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This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee,
and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. John 2:11

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pastor Rob Rogers was born in Seattle Washington. He has a B.A. in Communication from Concordia University, Austin, TX and a Masters of Divinity from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO. READ MORE >>

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 The Baptism of Our Lord –January 09, 2022
Text:            Luke 3:15-22

Theme:         Bring On the Fire!

 

          I think fire is a frightening thing to most people.  I know that it is something about which I have always been extremely cautious. I am the toaster Nazi in our house, unplugging the toaster whenever not in use because I was told once by a fireman that toasters cause many household fires. We also never run the dryer when we’re not home because they too are known to cause fires.  Growing up in the Northwest, I remember watching a logging mill in our town burn to the ground and I think the intensity of that fire made me forever cautious of its power, so when John tells us that Jesus will baptize us with fire, that gets my attention! I wonder what that means.

          We have to first think about what fire meant to the people of that day. Fire in the Bible purifies and cleanses.  They used fire to heat rocks until the metals came out. Fire also indicates God’s presence. God chose to reveal himself as a pillar of fire to the Israelites during the Exodus and He revealed himself to Moses in a burning bush. Then tongues of fire appeared on the apostle’s heads at Pentecost.  There is also the fire of God that consumes the false prophets of Baal for Elijah, and John talks about Jesus separating the wheat from the chaff at the end of the world and burning up the chaff.  So, when John talks about being baptized with fire, I’m interested. Luther would ask “What does this mean?”  I know what being baptized with the Holy Spirit means but what about being baptized with fire?

          Baptism begins our journey with God just as Jesus used it to begin His ministry on earth.  He was baptized not to forgive His sins because he had no sins. He was baptized to mark the beginning of His ministry among us as he began His journey to Jerusalem and the cross.  He was baptized to fulfill the Law for us as he would continue to fulfill God’s Law until he died righteous and holy in our place.

Jesus was on a journey to the cross. We too are on a journey. We are journeying to our rightful home in paradise. During His journey, Jesus was salted with fire as the devil did what he could to stop the Lord’s progress to the cross where the devil suspected that he and all the evil angels might be undone.   In our journey to the Promised Land, we will be salted with fire as well. The devil will do what he can to distract us and pull our attention away from Jesus in hopes that our faith might die. But, through His Word and the power of His Holy Sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, God will use that salting as a baptism to refine and purify our faith as we move through life.  There will be some who fall away because they have not fed their faith and therefore cannot endure the flames, but for those who endure, the reward will be phenomenal.  

Fire is good. When Jesus promises us that we will be baptized with fire, that is a good thing. Fire is not always pleasant, but it is good when God is using it.  It is horrific when God opposes you and it will be horrific indeed at the end of the world for those who have rejected Christ. But for God’s children, fire purifies us and it reminds us of God’s continual presence in our lives.  God is always helping us get rid of the garbage in our lives so that we can live more purely and more fully for Him. That is why we have the eternal light. We keep a candle burning 24 hours a day 7 days a week until Christ returns.  We remind ourselves with the eternal light, with fire,  that Christ is returning for us and until that day comes, the Holy Spirit is burning brightly all around us. The Lord promises us through Isaiah in our Old Testament reading,

Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by name, you are mine.

2When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,

and the flame shall not consume you.

3For I am the Lord your God,

the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

 

You are baptized children of God. That means something. That means that no matter what fire comes your way, it will never consume you. Hang onto that. It is a promise from God. God’s purifying fire will burn. It will get hot. It will sometimes be uncomfortable. But it will not consume you as long as your faith is strong enough to grasp the grace of God. So, feed your faith. Read your Bible every day. Receive the body and blood of Jesus every week and having done that, you are ready for everything.

That does not mean that you will enjoy it. We are soldiers in this world and sometimes life on the front line is difficult but never fear. God is with you. The eternal light reminds us that the Holy Spirit is burning brightly among us and we will never be overwhelmed. Knowing that, we can stop wringing our hands and worrying about everything. Instead, we can march bravely forward with God’s promise to us through Isaiah firmly in mind. We are His people and no one can stand in our way. We have been washed in the holy waters of baptism and all of our sin has been washed away. We have been baptized by fire and purified as God’s holy saints. Get rid of any false humility and own who you are because the people around you who are unsure of Jesus, who are weak in faith, who are lost in a sea of worldly distractions, depend on us to be the conduits of the Holy Spirit through which their salvation will come.