Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Pentecost 11

"Born one way, born again another"

Colossians 3:5-11

July 31, 2016

There's a new TV series called "Born that Way." I haven't seen it but it seems to be about people born with certain challenges who learn either to deal or with them overcome them in a positive way. Here's the thing about today's lament about being "born that way." Either you can rise above the challenges or chose to be the victim of them.

In many ways, "born that way," is used as a negative. Paul speaks of the group think of his age. Those born Greeks looked down on anyone who wasn't Greek as a barbarian. The Scythians were known for their excellent equestrian skills as cavalry riders and looked down on those who were just foot soldiers. Jews looked down on Gentiles. Slaves were looked down upon as inferior. Some people think they are superior to others because they were "born that way" or others are inferior because they were "born that way." The list goes on and nothing has changed even today.

If you are "born that way," can you change? That's a good question. Let's put this into the context of what Paul is writing. In spite of every other human difference, we share one thing in common. We are all born sinners. The bad news is that we can't do anything about it because we are "born that way." Yet, in Christ we are a new creation. Things can change for the better even if you are "born that way."

Col. 3:5-11. Therefore, consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him--a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.

There is nothing we can do to change our situation before God. What good work can we do to sufficiently impress God enough to sit up and take notice of us? Paul nails it when he calls us all "sons of disobedience." How is that? Think of it this way. When we "oooh and aaah" over cooing and sleeping babies, we forget that they are also inherently selfish little creatures. Their small universe revolves around them. They let you know when they are wet, or hungry or wanting to be rocked." As they get older, they pick up early on those two little words: mine and no!

Adults continue the "born that way" of living by playing the games of one-up-man-ship and snarky condensation. Even if we try to show our goodness or righteousness, it is usually framed in the context of comparison. People will claim their personal goodness by comparing themselves up from other people.

Have ever noticed that people don't compare themselves down from say their sainted grandmother or someone notable like Mother Theresa. They don't say, "oh, I am ever better than they were." No, it's always the other way. They compare themselves up from the hopeless drug addict or the child molester or the crooked politician. "Well, they say along with the Pharisee, at least I'm not like that!"

In spite of being "born that way" as sinners, there is hope and a remedy. The hope is in Jesus Christ. Jesus came to die for our sins. He went to the cross to suffer the punishment for our guilt. He opened the way to the Father for us. By being baptized in the Jordan, He gave the waters of baptism the power of forgiveness.

The remedy begins with the gift of baptism. The triplets baptized just a bit ago were "born that way." As David reminds us, we were conceived in sin. There is nothing we can do to remedy the situation. Jesus comes to our rescue. In baptism He makes us a new creation.

Why do we baptize our little ones? Some churches say that baptism is only for those old enough to choose to be baptized. My Southern Baptist preacher friend and I could never seem to come to a common understanding of baptism. It finally clicked. We were looking at baptism from two different perspectives.

He looked at baptism as something that we do for God. When we are baptized, we show God that we are now serious about the things of faith. We're showing God that we mean business. In many ways, although they would deny it, baptism is a good work they do for God.

Baptism levels the field and elevates us. It is not a good work we do but a gift the Lord gives us. All of us are sinners. In order to receive the blessings of baptism, you must receive it. It doesn't matter if you're rich or poor or a native living in the Amazon jungle or a city dweller or black, or white or purple or green. If anyone is to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, they must be baptized.

Because baptism is a gift, it doesn't matter if you're good enough. You're not. This isn't about you. It is about the Lord God who loves you and sent His Son on a rescue mission to and for each of you. God bestows the gift of baptism and its blessings to all who receive the washing of baptism. The gift of baptism is yours because of the grace and kindness of the One who gives it to us.

Baptism is not about our goodness but God's goodness to us, in us and through us. In baptism He makes us new. This renewal leads us on the path of sanctification. As the Holy Spirit works new life in us, the old self is laid aside. Daily we put off the old sinful nature and put on the new. Daily we strive to live as the children of God in the things we think, do and say. Daily, we falter and fall but the Lord is there to pick us up, dust us off and send us on the way again.

Baptism is our gift. The blessings we receive in baptism are important and necessary because as the SC teaches: it works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this. The bad news is that we are sinners "born that way." The good news is that the Lord changes us where we could not change ourselves. In baptism He lifts us up above the "born that way" to be "born again" in the water and the word. This is truly a wonderful and blessed gift from the Lord to us.

Thanks be to God through whom we have been born again in the blessed waters of baptism. Although we are born sinners, we are a new creation in Jesus Christ through the water of baptism. Thanks be to God who makes us His children even if we were not "born that way." Amen.


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