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Off to a Great Start

June 19th 2011 by Joel Schultz

How you start in life makes a huge difference in how you life your life. Through Holy Baptism our Triune God gives us the great start we need to belong to Him forever. Read or listen to find out more...

Holy Trinity A – Matthew 28:18-20 – “Off to a Great Start” – June 19, 2011 Have you ever played the board game Life? I loved playing that game with my brothers when I was younger. You get a car, spin the dial, and move spaces around the board. You get married, have kids, buy a house, and get regular paydays. The winner is the one with the most money at the end, and you retire to millionaire acres. But one of the first decisions you have to make in that game is whether to go into debt by going to college or just to head out into the world and get started right away. If you go to college, you typically have much better paydays and more opportunities to make money throughout the game. If you don't go, you save a bunch of money at the beginning and get a head start on the rest of the players.

How you start the game of Life makes a huge difference in how the game goes. That’s true in real life as well. How you start makes a huge difference in what happens to your life.

That was certainly true for Jesus’ life. How He began His life and ministry here on Earth, made a huge difference in what happened in His life for you and me. He didn’t begin His life on Earth on His own, but with the unity and activity of the whole Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus is the Son right from conception. He is conceived by the Holy Spirit. And the Father sends His Son to us.

And that same triune God that was working together at His incarnation (when Jesus took on human flesh and became man) continues to do so throughout His life. Jesus begins His public ministry at His Baptism. What happens? The Holy Spirit comes down as a dove. The Father declares that Jesus is His beloved Son and that He is well pleased with Jesus. Jesus began His mission of salvation together with the Father and Holy Spirit, and all are active in completing our salvation. We see Him regularly in prayer with his Father, and the Spirit is with Him every step of the way.

Then come the final days of His life. Now on the cross Jesus is alone. Even His Father has abandoned Him as He goes through hell for us. But you can see the Father and the Spirit even in that abject loneliness and suffering – Jesus is carrying out His Father’s will by going to the cross and the Spirit had strengthened Him to endure the cross. I really like the cross I am wearing today. It depicts Jesus suffering on the cross with the Holy Spirit hovering over head and the Father standing behind holding Jesus’ hands to the cross. It is a stark reminder that the crucifixion of Jesus involved the whole of the Godhead. Then, on Easter morning, the Father raised Him from the dead. And 50 days later the ascended Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to His Church.

Now, as I’ve just rehearsed how Jesus began, continued, and ended His earthly life in the unity of all persons of the Trinity, I’m struck by how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all working together on our behalf. The three persons are wonderfully and mysteriously one God who works for your salvation. Indeed, how Jesus began His earthly life made a huge difference in what happened in His life for you and me.

The same is true for our lives. How we start makes a huge difference. And for us in the Church, the Triune God is our starting place. We begin by being baptized into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. What difference does that make?

First, beginning with Baptism makes a huge difference in how we see the world we live in. The earth, stars, animals, plants, and universe are not just nature or an endless product of evolution, but all are fearfully and wonderfully made by God. Each day we believe that God the Father is Creator of heaven and earth.

We also believe God still cares for His creation. He doesn’t watch from a distance but keeps and protects it. Oh, sure, we see wars and natural disasters, pollution and a dying earth, hatred and violence that make us doubt. But when you begin by being baptized into God the Father, you believe that a tree bearing fruit is a gift from God so we have something to eat. You believe that a firefighter is given by God to help keep danger at bay. You believe that the medicine you buy from a pharmacy is given by God through the wonderful minds who do research and study this incredible creation.

Food and drink, house and home, work and country, rest and school are gifts from God for us to live our lives in His gracious care.

Second, beginning in the Trinity at Baptism makes a huge difference in our relationship with God. It’s all grace. It’s all a gift. How do we begin a worship service? With confession. We admit we are poor, miserable sinners. We confess we deserve only temporal and eternal punishment. We know we have sinned against God and each other by thought, word, and deed.

But Jesus came long ago as Savior. He came not to be ooh’d and aah’d at, but to cry out in agony on a cross. He came not only to be born in a manger but also to be placed in a tomb. He came with not just a star to guide Wise Men, but also with an early morning rising sun as He rose from the dead. With all Jesus has done, we are forgiven. In the mercy of almighty God, Jesus Christ was given to die and rise for us. For His sake, God forgives us all our sin. He has given us the privilege of becoming His children. Our Baptism places us into God’s loving and forgiving hands right from the very start of our lives.

I was listening to the radio not too long ago, when a caller asked why Christians try to force their religion on others. I’m not sure that force is a correct word to describe our witnessing efforts, but have you ever considered that question? Why do we tell others about Jesus? Well, because we want them to have what we have – the Father’s love. We don’t want them to miss out on the forgiveness the Son won and gives freely. Our desire is that they have the strength of the Holy Spirit with them during the tough times in life – and the times of thanksgiving. No wonder that in Matthew 28, Jesus says we are to go and make disciples of all nations.

We believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord. We go, make disciples, teach, and baptize, all because what Jesus has done for us makes all the difference in our relationship with God.

Third, beginning with Baptism in the name of the Triune God makes a huge difference in the kind of people we become. We believe the Holy Spirit has brought us together into the Church to become different people, people who listen to what Jesus says and become His disciples in this troubled world, people who want to do what is right and good and helpful.

In the winter of 2001, following my father’s death, my family experienced an enormous outpouring of expressions of sympathy, offers of prayer, and words of care from you and many other fellow baptized believers. It showed what a precious gift the Church is as the Holy Spirit works among us.

You see, when you begin with Baptism, it makes a huge difference in the people we become. The Holy Spirit brings us together to support, encourage, teach, and build each other up. Personality differences and annoyances and gripes and complaints all fade away. And it is all because the Holy Spirit gathers us together in the name of the triune God.

My baptismal certificate says I began to live, to really live, when my father, Rev Donald Schultz poured water over my head in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19). My life truly began on October 19, 1969, the day I was baptized. Ever since, how I see life, my relationship with God, my love for others, especially each of you, and who I’ve become is because of that joyous beginning in the name of the Trinity.

Today is Holy Trinity Sunday, and I can think of no better way to celebrate this Church festival than by thanking our Triune God for getting us off to a great start. In the waters of Baptism, we began our lives of faith in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. When you begin like that, it makes a huge difference in your life.

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