Lord’s Day 26 (Q/A 69-71): HOLY MOVEMENT, WHOLLY MOVES

69   Q.    How does baptism
                remind and assure you
                that Christ’s one sacrifice on the cross
                benefits you personally?

A.    In this way:
Christ instituted this outward washing
and with it promised that,
as surely as water washes away the dirt from the body,
so certainly his blood and his Spirit
wash away my soul’s impurity,
that is, all my sins.^1

^1 Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3

70   Q.    What does it mean
                to be washed with Christ’s blood and Spirit?

A.    To be washed with Christ’s blood means
that God, by grace, has forgiven our sins
because of Christ’s blood
poured out for us in his sacrifice on the cross.^1
To be washed with Christ’s Spirit means
that the Holy Spirit has renewed
and sanctified us to be members of Christ,
so that more and more
we become dead to sin
and live holy and blameless lives.^2

^1 Heb. 12:24; 1 Pet. 1:2; Rev. 1:5;22:14; Zech. 13:1; Ezek. 36:25
^ 2 John 1:33; 3:5; 1 Cor. 6:11; 12:13; Rom. 6.4; Col. 2:12

71   Q.    Where does Christ promise
                that we are washed with his blood and Spirit
                as surely as we are washed
                with the water of baptism?

A.    In the institution of baptism, where he says:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father
and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit.”^1

“The one who believes and is baptized will be saved;
but the one who does not believe will be condemned.”^2

This promise is repeated when Scripture calls baptism
“the water of rebirth”^3 and
the washing away of sins.^4

^1 Matt. 28:19
^2 Mark 16:16
^3 Titus 3:5
^4 Acts 22:16


 LORD’S DAY 26 (Q/A 69-71)
“Holy Movement, Wholly Moves”

The late Lutheran scholar of liturgy, S. Anita Stauffer, specialized in the study of baptism, specifically baptismal fonts. In contrast to many of the baptismal fonts we have in our sanctuaries that look like ash-trays or bird-baths on a pedestal, many ancient fonts were pools, in-ground pools. They came in circular shapes (symbolizing the fullness of God’s love, the community), octagonal (symbolizing that Christ’s rising occurred on the eighth day, which is also the first day of the week, thereby meaning that that day was both creation and new creation), and cross-shaped.

The cross-shaped fonts had steps on the transepts. In one scenario of certain Christian communities, the ones being baptized would descend one set of steps to the bottom of the font where the bishop/priest/pastor would be to meet them. The water would be up to the waist, and they would be submerged or effused with copious amounts of water, being baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, receiving the name and identity of a child of God redeemed in Jesus Christ. They, then, ascended the opposite steps where awaiting elders and deacons would cover them with aromatic oil, anointing them with the Holy Spirit, a new scent to marinate the baptized and the gathered community to the new reality that had been sealed, and then the baptized would be clothed with a white garment signifying being clothed in and with Christ.

What we see in such a ritual act is both mortification and vivification – dying and living; descending into the waters into Christ’s death, rising from the waters into Christ’s resurrection life.

The 16th century Reformers described that the Lord Jesus Christ’s work in his life, death, and resurrection (the Good News) resulted in the so-called duplex beneficium, the two or double benefits: namely justification and sanctification.  This means that by the triune God’s work in the agency of Jesus Christ’s unique, distinct, and radical life, in his decisive and final death, and in the power and revolutionary resurrection, we have been embraced by God and set on a path to live a life worthy of the calling we have been given – to live as ones redeemed by Christ through His Spirit.

Our family live in our first home. It was exciting to purchase our first home; it was even greater to move in and make it our own, decorating it the way we like, having parts renovated,  and learning the difficult craft of maintaining it. I can tell you of many trips to Home Depot, mowing the lawn, raking leaves, cleaning the pool, shoveling snow. The title deed of the house is in our name. We pay the mortgage, we pay the taxes. Yet, the bank holds the title until we fully pay off the mortgage. It’s both a done deal, and it’s not yet.

Baptism by water tells us it’s a done deal; the mortgage of life-death-new life is done. Christ did it. Finished. Nothing more you need to do. It’s all Him. It’s God. God moved. God moves. The Holy Spirit has been given as the guarantor, the seal, the One who convicts and convinces you your identity of being owned by God is done. Own it, move in, you are welcome, live into your new life.

At the same time, there’s some renovating to do, there’s a whole lot of fixing, of beautifying.  There’s living into, there’s movement.

Our new life – in Christ, for Christ, with Christ—moves because the Holy Spirit moves. What the Holy Spirit does is enables us to move by washing us, continually renewing us by renovating our lives. It’s the already and the not yet, fully owned and living into the ownership. Or to put it in the classical dictum of the Reformation in describing the reality of our lives: we are at the same time just/righteous and sinful (Latin: simul iustus et peccator).  And because of that, we live and move and have our being in the triune God.