Every once in a while we will be posting new sermons by Rev. Joshua Hayes of University Lutheran Chapel in Boulder, Colorado. Sometimes we may have audio as well. Here is his sermon for this past Sunday.
University Lutheran Chapel, Boulder, CO
In the Name of the Father, and of the X Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I have never been to medical school and when I was in school I did not care much for biology, but I still think I could be great medical doctor. I imagine having a non-specialty practice for any patient with any condition. I would start the examination for all my patients in the same way. First, I would ask them about their family history. I could accomplish this by having them answer this one-question form in the waiting area: “Are your mother and father subject to death and decay?”
If they answer yes, then I would point out that such a condition is hereditary, and that this explains all the problems and pain they are having. Unless my patient was Jesus, they would all get the same diagnosis: You have the death inherited from your parents. My medical practice would not need fancy names for things like heart disease, cancer, leukemia, Alzheimer’s, autism, and so forth. Those would all be distinctions without a difference.
The treatment would be equally as obvious as the diagnosis. If the condition is death and the condition is hereditary, then the treatment is obvious. You need different parents. You don’t need an improvement of this life, but an altogether new life. You need another inheritance, another set of genes. You need to be begotten anew and get another life.
At this point I suspect that most of my patients would get angry and not want to pay their bill. They would object: “Dr. Hayes, that’s stupid. Why should I pay you for that diagnosis? You’re a hack. Shouldn’t it be obvious to everyone that death is the problem without having to be told?”
To which I would reply: “No, but you do need to be told. Because you, like your parents, are convinced that death is not really that big of a deal and that somehow by your smarts or goodness you will get out of it or that it will not be so bad. I’ve seen the movies you watch, and isn’t that always what happens? You think these movies are about you. You think you are the hero who cheats death in the last five minutes of the film. But in fact, it will be worse for you than you think. Death, you see, is but the wages of sin, and you really do not want to die in your sins.”
Still they would complain: “Well, it’s still stupid, Doc (if you even are a real doctor) and I’m not going to pay this bill because the treatment you suggest is ridiculous. How am I supposed to get different parents? What are you saying, that I could enter some sort of surrogate womb and be conceived again and inherit new genes that won’t give me the inheritance of death? That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”
To which I would reply: “It may sound like science-fiction, even other worldly, but there is one man I know who did it, and it worked. Thousands of people saw that it worked. Even when people killed him and buried him, after three days he rose from the dead. Death could not hold him; for life, not death, was his inheritance. His is a well-documented case. You can hear about it anywhere in the world. His name is Jesus Christ. His Father has life in himself and so he gave his Son to have life in himself. Thus was Jesus conceived in a virgin womb without the aid of a man; without the inheritance of sin and death but by the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life. This Jesus did what no one else could do.”
“What’s more, he has freely provided access to his eternal inheritance of life to all my patients. This is really great news for you. Such a deal. Of course you do not need to reenter a womb. See, he gives us water and by the power of his eternal Word it brings with it his life-giving Spirit and adoption into his eternal inheritance. You too will have God as your Father and receive an imperishable kingdom. His resurrection proves that it works. Here. Be baptized. It costs you nothing and everything is already prepared.”
As I said, I think I could be a great medical doctor, but I do not think I could be a profitable one. You would think that a free remedy for death would have people lined up down the street. If a pill were invented that could cure cancer just so that you can die from something else, people would try to obtain it for any cost no matter the effort. Having obtained such a pill, they would limp along for a few more years and then still die. But here in Jesus’ Baptism a new life and inheritance is given for free. It cures death itself so that whoever believes will not die eternally but raised in the resurrection of Jesus unto life eternal. And yet few want it. It is treated as a joke. And even many who have received Jesus’ baptism daily forget it and that it is already working in their daily lives.
Beloved of God, Trinity Sunday is about your Baptism, because Baptism delivers to you the life of the Holy Trinity. The Trinity is not just a doctrine to know about but is Himself the living God who loves you and saves you and by baptizing you has given you his name and inheritance. Jesus explains to Nicodemus the divine life baptism gives in earthly terms. There are no hard words such as the jargon you hear at the doctor’s office. And yet Nicodemus cannot believe it or grasp it by his understanding of natural processes but only by the Spirit who works faith where and when He wills.
For this is how God loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. The world and our own sinful flesh do not like the way God loves the world. We think he should do it in another way, a flashier way; a more impressive way. St. Paul says that the good news of Jesus and the new life he gives is stupidity to human wisdom. The top thinking in all fields of study from medicine and philosophy to religion and science will always call the Gospel stupid. It is not hard enough but free by grace. It is not showy enough but comes to us through the weakness of the cross. It is not “spiritual” enough but as common as water and words. It is not exclusively available only to those with the right insurance, money, or government entitlement, but is freely offered to all. It is not hard enough to grasp so that one requires a fancy degree but is given to those who come on the same level as infants and illiterate children.
And yet, for those who are being saved, this great news is the power of God—power to raise us from the dead; power to give us new life through water and the Spirit; power even to forgive us all our sins and make us sons of God.
Dear Christian, be not like the man in the doctor’s office who, when offered the cure for his disease, refuses to take it because it seems stupid to him. Rejoice, rather, at this great news. Christ is born to give you second birth. Christ is slain for all your sins. Christ is raised for your resurrection. Christ has sent his Spirit into your hearts so that you pray: “Abba. Our Father.”
You are the object of this Triune God’s love and special attention. He urges you to call him Father. He did not spare His only Son for you. He earnestly desires to make you temples of His Holy Spirit. He forgives you all your sins for Christ’s sake. He gives His Spirit as a pledge and guarantee of the resurrection of your body unto eternal life.
God loves the world. God loves you. He loves you for his own reasons. He did not wait for the world or you to first become loveable. All on his own, by grace alone, he gave his Son for you. He is generous toward you and will always be generous toward you. Rejoice in this and give thanks. You also be generous to your family and friends, to your neighbors and coworkers, and to your church and to your pastor. Be quick to forgive them, as God has forgiven you. Be patient and kind, as God is patient and kindhearted to you. Bear the sins of others, and cover them up with love, even as God’s Love became incarnate to cover your sins, for it says: “His banner over me is Love.”
This is who we are in Christ. This is the new birth of the water and the Spirit. In baptism we were crucified together with Christ; it is no longer we who live, but Christ lives in us; and the life we now live in the flesh we live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave Himself up for us.
Come soon, Lord Jesus.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.