S (Scripture): Ezekiel 36: 22 Therefore, say to the house of Israel, The Lord God proclaims: House of Israel, I’m not acting for your sake but for the sake of my holy name, which you degraded among the nations where you have gone. 23 I will make my great name holy, which was degraded among the nations when you dishonored it among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord. This is what the Lord God says.
When I make myself holy among you in their sight, 24 I will take you from the nations, I will gather you from all the countries, and I will bring you to your own fertile land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be cleansed of all your pollution. I will cleanse you of all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove your stony heart from your body and replace it with a living one, 27 and I will give you my spirit so that you may walk according to my regulations and carefully observe my case laws. 28 Then you will live in the land that I gave to your ancestors, you will be my people, and I will be your God.
O (Observation): As a prophet, Ezekiel continues to share God’s word regarding the sinfulness of the people and God’s mercy and grace. Notice what instigates God’s mercy: God’s own desire to cleanse God’s people.
This element of grace cannot be overstated! God’s people are not doing a special act! They are not even repentant until they are shown the distance between their actions and God’s grace. They are to look at themselves in the mirror, and see what they truly are: a people who have taken their stature as God’s children for granted.
God decides to sprinkle clean water on God’s people… and to put a new heart and a new spirit in them…God will even give back to God’s people the land they once were given…and it is promised to be like the Eden of old.
God graces God’s people. Not for what they’ve done, but because God desires it.
A (Application): To be sprinkled clean…to be given a new heart and spirit…this is the hope of a Christian baptism. We retain our identity, and yet something has changed. We are transformed. We say we “die with Christ” in baptism, so that we might be raised with Jesus and live a new life.
The sprinkling of water in this text reminds us of baptism. We are also reminded of the fact that baptism is SO MUCH what God does. Then, we live our lives in response to that grace and mercy.
As Lutheran Christians, we baptism at any age. Baptizing adults is the norm from Scripture. The believer makes promises to live into the covenant of baptism. God promises to be present in, with, and under the water, effecting change in the believer. Faith alone makes this sacrament possible.
Martin Luther and cohorts – 500 years ago – reminded the Church that God’s grace was not for sale. And not just this, but that God’s grace was comes to set us free to love and serve our neighbor. This shift causes us to focus less on our own salvation, and more about serving others.
The word from Ezekiel today (though not often used to help explain infant baptism), is yet another example of how far God’s grace reaches. At no point in this text are God’s people repentant. God makes it all pretty clear: I’m doing this for my name, alone. So we believe in infant baptism, as God’s grace – alone – is instilled in us. Parents and baptismal sponors make known their desire to aid the infant or child in their rearing. They promise to raise the child in the faith and to aid them in their faith development. And these actions are all born out of what God has already granted to the child: namely, mercy and grace.
Part of our weekly worship is a time of Confession & Forgiveness. In this rite, we confess our sins, then we hear the words: “in the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven of all your sins.” Why these words? These are a reminder of God’s baptismal promise to cleanse us…to give us a new spirit and a new heart.
May today – the 500th anniversary of the Reformation – be a reminder to you that you are forgiven, loved, and made new in Christ Jesus. And may that forgiveness be what inspires you to examine your motives and actions every day.
P (Prayer): Lord, remind us that you are not an angry God, but a God of grace and mercy. Amen.