Grace, mercy, and peace be
unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
This morning, there is a very
interesting connection between infant baptism and our text this morning.
As you look at that text, it almost seems as if the last three verses
(15, 16, and 17) were almost added into in order to fill the pericope
with the rest of the text because they almost seem completely unrelated
to one another, but that is not the case. They are integral to one another
and really reveal the deeper aspect of what this text is getting at
for you and for me.
When an infant or a child is
brought to the font to be baptized, for that matter, an adult, the very
act of that baptism, especially for the adult, is a very humbling thing.
They are submitting to something above them. They are doing this submission
in front of you, their fellow believers. They are proclaiming to themselves
and to you and to God that they are the one being acted upon. They are
the one who is being brought into the kingdom by God’s grace and power
and initiative. They are the one whose heart is humbled. God, then,
is exalting them as His son and as His daughter.
It is very clear, “For
everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles
himself will be exalted.” What you and I struggle with the most
ever since we were infants and little children is the exalting part,
not the humbling part. The humbling part takes a great deal of God’s
coercement and crushing. The exalting part, Satan is feeding continually,
and our flesh says, “Yes,” but our spirit cries out, “No,
oh God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
Jesus told this parable very
clearly to those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous.
He told this parable to those who treated others with contempt. He told
this parable to those who exalted themselves and were not humbled. One
of the challenges in marriage is resolving conflict. There are many
ways of resolving that conflict. One can be quietly conceding so it
look as if one is humble, but inside one still is completely resolute
that they were right, but for the sake, they will bow and allow it to
go on, never releasing the rightness of their cause.
That’s unhealthy. That is damnable.
It is not about being right. If it were about being right, Christ would
have never been crucified because He was right. It’s not about
being right. It’s about humbling one’s self. It is pride that is concerned
about rightness all the time. Let God handle the justice in this world.
Yes, we are to speak up. Yes, we are to work for those who have no voice.
Yes, yes, yes! You and I know that. That ought not to be a rehash here
today. This is primarily about the fact that because we do know that
to be true, when to let go, or maybe we should say, “Lord, release
me from myself.”
Jesus told this parable also
to those who trusted in His righteousness, not their own. Those who
trusted in His atoning sacrifice for them that they are made right because
of Christ’s wronged on the Cross. This parable was told for all those
who humbled themselves and wonder, “Will I ever see justice?”
Yes, you will. For there is the injustice for you that you will see
justice in yourself because of Christ’s righteousness not being yours,
but given to you.
In the Old Testament reading,
Cain and Abel, the first murder. You can only imagine what the father
and mother, Adam and Eve, must have thought and felt. As Adam heard
the news about his son, Abel, being killed by Cain, you know Adam had
to think to himself, Oh dear Lord, what did your mother and I do?
For it was they who brought sin into the world. It was they who gave
birth to sinners. It was they whose lives were so pocked with sin that
Cain and Abel not only were born with it, but saw the habit of sin in
their own mother and father’s lives. Oh dear God, what have we done?
Sin is crouching at your and
my door. Sin wishes to have dominion over you and me. Let go of your
hurt feelings. Let go of the rightness or wrongness of your or my cause.
It’s Satan who feeds that fire, not God. It’s our own flesh and pride
that envelops that fire and clings tightly to it, not God. And as Adam
and Eve hindered their own children, let us not hinder our own children
or the children of our parish family because we chose to hold onto rightness
and not humility, we chose to hold onto exalting ourselves and our perceptions
rather than Christ’s forgiveness and love, which covers us.
It is Christ and He alone who
gives us that childlike faith, and that childlike humility to say as
the tax collector in the corner of the congregation said, “Oh God,
be merciful to me, the sinner,” not a sinner as if
one among many. The sinner. The tax collector viewed himself
as the worst of sinners, not because he was trying to heap upon himself
more degradation, but because he saw himself as he is in Christ’s sight.
He looked to the One who could bring him justice alone, not him. He
cannot bring himself justice. The Pharisee, on the other hand, was so
concerned about upholding justice. The Pharisee was all about his righteousness.
The Pharisee was all about seeing himself in a different light than
he saw everybody else.
Sadly, that is really nothing
more than an expression of guilt. The Pharisee had a great amount of
guilt. The Pharisee couldn’t find a relief for such guilt. The Pharisee
could not be released of his guilt except, he thought, by justifying
himself with contempt of others. If you want to pity someone in this
text, pity the Pharisee. He is the one who left that place still being
completely enveloped by his guilt, crushed by the weight of his guilt,
burdened by the weight of his guilt, though he justified himself to
the end, thinking it was the pill that would bring relief, and all it
did sadly, was addict him to more justification of himself in a bizarre
and macabre rotation and cycle of guilt and shame which never is expunged
and is never released.
Whether we are an infant in
our parent’s arms, whether we are a child who gets more out of this
service than sometimes we think he does as they squirm and worm their
way around the pew, or whether we’re an adult, that is our reentry point.
That is our place where our Lord wishes to release us from ourselves,
for we are our worst enemy. Our pride is a damnable thing.
Remember the Prodigal Son,
and the Prodigal Son’s brother, and for that matter, his elder brother?
The Prodigal Son is the tax collector. The Prodigal Son is the typical
younger child who gets away with everything from mom and dad and there
is no justice in that child’s life because mom and dad weren’t the same
with that child as they were with me. That’s the older brother, the
Pharisee, who is always looking at right and wrong, always keeping a
tab of who does and who doesn’t, always concerned about that, forgetting
the injustice that was punished upon him for them.
Be released of such shame and
guilt. Let it not hinder your ability to love and forgive someone else.
That’s our reentry point because there we were brought before God as
infants and as children, and there is where the tax collector and all
who humble themselves before the almighty God who has the power to damn
and the power to resurrect. The kingdom only comes to those who are
among the humble, who are among the infants, who are among the children,
who are among the tax collectors and the prodigal sons of this world,
not to the Pharisees, not to those who are keeping track of right and
wrong and justifying themselves and their actions by the rightness or
the wrongness, and not by the mercy.
Christ Himself said, “To
the one who shows mercy shall receive mercy. To the one who judges by
the law, by that same law shall be judged.” Baptism, infant baptism
is the great connector of this text because it is here where the salvation
is all Christ’s initiative to the infant and to the child. It is all
Christ’s gift to the infant and to the child and to the tax collectors,
and to the prodigal sons, and to the ones who the world looks upon as
getting away with murder if they repent, if they are humbled, they shall
It was Paul who said this about
our Lord Jesus, “God has highly exalted Him who humbled Himself
and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a Cross.”
The beauty of this text is our Lord finds and creates faith in the most
unlikely places of all, unlikely according to how the world judges.
He finds faith and instills and gives faith to infants and children
whom we look upon and wonder, Do they get it? Oh yes, they get
Our Lord finds faith in most
unlikely places like the Prodigal Son and the tax collector that we
look upon and say, “Do they get it?” Oh yes, they get it.
Do you get it? Do you get it? “The kingdom belongs to such as these,”
our Lord said. The kingdom belongs to such as we, who are humbled, who
shall be exalted in God’s time.
In the name of the One who called us
as His children here, and continually calls us back here, our Lord Jesus, who is faithful to the end. Amen.