Something to Rely On: A Sermon for the Baptism of Our Lord on Psalm 89:1

Baptism of Our Lord

I will sing of the steadfast love of the LORD, for- | ever;*
    with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all gener- | ations.

So begins Psalm 89, which was part of this morning’s Introit. Here the Psalmist expresses his intention to sing of the steadfast love of the Lord and to make known His faithfulness. Now if someone asked you, “Is the Lord’s love is steadfast and is He faithful?” you’d no doubt say, “of course.” You know those things are true. You probably even passed over those words this morning without giving them much thought at all. Why dwell on a point so obvious? God’s love is steadfast and He’s faithful. Let’s move on.

But not so fast. If, like me, you ever worry, it’s because we forget about the Lord’s steadfast love and faithfulness. We often rely on the things of this world for security and happiness, but they always fail us. Maybe not right away, but sooner or later, they will. The only thing that endures forever is the steadfast love of the Lord and His faithfulness. As the prophet Isaiah has said:

All flesh is grass,
    and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
    but the word of our God will stand forever (Isaiah 40:6b—8)

Everything in this world is subject to decay. Whatever it is that you treasure, if it is of this earth, it will eventually fail you, whether it’s your health, youth and beauty, loved ones, any possessions—cars, technology, homes—even vacations and days off always come to an end, whether it’s the end of the weekend or the end of your life.

This is why our Lord says Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal (Matthew 6:19-20).

Jonathan Fisk does a nice job highlighting the problem with the stuff of this world  in his book Broken.  He says,

There’s nothing inherently evil about things like a little filet mignon, an iPod, or a car new off the lot. But there is something terribly, horribly wrong with all of them because sooner or later (and more often sooner) they’re all going to rot, rust, get digested, get excreted, burn out, go out of fashion, and/or fall apart. Tables and chairs, pots and pans, shirts and shoes, everything that is anything in the world has the same cursed predicament of looking gorgeous and seeming as if it might just last forever, but never proving to be anything more than fading dust in realty.  This goes not only for all the “stuff” we spend our lives trying so hard to make and own and keep and fix.  Worse.  Against all the incessant hopes, dreams, and lies, this goes for you and me too (115).

If you constantly trusted in the Lord’s steadfast love and faithfulness, you’d never worry, and you’d never need to be reminded to sing of it and make it known. You just would. Though we know God’s love is steadfast and that He is faithful, we could never sing of it, make it known, or hear of it enough, because we constantly doubt it. We turn to the things of this world for security, but our idols always fail us. Eventually, the weight of reality will crush every idol you cling to. Eventually you will have problems that you cannot fix. You’ve probably had your fair share of these already.

There are three common responses to an unfixable problem. The first is to give up. This is what I usually do when I have to fix something around the house. I hate fixing things and I’m no good at it anyway. Tried to fix the treadmill last week and only ended up making it worse. So I gave up. The second option is to live in denial. That would be like pretending the treadmill weren’t broken. But that’s no good, because it’s not safe to run on a broken treadmill. The third option is to have someone else fix it. I paid $110 for a service call and $90 for repairs on top of that.

But there are some problems that not even the best handyman or treadmill technician can fix. Not even the most brilliant scientific minds, with all of our technology, have been able to solve death. And they never will. Isaiah describes death as the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations (Isaiah 25:7).

When brought face to face with the inevitable reality of death, some give up in bitter resignation and fall into despair. Others, figuring there’s nothing that can be done about it anyway, live it up. Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die is the motto (Isaiah 22:13). And Satan would be glad for you to give up or live it up, because both fail to recall the Lord’s steadfast love and faithfulness.

To despair is to forget about Jesus’ love for you. To live in denial is to deny your need for a Savoir. To indulge, to live for yourself, is to forget that you belong to Christ.

It’s true that sin and death are problems you cannot solve. You can’t stop the decay of this world or undo the curse of sin. But Jesus can, and He has. And he doesn’t even charge you for a service call or repairs. His grace is free to you, paid in full by His own blood. Jesus’ steadfast love and faithfulness never fail. Not even the grave could separate you from His love, for His love is even stronger than death. For on the third day Jesus rose, having broken the power of sin’s curse.

Jesus never gives up on you, even when you feel like giving up. He demonstrated this by standing there in the midst of the Jordan, submitting to a sinners’ baptism, identifying Himself with your worry and doubt. Not even John’s protests could stop Jesus from being baptized, any more than Peter’s protest could stop Jesus from going to the cross. Jesus was determined to fix that which we could not fix, even to the point of the shedding of His own blood, even if we fought against Him, kicking and screaming the whole way.

You belong to the Lord. Your heavenly Father is pleased with you, even though you’ve worried, even though you’ve forgotten about the steadfast love and faithfulness of the Lord. Just as the heavens were opened to Jesus in His baptism, so they are opened to you in yours: For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his (Rom 6:5).

You don’t have to worry about trying to fix everything. That’s Jesus’ job. He’s given you to live in His love, to receive His grace, to sing of His steadfast love and make known His faithfulness.

The Israelites doubted God’s love, too. They needed sign after sign to know that God was with Moses and Joshua. And even then, they doubted and worried. But you have something so much better than a sign: the very body and blood of Christ, given for you. Here is your Lord is present, forgiving all of your sins, reassuring you of His steadfast love and faithfulness. He has said so in His Word, and He is faithful.

The Word of God testifies to the Lord’s steadfast love and faithfulness. As the first psalm declares, Blessed is the one whose delight is in God’s Word. Blessed is the one who desires to grow in God’s Word more than in riches and loves God’s Word more than the things of this world. Blessed is the one who trusts in that which never fails.

The grass withers, the flower fades,
    but the word of our God will stand forever (Isaiah 40:8)

In a world filled with false sources of security, there is something you can rely on: the steadfast love of the Lord and His faithfulness.

Soli Deo Gloria

+Rev. Eric Andersen
Psalm 89:1
The Baptism of Our Lord, 2014: “Something to Rely On”
Zion on the web: http://zionlutheransummit.org/
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