Sermon — Pr. Tony Sikora — Looking for God in All the Wrong Places
Sermon Text: Matthew 3:13-17
January 12, 2014
In the Name X of Jesus. AMEN!
Beloved in the Lord,
Lost in Walmart! Dad! Where are you?
This past Christmas break I found myself wandering through the aisles of Wal-mart, aimlessly meandering from one section to the next, not necessarily looking for anything in particular, but more to the likes of passing time as my Becky was shopping for a something in the women’s sections. While making my way towards the hardware department, you know the place where all the power tools are displayed, I heard him. No, I didn’t hear God. God doesn’t normally speak to me or anyone else for that matter in Wal-Mart or anywhere else. I heard a little boy crying out through the midst of his tears, “Dad! Where are you? I’m Lost.” I looked around wondering if it was one mine. Nope, all of mine were accounted for. This was another’s. He was about 8 or 9 years old. He was lost. He was afraid. He was crying. And He was running through the aisles looking for his father. “Dad! Where are you? I’m Lost.” That’s all he would say as he ran from one section of Wal-Mart to the next. And let me tell you, the little guy could run. Through the pharmacy and into the hardware section he ran. Then from hardware he ran through housewares. From housewares he ran towards the Jewelry section and into the clothing sections. All the while crying, “Dad, where are you? I’m Lost.”
This morning in our gospel reading we find Jesus and John in the water of the Jordan. Jesus has come to be baptized. John thinks it should be the other way around. John wasn’t looking for Jesus. He was busy preparing the way. The crowds weren’t looking for Jesus – not yet, the crowds were looking for John to be baptized by John for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus has come to the waters because He’s come looking for sinners. Finding sinners in the water, Jesus gets in, gets wet, is baptized by John to fulfill all righteousness. Then everything changes. John did the baptizing, but it wasn’t John’s baptism Jesus received. When Jesus was baptized the heavens were rent asunder, torn open, and the path to paradise made straight. The Father, His Father from eternity and your Heavenly Father from conception, spoke words of delight. “This is MY Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” With the heavens opening and the Father speaking, comes also the Spirit’s descent. Yes, beloved this baptism is more than John’s baptism. This baptism fulfills all righteousness. This baptism reveals the only Son from Heaven. This baptism makes straight the way to heaven through the Son. This baptism moves the Father’s heart, and moving the Father’s hearts brings Words of joy and great delight. This baptism is full of the Spirit. All three persons are there! The Holy Trinity manifested for the world’s redemption, thus also for you and me, and all who are lost.
Looking for God in all the Wrong Places
You see, beloved, we’re no different than that 8 year old boy running through the aisles of Wal-Mart. “All we like sheep have gone astray. We turned everyone to his own way.” We wander away from the Lord. We get lost. We get worried. We get afraid. And then we start trying to get ourselves back to our heavenly Father. Trying to get back to look everywhere for God. We look in our hearts – but we don’t’ really want to look to deeply because we know our hearts are full of sin. We look for God in our families, the face of our children perhaps. But it’s quite obvious that they’re not God. We look to our vocations, our jobs, our marriages, our purpose in life. We look for God in the things we do. We look for God in the places we go. Sometimes those places seem spiritual – a retreat to the woods, or maybe even a mission trip to far away lands. And some places are not so spiritual, places like Wal-Mart, or the local Bar, or a building with all the X’s on it. We look here and we look there and all the while we make every attempt to gauge God’s presences somehow some way, usually according to how we feel. Measuring by how we feel brings us back to looking within our hearts. Contemporary man looks for God everywhere except where God has revealed Himself to be for us.
We’re looking for God in all the wrong places and our looking in all the wrong places only makes things worse. We sin more. We grow weary. We begin to despair. We feel all alone. We hurt inside and we’re exhausted. We’re just like that little boy, crying out loud, or crying inside, “Dad. I’m lost. Where are you?” And we never find our way home because we’re forever lost in the Wal-Mart’s of this fallen, mortal life.
