Herrenhuter readings for Wednesday, the 4th February 2015

Baptismal-Font

Thus says the Lord: For I will set mine eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them again to this land: and I will build them, and not pull them down; and I will plant them, and not pluck them up. (Jer 24:6 KJV)

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. (Rom 8:1 KJV)

This is a wonderful promise from the Lord our God to Israel through the prophet Jeremiah. No longer will he look for ways to threaten, punish and harm them. He will restore their fortunes. Return them out of exile. Rebuild the ruins and start anew with wholesome goodness and lasting peace.  Rather he will watch over them for good, to promote their wellbeing and let them flourish and prosper in the promised land. There he will no longer tear them down, uproot them and cast them aside, but rather he will build them, edify them, let them grow, be established and multiply fruitfully by his daily blessings and mercies.

People in deep trouble like exile, suffering persecution, terminal illness or being at war, easily conclude that they have been deserted by God and that he has turned elsewhere and perhaps even left them for good and that they are therefore now left to their own devices. Being without God and fearing that God himself has turned against us and is our mortal enemy is the worst punishment and the most dire lot. It’s hell. The corollary to this is the widespread illusion of godless people, who are well-off to think that they are automatically on God’s side, because they are healthy, doing good and flourishing as they go about their daily business.

Jesus Christ, our Lord and saviour came into this world, so that we poor, miserable sinners, would know different and that only through him we would be saved, delivered and redeemed from the power of Satan, the deception of this world and the detrimental network of sin in which we were so tightly enmeshed and entangled, that we could not free ourselves. Through their evil machinations and our own fault, our own fault, our own most grievous fault, we were captives to the faithless and mortal sin, that God was our bad enemy, forever against us and seeking our eternal condemnation. Jesus Christ, the son of God and Lord of all, became one of us, so that we would be convinced otherwise. He came to reveal God’s goodness and mercy, his willingness to forgive sins and restore sinners. All he did, was sharing God’s grace, love and peace with the lost sheep of Israel and granting hope to the nations, that they too would be drawn nearer and closer to God – to be part of his kingdom and heirs of the divine promises of salvation and eternal life. Through his mission here on earth, we have learnt that even small children are to be brought to Christ and into his Church: Let the children come to me and don’t hinder them – for theirs is the kingdom of God! He let blind people see God’s kindness, let deaf people hear God’s goodness, let ill, bedeviled and possessed people experience deliverance, healing and God’s new life without fetters and bonds. Samaritans were made welcome in his family – just as shepherds, greedy tax-collectors, fanatical zealots, desperate harlots and self-righteous pharisees. They all were granted peace by his grace of forgiveness and healing of all their ills. Until the very end he prayed for those, who crucified him and paved the way into paradise for that one crucified next to him: “Today you will be with me in paradise!” All those, who were lost due to their own sin and guilt, now had lost all hope of redemption, salvation and eternal life due to sin, death and devil, now had a chance of new life in Jesus Christ, without condemnation, but rather heard the gracious words of forgiveness: “Fear not + Your sins are forgiven + Go in peace +”

That holds true in the greatest trouble – like hanging crucified to a tree: “Today you will be with me in paradise!” That is the divine promise, which overcomes all stress and hardship. Being burdened and heavily laden with sinful guilt and grievous trepasses, you are saved by the gracious welcome of the Father, who takes you in his arms, washes off all stains and hurts with the redeeming blood of the sacrificial lamb, clothes you with the perfect white dress of righteousness and lets you sit at the table set for that great and awesome banquet prepared for God’s people from all nations, languages and corners of the earth. There is no condemnation for those in Jesus Christ + Baptised, forgiven, restored and reinstated into the godly family of the holy Christian Church + Free to live a life of righteousness and holiness right in this world and there, where God has called you to live faithfully and in his ways until he comes to fetch you so that you too can see all that he has promised long ago. Amen.

God’s own child, I gladly say it: I am baptized into Christ!  He, because I could not pay it, gave my full redemption price. Do I need earth’s treasures many?  I have one worth more than any That brought me salvation free, Lasting to eternity!

Sin, disturb my soul no longer: I am baptized into Christ!  I have comfort even stronger: Jesus’ cleansing sacrifice. Should a guilty conscience seize me, since my baptism did release me In a dear forgiving flood, sprinkling me with Jesus’ blood?

Satan, hear this proclamation: I am baptized into Christ! Drop your ugly accusation; I am not so soon enticed. Now that to the font I’ve traveled, all your might has come unraveled, And, against your tyranny, God, my Lord, unites with me!

Death, you cannot end my gladness: I am baptized into Christ! When I die, I leave all sadness to inherit paradise! Though I lie in dust and ashes faith’s assurance brightly flashes: Baptism has the strength divine to make life immortal mine.

There is nothing worth comparing to this lifelong comfort sure! Open-eyed my grave is staring: Even there I’ll sleep secure. Though my flesh awaits its raising, still my soul continues praising: I am baptized into Christ; I’m a child of paradise!

 Erdman Neumeister, 1671-1756 tr Robert E. Voelker *1957

About Wilhelm Weber jr

Rector of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Tshwane
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