Reflections: February 4, 2021
Thursday of Septuagesima
By Jacob Ehrhard
For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. (1 Corinthians 10:1-2)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. God's work is all wet. In the beginning, God's Spirit was over the waters and through the water He made the earth (2 Peter 3:5). Water flooded the earth's wickedness away and delivered faithful Noah. Water marked the beginning and end of Israel's forty years of wandering and a pillar of it, in the form of a cloud, led them in the desert. God quenched their thirst with water from a rock.
The sea and the cloud were a kind of baptism for Israel. Their baptism, though, was a baptism into Moses. Shortly after passing through the water, God passed His Law on to His people through His prophet Moses. The Law distinguished this people as those who had no other gods, who did not misuse His Name, who kept the Sabbath Day holy, who loved their neighbors as themselves.
But a Moses-baptism isn't enough. This is not because God's water is ineffective, or even, God forbid, because His Word is powerless. It's just. . . incomplete. God's people rebelled, they turned away. They dried out, like a seed planted in rocky soil.
To the Law must be added the promise. Israel had a promise of a new life in a new land, but they kept looking over their shoulders with nostalgia, and they tried to make their new lives like their old lives.
As a solution, God does one final thing with water. He gives a new Baptism, not just with water, but with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Matthew 3:11). The Baptism of Jesus is a Baptism of death for the purpose of resurrection. No more looking over your shoulder. Instead, look ahead and see the pierced hand of Jesus pulling you out of the water to a new life. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Baptismal waters cover me; Christ's wounded hand has set me free. Held in my Father's strong embrace, With joy I praise Him for His grace. ("Baptismal Waters Cover Me" LSB 616, st.5)
-Rev. Jacob Ehrhard is the pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church and School in Chicago, IL.
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