Jesus in the Water for You
St. Matthew directs us away from all of this and towards the One in the Water. If we would find our heavenly Father and be found by Him, we must look to Jesus, the Son. For no one comes to the Father except through Son. He who has the Son has the Father and he who honors the Son honors the Father. There’s no way back to our heavenly Father unless that way is made straight by the Son, cleansed by the Son, blazed by the Son.
Thus the Son comes to John to baptized by him, to fulfill all righteousness and to be numbered with sinners. “All we like sheep have gone astray, we’ve turned everyone to his own ways, and the LORD has laid upon Him the iniquity of us all.” Wandering, hurting, despairing and lost sheep find their good Shepherd in the Waters of baptism uniting Himself to fallen humanity and taking upon Himself our curse.
The Lord has laid upon Him the iniquity of us all. Jesus steps into the water and hallows the water of every baptism. Stepping into the Water He exchanges His righteousness for your sins. He gets dirty, becomes unclean, bears the sins of the World, bears your sins. For the Good Shepherd is also the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He takes away your sins, takes them to Golgotha and crucifies them in His flesh. Jesus is baptized for you and therefore Jesus is crucified for you. The Father is delighted in the work of the Son and therefore He beckons from heaven “This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.” For as Isaiah testifies, “it pleased the Lord to bruise Him.” With bruised heel Jesus crushes the serpent. Crushing the Serpent Jesus wins the day for you and me and all the world.
Finding God and being Found by God in the Water
“But . . . are [we]able to drink the cup [He] is to drink and be baptized with the baptism with which [He] was baptized?” “Yes! We are able,” answer His disciples. “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized” (Mar 10:39 ESV), Jesus says. Lost sinners find their heavenly Father in the waters of Baptism, because in the waters of Baptism Jesus finds lost sinners. God finds you, washes you, forgives you, pours out His Holy Spirit upon you, regenerates you and works faith in your heart.
You also find God. You are baptized into Christ and therefore into His death and His resurrection. The Father’s voice is spoken over you as you are named with the Divine Name. What was said of Jesus is now applied to you. “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” God is well pleased with you because you are in Christ and Christ is in you. God is well pleased with you, not because of any works you have done in righteousness, but according to His own mercy. Christ Jesus was baptized to fulfill all righteousness, to bear the burden of your guilt and suffer the curse in your place.
Where are You?
Beloved in the Lord, that little boy’s cry broke my heart. “Dad! I’m lost. Where are you?” I thought of my own children losing me, or me losing my own children. Such thoughts cut to the heart. Each cry tugged on my heart and I tried to catch up to him, to help him find his father, so calm him and comfort him, to let him know he wasn’t alone. I say “I tried” because that little guy could really run. It’s amazing how fast one can run when fear sets in. It’s also amazing how many people completely ignored his cries for help. No other shoppers, none of the employees, stopped him, or helped him find his father.
Beloved, where are you? Are you running up and down the aisles of this world’s Wal-Marts crying out to find your heavenly Father, wishing to be reunited with your heavenly family? If so, “be still! And know that the Lord He is God.” Look to the water. There you shall find Him for you. Listen to the voice. The Father calls you by name. Receive the blessings of your God in Baptism. If you are already baptized then remember the blessings He’s given you in Baptism, recount the grace of your Lord poured out richly upon you, and rejoice that you have been found.
Being found by God and finding God in the water, do not be like those in this world who fail to care for the lost souls around them. Look around, check on your own children, your family, your friends, – are they lost? Find them and urge them to Christ. And listen for the cries of your neighbor – are they running around seeking and searching? Go to them, help them, comfort them with the gospel of Jesus Christ and bring them to the Father’s house where the Son is revealed for their salvation. Love as you have been love. Seek as you have been sought. And rejoice with all the saints and angels when the lost are found, when the dead are raised, when the Father welcomes all His children home.
Beloved in the Lord, that little boy finally found, or was found by, his father. Seeing his dad the boy raced even faster to his father’s arms. He leapt up and jumped into his dad’s bosom – and he wouldn’t let go. So you also, don’t let go. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!