01 April 2017

Baptism and the Beast

Preaching Text: Romans 6.1-14
     What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
     For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
     Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

From Luther's Small Catechism: Baptism
     What then is the significance of such a baptism with water?
     It signifies that the old person in us with all sins and evil desires is to be drowned and die through daily sorrow for sin and through repentance, and on the other hand that daily a new person is to come forth and rise up to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
     Where is this written?
     St. Paul says in Romans 6, “We were buried with Christ through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”

Since there was an early out in our school district today, I took our girls to see “Beauty and the Beast” this afternoon. Sure, it’s a Disney movie – about as Disney as it gets, really. But something occurred to me as I was watching the end of the movie. Now would be a good time to leave if you don’t know the story and don’t want it spoiled.
The lesson we are all meant to learn from Disney’s version is that looks can be deceiving, that true love is about what one gives, not what one gets. What struck me today while watching the movie was this: the male leads who are “fighting” over Belle attempt to “make” her love them in their own way, and they both fail – miserably. In the Disney story, what turns the tide are two moments of sacrifice. First, the Beast protects Belle from the wolves, and her opinion of him is changed. Second, the Beast releases Belle even though he knows it is his doom. The end result of all that work by the Beast is this: he dies.
What I loved about this new version of the movie is the presence of the Enchantress at the end. She’s the one who exchanges his ugly Beast form for that of his original body. She’s the one who raises the Beast from death into life. Yes, it is Belle saying “I love you” that proves the Beast has truly changed, but the last petal has fallen from the rose. By the rules of the curse, the Beast should either be dead or forever bound to his cursed form. But the one who has the power to change things chooses to do so. The Enchantress brings the Beast back to life. Once this happens, the Beast is free. There are no further conditions on his life – it is possible he could lapse back into his selfish ways. True love is always free, even if that freedom comes with danger.
Tonight I’m seeing this as a baptismal metaphor. In baptism, Luther says, the old sinner – the beast – is drowned, and a new saint – the prince/princess – is raised into new life. Once this happens, God sets us free. There are no roses under glass waiting to shame us back into working to make ourselves lovable. Baptism raises us up and sets us free. On our own, our efforts to make ourselves lovable will end in death – but baptism raises us out of that death into new life.
You have been set free, friends, but the power of the One who raises you out of death into life. God be praised – live free, and love well. Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment