Sunday, January 11, 2009

I Declare Homiletical Malpractice!

Here were the readings in chapel today (which I hope you all know is the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ):

Old Testament: Genesis 1:1-5 (ESV)

The Creation of the World

1In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

3And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Epistle: Acts 19:1-7 (ESV)

Paul in Ephesus

1And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. 2And he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" And they said, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." 3And he said, "Into what then were you baptized?" They said, "Into John’s baptism." 4And Paul said, "John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus." 5On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. 7There were about twelve men in all.

Holy Gospel: Mark 1:4-11 (ESV)

4John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. 7And he preached, saying, "After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

The Baptism of Jesus

9In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."

WOW! Just looking at these texts… the sermon practically writes itself!

The OT Reading creates a perfect image of the old man before baptism: dark, formless and void. There we see the Holy Spirit hovering over the water. And what follows? God’s declaration of light! This is how it is with us God creates Light and Form from our formless darkness through baptism by His Word and the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Epistle highlights how this baptism is not our work, but God’s work. Here we see that a baptism that is centered in man’s work of repentance is nothing compared to the baptism that gives the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus. This upsets the popular, erroneous belief that baptism is our work of obedience. No, it is the work of the Holy Spirit that creates the indwelling of faith...through baptism!

Then we come to this titan gospel text! Look, here we see Christ’s baptism. Just as He would in His Holy Supper at the end of His earthly life, Christ actually participates in the sacrament that He institutes for His church. Christ's ministry is literally book-ended by the two Sacraments: Baptism and Eucharist. Then we see the explicit depiction of the trinity: The perfect Son Jesus Christ standing in the waters of baptism, the Holy Spirit descending from heaven to the Son in the form of a dove, and the voice of the Father speaking His pleasure over His son. What truth and depth! What meat!

As if the readings were not direct enough, the name of the Sunday is “The Baptism of Our Lord”. Every song, collect, petition, and bulletin clip art points to this event. How could you miss this? It’s so plain that even this two-year Lutheran neophyte can see it.

But this is NOT the message that was preached in the Lutheran chapel service today! Baptism wasn’t even mentioned! I sat in the pew absolutely stupefied. It filled me with frustration and physical grief. My fellow Soldiers became concerned about my health because I could not hold back my visceral distaste for what was going on. How could a sermon today not talk about Baptism? How could the children's message be about taking care of the planet and not littering? How could a Lutheran chaplain get this one so wrong?!?

If you received a proper sermon from your pastor on this Sunday of Sundays, call or email him and thank him for his dedication to you. You are truly blessed.

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