Buried with Him (Romans 6)
1. St. Paul summarizes the beginning of our Christian life speaking about our burial with Jesus. The first thing we see in this verse is that there is a death involved. In fact, two deaths--Christ's death on the Cross and our death to sin. That's right. You died when you were brought to the waters of Baptism and had your sins washed away. This font is truly a grave for the old Adam. That's where the Old Adam was originally buried. And when there is a burial, it proves that a death has occurred. As St. Paul says later in the sixth chapter of Romans, "We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing" (v6). St. Peter also tells us this in our Epistle reading this morning: "He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness" (1 Peter 2:21).
2. The Sacrament of Baptism serves as the entry point to the Christian Church and the life everlasting. It does this because it is a means of grace. It effects this burial because it is water combined with God's Word and included in God's command. As one commentator puts it, "Baptism ... is no empty sign but a decisive event by which a man's life is powerfully and unequivocally claimed by God" (Cranfield 304). Baptism offers the promise of salvation and delivers it. That promise is delivered as you are connected to Jesus. And being connected to Jesus comes because of Baptism's connection to His death.
3. Jesus' death on the cross is the central point of human history. Being connected to Jesus' death through Baptism is a mystical connection. It takes what physically happened to Jesus and makes it spiritually happen to you. As we confessed in the Creed, Jesus was "crucified, died and buried." In Baptism, our Old Adam was spiritually crucified by being drowned by the water and buried under the water. And the thing is ... Jesus didn't have to do it. He didn't have to die and take away your sins. As we will sing in the sermon hymn a few minutes, "Perverse and foolish oft I strayed, but yet in love He sought me and on His shoulder gently laid and home rejoicing brought me" (LSB #709.3). He not only sought you, even when you were "perverse and foolish," He laid down His life for you. I'm not sure why our Gospel reading ends where it does. The next verse is one of the greatest statements of Jesus in the Gospels: "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for His sheep" (John 10:11). The simple application of water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit connects you to all of this. And not only this, but also to His resurrection from the dead.
4. As we emerge from Baptism, we are drawn out of the water. We come from the grave of the font to a new life. We receive life after our death to sin. This is the Christian life that we wish so much to hear about. We want to know what we need--or have--to do in order to live like a Christian. What does Luther tell us in our Catechism reading this morning? We must "daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever" as a new man or new woman through "daily contrition and repentance" (SC IV, 4). And, of course, that's easier said than done. After all, we live in such a fallen and depraved world that we know we will easily fall into temptation and sin day after day. But Luther reminds us in his Large Catechism as he explains the resurrection of the body in the Creed: "while sanctification has begun and is growing daily, we expect that our flesh will be destroyed and buried with all uncleanness. Then we will come forth gloriously and arise in a new, eternal life of entire and perfect holiness" (57). We know that we will die, but our connection to our risen Lord Jesus Christ shows us that we too will rise from the dead to join him in everlasting life when He returns once again to gather His sheep.
5. This new, everlasting life is the life of a sheep under the tender care of his or her Shepherd. The sheep believe without doubting that their Shepherd will lead them "in paths of righteousness for His name's sake" (Psalm 23:3). They believe this because the Shepherd has already said, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10). This new, abundant life of the sheep is the life St. Paul talked about at the beginning of Romans when he quoted Habakkuk, "The righteous shall live by faith" (Romans 1:17; Habakkuk 2:4). Luther further reminds us, "Baptism not only illustrates such a new life, but also produces, begins and exercises it" (LC IV, 75). And how does it do that? The same way it did for the early church: "[T]hey devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42). That's where life meets faith: being involved with the activities of the Church as it comes around Word and Sacrament for the strengthening of our faith. That's the life of the new man--the life of those who worship the Lord who has risen from the dead. Amen.