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Baptism: Fresh Water in the Valley

Friends, we live in difficult times. The last time we were together was March 1st. Spring was finally here. When I setup everything at Memorial Lutheran, many people were out on their bicycles. The neighborhood was full of noise from lawn mowers, children, and birds. A ladybug visited me in the narthex. Winter was over and the world was full of hope.

The tornado came two days later. The power of God’s creation was clearly seen. Our neighborhood was destroyed. Large buildings are now in ruins. Smith and Lentz, the brewery where we met so often, no longer has a beer garden, a roof, no rear wall.

Then the plague came. Already in the first days after the tornado, the first person in Tennessee was infected with coronavirus. Everything was closed just a week later. We have to stay at home to “flatten the curve” so that the hospitals don’t get overloaded and the vulnerable are protected. Good Friday, Easter, all Sundays we stayed at home. Our churches are empty.

Destruction, illness, unemployment, unknowns, loneliness, boredom. In February, humanity thought we were powerful. Science, the economy, and the power of caesar would save us. Target and our checking account were “green meadows.” Political and business leaders were our shepherds.

Now, that the wolves are close, however, we see how weak our shepherds were. There is little they can do against the force of tornado and plague. Money, protective masks, and “social distancing” have no power against death.

But, there is one with power, with strength, with hope. There is one who has power against death.

“The LORD is my shepherd […] He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.”

Jesus is the good shepherd. When the hiredhands and false shepherds flee, he remains. In “the valley of the shadow of death,” Jesus comforts us with his mercy and love.

Jesus knows us. Really. Everything we’ve done wrong; all of our mistakes. Good things that we unfortunately failed to do. Lies, idolatry, greed, boastfulness, vanity, gluttony, toilet paper hoarding. He knows everything.

And even though he knows everything about us, he loves us. He calls us “his sheep.” He wants to be our shepherd. He looks for us when we’re lost. He forgives us when we have sinned against him and our neighbor. He gives his life for us on the cross.

In these dark times, Jesus stands before us as our “light and salvation.” And even when we’re walking “through the valley of the shadow of death”, we “fear no evil”; because he is with us. He makes us lie down in green pastures and leads us beside the still waters, his baptism.

We know from baptism that we are his sheep. The devil and his death have no power over us. In baptism we are one with Christ, one with the Father, one with the Spirit, and one with each other and the communion of saints. In baptism we are certain that death is not the end. The tornado will not win. Coronavirus cannot separate our community.

Jesus leads us to the fresh water. We are reborn in the water and secured against the works of the devil. The father says, “You are my [dear child], with you I am well-pleased.” Jesus lives, and with him we too!

Trust in Jesus. Remember in these times the hope and security of your baptism.

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. ” The Good Shepherd will never leave us. God still moves upon the face of the water.

“I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. […] I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.