“We Are Baptized for This Moment” (Acts 2:14a, 22-47)
Today is Holy Trinity Sunday, the day in the church year when we most give attention to the great biblical doctrine of the Holy Trinity, the truth that the one true God is the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For example, on this day we confess the Athanasian Creed–like the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene, a trinitarian creed and one we believe, teach, and confess all year round, but we speak the Athanasian Creed aloud on this day, since it goes into the most depth and detail on the doctrine of the Trinity.
Today is Holy Trinity Sunday. But really, every Sunday is a Holy Trinity Sunday, since we are gathered here, as we say at the start of the service, “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Indeed, for the Christian, every day is a Holy Trinity Day, since each of us has been baptized in the name of the triune God, and we live in our baptism daily.
And that brings us to our message this morning, namely, “We Are Baptized for This Moment.” This is picking up on the theme of our synod’s national convention coming up in July, which is, “Baptized for This Moment.” And in that connection, we will be having a five-part Bible study by that title, starting this Wednesday. I hope many of you can come.
And so, for right now, we consider as our theme today: “We Are Baptized for this Moment.” Briefly now, I want us to focus on these three points: 1) We are baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity. 2) We are baptized into a life of repentance and forgiveness. And 3) We are baptized for this moment–for witness, for mercy, and for life together.
First, then: We are baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity. Notice, I said, “We are baptized.” Could I have said, “I was baptized”? Yes. So how do I get from “I was baptized” to “We are baptized”? For myself, I was baptized on September 10, 1953. But that baptism was more, far more, than a one-time event that got me a ticket to heaven when I die, but nothing more in between. No, my baptism, your baptism, is more than an event in the distant past that only has meaning for the distant future. Your baptism has significance for every day of your life, every moment that you live and breathe as a Christian. It is your identity, it is your security, it is your meaning and purpose for every day of your life. This is why I can say, “I am baptized,” present tense.
And not just present tense singular, “I am baptized,” but also present tense plural, “We are baptized.” Each one of us shares in the same experience. The triune God has placed his name on each one of us, has brought us into his family, made us his people, his church. There is a corporate dimension to our being baptized. We are baptized into the body of Christ, the church. We have a collective identity. Each one of us is part of the whole. We need to see ourselves in this way. We’re not just a bunch of disassociated individuals, each sitting in his own isolation booth. No, we are the church, together. We are a “we.” That’s what I mean when I say, “We are baptized.”
We are baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity. Notice that I said “name,” not “names.” There is one name into which we are baptized, the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. One name, one God, three persons. This is a great mystery, of course. How this can be is beyond us; it’s too much for our little pea-brains to comprehend. But we believe it, because God says it. And it is this one God in three persons who saves us, so that makes this a thing of joy, a reality for us to delight in, this God whom we worship and adore.
We are baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity. This is something you can be sure of, because this is God’s work, not yours. Baptism is God’s work, not man’s. He is the one doing the action; he is acting to save us by means of this sacrament Christ instituted. “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This is the being born again, born of water and the Spirit, that brings us into the kingdom of God, as Jesus says in John 3. This is the “washing of water with the word,” that Paul speaks of in Ephesians 5. This is the “washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom God poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,” Paul, in Titus 3. So baptism is God’s work, and therefore something we can be sure of. And it is his saving work. “Baptism now saves you,” 1 Peter 3. We are baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity, and nothing could be better or more certain than that.
This brings us then to our second point: We are baptized into a life of repentance and forgiveness. That’s where Peter goes with this in his Pentecost sermon. Peter gets up and preaches to the assembled crowd there in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. He starts out by telling them about this man Jesus, who had just been crucified there in Jerusalem, about seven weeks earlier. Those Israelites there that day had known about this Jesus of Nazareth. They had seen his mighty works over the previous several years, works of healing and blessing and divine power. They had heard his teaching, teaching full of great wisdom and authority. They had heard the reports from all around. And yet, what did these same men of Israel do? They had rejected Jesus, they had followed the false direction of their leaders, and they had called for his crucifixion. Which happened. So this is a big “You blew it!” to the people assembled there on Pentecost. They had had the Messiah right there with them, the Christ sent from God, and they messed up and missed out and did exactly the wrong thing.
Yet they were not able to stop God’s plan. God raised up this Jesus, according to his plan. Death was not able to hold him. Now, Peter says, this same Jesus is raised up, ascended into heaven, and is sitting at the right hand of God, the position of all authority and highest honor. And of this, we all are witnesses, the apostle Peter declares.
This message cuts the crowd to the heart. They realize how badly they blew it. There is repentance here, the recognition that you have been blind and stupid and have not listened to what God was telling you and you have gone off on your own, in the wrong direction. What hope is there for us, after we have messed up so badly and have sinned against God?
Peter tells them. He gives them the good news. And he directs them to baptism. “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” Which is what then happens. They do repent. They are baptized. They are forgiven.
Now this is the life which we too live as the baptized people of God. Repentance. Faith. Forgiveness. For you too have been baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” Christ is your Savior. He is your forgiveness. He is your life. Jesus died for you, on that cross, to pay the price for your sins. He then rose from the dead, overcoming the power of death, the victory he now shares with you. You are baptized into union with Christ, into his saving, life-giving death and resurrection. The gift is yours, and it’s all by grace. Receive the gift by faith, this gift God keeps on giving you.
Repentance. Faith. Forgiveness. Every day. We “are” baptized, remember. Every day, throughout the day, the old man of sin is put back under the water and dies. Every day, throughout the day, the new person that you are in Christ arises and lives before God in the power of the Spirit, which is living in righteousness–serving God in holiness and obedience and serving your neighbor in love and mercy, in the name of Christ.
And that then brings us to our third point: We are baptized for this moment–for witness, for mercy, and for life together. God has a purpose for you now, for this moment, for this time and place. Life is not some empty drift from birth to death, with no rhyme or reason or purpose. No, God has something for you to do. He has things for us to do, together. There is a purpose and a meaning and a mission for us as God’s baptized people. Each one of us has various vocations to fulfill as an individual–in our family, in our work, in our community, in our congregation. And together, we have work to do as church, both in our local congregation and in our wider fellowship as the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. There are plenty of people to love and serve in the name of Christ. There is plenty of work, good work, for us to do.
We can talk about this work in several ways. “Witness, Mercy, Life Together” is one way that we’re using right now to talk about our work as a synod. We are baptized for witness, to bear witness to Christ our Savior–the Savior of the world–speaking of our faith to our friends and family members and neighbors, and carrying the good news of salvation in Christ to people all around the world. We are baptized for mercy, showing the mercy and kindness of God in very practical deeds of kindness and care to people in need–and there are people with all sorts of needs all around us, if we just open our eyes. We are baptized for life together. God has made us a family, his church. We are called to love one another with the love that Christ has shown toward us. Living as a united people, forgiving one another, bearing one another’s burdens, helping that brother or that sister in all sorts of ways. This is our life together as church, here in our own congregation, as well as in our working together as the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
We are baptized for this moment. We are baptized–present tense plural–in the name of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This gives us great identity and security and meaning in our life. We are baptized into a life of repentance and forgiveness. It is a daily turning from sin, receiving the forgiveness Christ won for us on the cross, and living the new life of righteousness. We are baptized for this moment–for witness, for mercy, and for life together. God has a purpose for us, my friends. Take hold of it. Live it.
We are baptized for this moment. Each moment counts. This moment counts. This is challenging–this is exciting–and God will bless our moments and our days. For we are baptized, and that means we can count on him.