Peace be unto you from the One who is God incarnate, our Savior, Christ Jesus. Amen.
Dearly Beloved of the Lord,
When it comes to running a dairy farm, playing the cello, or operating a bulldozer, I haven’t a clue what to do… even though I might think I do to varying degrees. How many times have we heard it said and have said it ourselves, “How hard can it be?”
Well, about that. Thomas Sowell once said, “It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.”
It is true. The problem is, few are willing to find out… to pursue such knowledge, that is… to know… to investigate the extent of their ignorance on any given subject. And this could not be more the case then when it comes to one’s religious understanding and beliefs… what they believe and why they believe it.
It could not be more the case for many Christians regarding their own understanding of the faith they say they profess and confess. Their attitude? “I am good with what I know” even though in the course of time, with the constant influence of the world, sin and Satan… with the constant weakening of one’s mortal flesh, including the heart and mind… more has been forgotten than what has been retained and even that has been jumbled up and mixed to some degree with false notions and misconceptions.
How is it with you? Have you ever asked yourself “What exactly do I know about the Christian faith and what is it that I do not know? What more is there for me to learn about my Lord, His Word, His will, His Church?”
“Or am I content with just knowing the basics?” Even though, for many people, a rudimentary understanding of the faith is presently beyond them.
For many people, they would be hard pressed to articulate what they believe even in the simplest of words and ways. For many people if asked to do this will respond, “I know what I want to say, but do not know how to say it” which many times boils down to they truly do not know… not really… not sufficiently. How is it with you?
It is amazing the number of people who will defend the extent of their knowledge of the Christian faith and the one true Christian doctrine which inherently includes defending some degree of ignorance of the same, saying… thinking – “I am good with that” when in reality it is not good… not at all and they are putting their spiritual welfare, their spiritual lives in danger. Something else of which they have no knowledge.
Case in point… one’s understanding of the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. It is a perfect time to discuss this, given that today we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord. But how many of us understand just how connected they are – His… to ours? Christ’s baptism there at the Jordan River… to our baptism wherever it may have occurred.
Baptism… if Christ’s never happened, neither would ours. His baptism for what He took on Himself… namely our sins and that of the entire world… the sins of every man, woman, teenager and child who will ever live.
Indeed, Christ came out of the Jordan and in a very real sense, made His way, straightway, to Calvary and to the cross… there to die for you, for me, for everyone.
In our Epistle lesson, St. Paul poses the question, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (Romans 6:3)
Well, do you? Do you know that? Understand that? And most importantly, realize the significance of the same, dear brothers and sisters? The significance of being baptized… of all things… into Christ’s death?
There… at the font… under simple water connected with the all-powerful Word of God, you were connected to Christ, made one with Christ your Savior, Lord and King… the very Son of God. His death became your death. Meaning that you will never have to taste death or feel its sting because He instead… in your stead… as your substitute… did it for you. Your Lord did all that for you… fully and finally… there on the cross.
Such knowledge should be in your hearts and in your minds, filed under the heading “substitutionary atonement.” Christ… your substitute… the One who took you place. His death is your death. It is done. It is finished. So why fear or fret over something that has already been taken care of… something you… in Christ… have already gone through?
What is more… in addition to dying with Christ… St. Paul tells us that we were also buried with Him by baptism and have risen with Him to newness of life… eternal life… that which we have now. It is for us and all believers not a future thing, but a present thing. There is for us life now and only life ahead for us.
Dying… being buried… and raised. Three actions which many believers consider to be in their future when, in fact, they are really in their past… our past… in Christ Jesus. The only thing left do go through this (the dying, burying and raising, that is), is our body… this flesh of ours. But we, our very souls, go from life to life… life here on earth to immediately… instantaneously… life in heaven.
It is that fast… not to mention that sure and certain. Just as it was for the thief on the cross who our Lord promised, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
And likewise, the resurrection of our bodies will be for us but a flash, grand and glorious, in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye… and we will then enjoy Paradise with our Lord and with all of the faithful in both body and soul forevermore.
My friends, these are things which our loving God would have us know and reach a deeper and deeper understanding of the same. To delve deeply into the mysteries of God and marvel more and more… be at peace more and more… give glory, laud and honor more and more to Him for those things of which we have been spared and that which we have been graciously given… the greatest of all treasures which He has placed before us and said, “Here, these are yours my children. I love you so.”
Can we do this? In this new year upon us, beginning with this, the First Sunday after the Epiphany… to make the next twelve months the greatest of all epiphanies as we are enlightened more and more to the Word of God. All by our time spent in divine worship… our time spent in Bible class… our time spent in daily devotions… for all the blessings that will come from the same.
Included is the blessing of you and me having much needed guidance for the days ahead… divine guidance in such areas as… remaining faithful when we are beset with one temptation after another… divine guidance in remaining faithful while those around us go astray… divine guidance as to how to answer and act when faced with sin in this world and among our own family members and friends.
St. Paul, in the letters he wrote to God’s people poses the question to them and to us some fourteen times in Scripture saying– “Do you not know?” And we know it is the Lord Himself asking this of us… saying “I want you to know… to be in the know for your sake and that of others.”
May our joy this year, be in answering more and more, “Why yes, Lord, I know. Thankfully, I do know and rejoice in the same!” Amen.
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.
“Do You Not Know”
1/8/17 The Rev. Mark H. Hein
St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL