into His Son through your Baptism into His name. So that on one side of the water you are a slave of this world and its wickedness; on other side of water you are free in Christ Jesus.
After John baptized the Christ completing all righteousness by making Baptism a means of salvation for sinful slaves like us, John later testified, “I must decrease and He must increase.” This is the nature of everyone’s calling in Christ: that in Christ you should decrease. When you first become a Christian or take your Baptism seriously, you often think that you must become what seems good to the world; that you should become stronger, purer, wiser, better. But in fact, the truth is the opposite. The more you “progress” as a Christian the less you trust yourself; the more you become aware of your moral weakness, of how much cowardice there is in you, of how selfish you are. And if God privileges you new vocations such as spouse or parent this increasingly becomes all too plain as He uses those vocations to show you your sin.
But while you are not growing in what the world values you are growing in what God values: ever greater confidence in Christ your saviour. For as you learn to distrust yourself you learn to trust all the more in Him, in His Word, in His faithfulness, in His Baptism of you to help you in the changes and chances of life. So you become stronger, wiser in faith, and more persistent in the midst of affliction because you begin to depend more and more on Christ, and therefore, you possess more and more of Him. For faith and wisdom increase when you decrease and He increases.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON