Preaching Series on Sacraments (2 of 5)

Week 2 of a 5-week preaching series on Sacraments.

"Celebration," John August Swanson. Used by permission from the artist. Image © by John August Swanson.  Artwork held in the Luther Seminary Fine Arts Collection, St. Paul, Minn.

August 15, 2021

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Commentary on Psalm 84; Romans 6:1-11

Baptism (part 2)
As often as not (and I am tempted to say too often) when we think about baptism (if we think about baptism at all) we tend to think about what happens in baptism, what baptism does for us. This is, of course, a good thing. But I want to argue that it is equally important to think about what baptism is for us.

It is widely noted that for Martin Luther baptism was to be understood as a daily event, a cleansing and renewal of forgiveness that we need, and is ours, every day. In other words, baptism is not something once done, now finished, but once done, now lived in.

I am taking my lead in this from Psalm 46, which describes a river, “whose streams make glad the city of God” (verse 4). The source (quite literally) of these glad-making waters, feeds a city. The idea is of “place,” of baptism as a metaphorical location in which the baptized finds herself.

In my take on the texts for the first two weeks of this series emphasis has been placed on this sort of take-away from each of the psalms, and from Acts and Romans.

Week 2: Aug. 15, 2021 [Baptism, part 2]

Preaching text: Psalm 84; Romans 6:1-11

Similar to Psalm 46, Psalm 84 begins by reflecting on place. In the first several verses we read of God’s dwelling place, of God’s courts, of a home to be found at the altar of the Lord, all of which is summarized in the resounding praise of verse 4, “happy are those who live in your house.”

Here again, the expectation of the psalms is that where God’s name is, there God dwells (see Exodus 20:24; Jeremiah 7:12; Psalm 74:7), and there God can be found.

While there is no clear baptismal imagery in Psalm 84 it resonates with the place and source imagery of Psalm 46 in the previous week, and paired with Romans 6, brings the idea of God’s name—bestowed on the baptized—into partnership with the idea of place.

In Romans 6:1-11, Paul uses a complex intertwining of “ifs” and “therefores” to make that case that, baptized into Christ, we are at home with Christ in all things—in his death and burial, his resurrection and newness of life, his death to sin and his alive-ness to God.

While it wouldn’t do to over-interpret here, the phrase in verse 3 may be evocative, again, in a certain sense, of place: “all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus….” Into; we may see in this another sense in which baptism is about place, location, and source.

If we have been baptized into Christ, we bear Christ’s name, and God dwells with and in us.