River of Baptism

Rev. Randy Blankschaen

Romans 6:1-11

On April 29th, it rained in Pensacola, FL. It rained over 20 inches in 9 hours time. My wife and I were at church. My brother, Dan, was the only one in my home. He called and was worried. The water was up to our front bushes. If you could, please get the laptop on top of a counter, please. A call came a bit later – the water was knee high in the house. Well, that ain’t good at all. A call came a bit later – Your fridge is floating. The water’s chest high in the house. It’s rushing in. I think I’m going to die, Randy. I gotta go. I think I’m going to die. 911 wasn’t sending anyone. Roads were collapsing. I asked them to take my address so when they check the neighborhood they could at least know to look for his body there. Death was coming to my home.

Lydia and I went into the church to pray. "Why God?" popped in my mind, quickly followed by a “Where’s your God now, Randy?” We prayed Psalm 46. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God. "Be still, and know that I am God. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

I didn’t pray smiling. With death so close, I wept. I prayed, kneeling next to my wife, that if it was the Lord’s will that my brother died that night, for the Holy Spirit to protect him from the evil one. I prayed that there’d be a reunion with my brother come morning. I prayed that if it was to be, that the Lord would give him a blessed end, so that we would reunite on the Last Day. The Lord may allow him to die, but the Lord wouldn’t forget my baptized brother, one who was carved into his hand on Calvary. While I hated the water rushing through my neighborhood and home with power to kill and destroy, I cherished and delighted in another river.

Dear Christians, my brother already died. He had died on January 1st, 1978 at roughly 8am. He was drowned, dead. A river that made glad the city of God had already flooded over him. This river was poured on his head as a little baby. And with that water, my brother, Daniel, was crucified with Christ. He died by crucifixion. Christ became my brother, Dan the sinner. He became Randy, Lydia, and even Adolf, and even you.

Baptism’s river makes us glad. We won’t smile amidst pain, suffering, or death; but baptism’s river does make us confident, glad, still and at peace in the promises of God. A wall of water may take us away. A fire may burn us. A bullet or car may hit us. But, even though we die, we baptized believers don’t die. Death doesn’t win. Jesus beat death. He rose. If we’re talking life, we’re not so much talking about a forever ticking heart and brain activity, like some vampire. This is eternal life: that we know the Father and His Son, Jesus the Christ. If we’re talking new identity, it’s not about what our friends say, if we fit in, or what the ACT or career survey says. It’s about what God says about you at the font. You are who you are in Christ. Baptism joins you to Jesus and Jesus to you. You’re a forgiven and loved child of God, righteous and pure, all wrapped up in Christ Jesus. It’s his promise. That river makes us glad.

Finally, I’m glad to have known that time of suffering for the joy of the phone call reporting that my brother was alive; that our cats were alive too. To see God love and support us through His church. That joy was joy in life restored. Death hadn’t won. That’s the joy that we baptized have. Our sins washed away by that baptismal river. Having died to sin, we live God in Jesus.

Created: August 19th, 2014