Posted on September 19th, 2016
September 18, 2016
Baptism of Adam James Winterstein
Adam James. What a wonderful name for a boy. The middle name was an especially brilliant choice. But Adam connects us right with the father of the human race, the first formed.
He fell. And like the donkey fallen in the pit in today’s Gospel, God’s interest is in raising Adam up, rescuing humanity from the pit, the grave, the darkness.
That’s why we bring Adam, and all our little ones, right away to the font. In the New Testament, the first Christians on the day of Pentecost were told that Baptism’s gifts—forgiveness of sins and the bestowal of the Holy Spirit—were not for them alone, but for their children, and ultimately for the world. Thus when a man was baptized in the book of Acts, his whole household was baptized.
Did you know that infant baptism was never questioned for the first fifteen centuries of Christianity? Baptism is a beautiful sacrament showing how God takes the helpless one and helps; He takes the lowest and exalts him; He rescues the one fallen in the pit.
This is the meaning of the Sabbath. The first Sabbath, God rested because His creation was complete, beautiful, good. Every Sabbath thereafter exists because man is corrupted by death, filled with fear, dominated by disordered desires.
There’s a theological term for those disordered desires – concupiscence. It’s worth exploring for a bit, because concupiscence is what’s wrong with you – and me. Some books define concupiscence merely as lust, but that concept has become very narrow in our decadent society. Here’s how the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church explains it: “The inordinate desire for temporal ends which has its seat in the senses” (p396). Let’s expand that out: Our desires are inordinate, meaning our desires are excessive, disproportionate, and they are for temporal things—right now—that gratify the senses: tasting, touching, seeing, hearing, smelling. Turned in on ourselves, we pursue what we want, not what is good for others and pleasing to God. We measure everything by how it serves us.
So eating is good, but we eat too much of the wrong things. Drinking is good, but you may take too much, which clouds the mind and destroys the body. You know how easy it is to fall prey to other physical desires. We’ve seen a tremendous rise in disordered desires related to physical attraction, orientation, and so-called gender dysphoria.
Confronting this as Christians, we must first of all recognize the disordered desires within us. Pornography, wandering eyes, inappropriate activity before and outside of marriage—all break the Sixth Commandment, “You shall not commit adultery.” Do you remember the Catechism explanation? Open up your hymnbook to p321; it’s important to have the Catechism memorized. Let’s say it together: What is the Sixth Commandment? You shall not commit adultery. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other. (Keep it open, we’re coming back.)
Disordered desires are not to be embraced and celebrated, but confessed and crucified.
As we meet others with disordered desires, we first acknowledge our own, and our need for repentance. The answer we give to others is the same as ourselves: disordered desires are not to be embraced and celebrated, but confessed and then crucified. The Word of God says, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Rom. 13:14). And again, “Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5.24). And finally, St. Paul says “I discipline my body and keep it under control” (1 Cor. 9:27). We all have disordered desires, which is why we all confess our sins, each one of us, when we gather together as the disciples of Jesus.
And this is why He commands us to come, this is the meaning of the Sabbath. St. Ambrose said about the Lord’s Supper, “Because I always sin, I always need the medicine.” The men watching Jesus carefully in today’s Gospel are waiting to see if Jesus will do work on the Sabbath, with healing being considered work. He highlights their hypocrisy, because they would help an animal if it was hurt. Is it wrong, then, to help a man?
This is why the Lord Jesus became man: to help Adam, and all his fallen sons and daughters. Jesus heals the man, for the Sabbath was for man to stop his work and receive the work of God.
Jesus fulfilled the Sabbath perfectly by resting in the tomb.
There is no more law regarding the Sabbath for Christians. It’s part of the entire ceremonial law done away with. Just as there are no more sacrifices of animals, or dietary restrictions, or keeping of Jewish festivals, so there is no more Sabbath. The earliest Christians, themselves Jews, established a new pattern, which has continued unbroken among Christians to the present day: We worship on the first day of the week, which they called the Lord’s Day, in honor of the Lord’s resurrection from the dead.
Jesus fulfilled the Sabbath perfectly by resting in the tomb after His crucifixion. Risen from the dead, we gather each week on that day to celebrate His resurrection and ask for His healing among us.
We all still struggle with disordered desires. When we are baptized, the guilt of sin is taken away, but the effects remain. Those effects, the selfish and distorted impulses in us, and the death creeping in our nature, we call the old Adam. So Adam James is freed today of the guilt of the Old Adam, but still has the effects of the Old Adam, for which we pray God gives Jonathan and Katie strength to train and discipline him.
Look then at the Small Catechism on the Third Commandment (again, p321). What is the Third Commandment? Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it. You see nothing about a day there, but the entire focus is on the Word of God.
“Take away my disordered desires, and give me a new heart.”
That Word does two chief things: It condemns all your disordered desires, and the ways you’ve acted on them. It calls you to repentance, to turn in sorrow from your selfish life and lusts. And then, we hear another Word, the Word of Jesus who heals on the Sabbath, who rescues a fallen donkey, a fallen man. Not everything is healed yet, although that is our prayer and our deepest desire. The Christian says, “Take away my concupiscence, take away my lust, my pride, my anger. Give me a new heart.”
Your Lord is working this in you, and He who has begun a good work in you will bring it to completion in the Day of our Lord Jesus Christ. +INJ+