Grace, peace and mercy be multiplied to you from God our Father, and the Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Martha’s brother Lazarus has been dead for four days. As Jesus approaches their home, Martha comes out to meet Jesus on the way. I sense in her words bitterness, mixed with sorrow and grief. The words Martha speaks are echoed by her sister in the verses that follow. “…if you would have been here…”
Jesus' words are words of more than just comfort. They are words of hope and life. Words that we share when we gather to hear God’s Word and share in the Sacraments.
In baptism, we remember what Paul shares with church in Rome:
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3-4)
We are raised up to new life! Yet even after we have been given new life by God, we still want to keep ourselves wrapped up and bound in our grave clothes -- signs of the old life. We can keep ourselves bound up by holding onto those sins from which Jesus has freed us and has forgiven us.
During a children’s sermon a few years ago, I received some answers I did not expect…surprise, surprise! I asked the children, first of all, what they wanted to be when they grow up. One answer was a zebra. She will have to talk to her parents about that. Another wants to be a paleontologist. There were other answers as well.
My next question was, what requirements are needed for various jobs. What skills do you need to get the job you want?
I then asked, so what do you need to do to get to heaven? My hope was that I would receive a good Lutheran answer – that it is not our own doing, but by God’s doing that we are saved. We are saved by grace!
That is not the answer I got.
Instead, a little hand went up, and the child spoke - YOU HAVE TO DIE!
He is right, you know. You have to die. The good news is, you have already died. In the waters of baptism, your sinful self was put to death, and you were raised up to new life. Just like Lazarus, you have been freed from the bindings of sin, and are given new life.
Remember that! Every day, wake up in the newness of your baptism, dead to sin, and alive to new life, washed clean, free from sorrow, free from sin.
Jesus IS the way, the truth and life. Today! Remember you are baptized!
Remember you belong to God. Today.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, we give thanks for the new life you give us in baptism. Sustain us with the gift of your Holy Spirit: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord, the spirit of joy in your presence, both now and forever. Amen.