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The Baptismal Deep (Micah 7.18-20)

Third Sunday after Trinity

“The Baptismal Deep”
Philip G. Meyer, Pastor Emeritus   

Micah 7.18-20

03 July 2022

 

SOLI DEO GLORIA!

This past Tuesday [June 26] a news story reported that the USS Samuel B. Roberts, a Navy destroyer from World War II had been found in the Philippine Sea. It has become the deepest wreck ever discovered. It was located at a depth of 22,916 feet, broken in two pieces. That’s 4.3 miles below the surface. The account said:

“The search involved the use of the deepest side-scan sonar ever installed and operated on a submersible, well beyond the standard commercial limitations of 6,000 meters (19,685 feet).” [Newsnation]

The Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean is the deepest of all the earth’s oceans. It is 36,070 deep. That.s 6.8 miles below the surface! If Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain were put in the Challenger Deep, it would be covered by over one mile of water! [geology.com] These words from Micah seem to be very appropriate:

He will again have compassion on us; 

he will tread our iniquities underfoot. 

You will cast all our sins 

into the depths of the sea. 

So, if God metaphorically casts our sins into the depths of the sea it means that they not only are incapable of being seen, they are also impossible to retrieve. Yet, consider this image as Holy Baptism as the Apostle Paul explains:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. [Rom. 6.3-4]

This morning the overflowing mercy of God has received Luke Evan Ofsansky through Holy Baptism. His sins were drowned in the depths of the font because Christ carried them to the grave. The waters of Holy Baptism cover sin as deeply—even more so!—as them being cast into the Challenger Deep. In Holy Baptism our sins are removed and trodden under Christ’s feet, they are thrown behind God’s back where he will no longer view them, as Isaiah wrote:

 . . .but in love you have delivered my life 

from the pit of destruction, 

for you have cast all my sins 

behind your back. [Isaiah 38.17]

To be cast behind God’s back means that God no longer views them, that is, he does not continue to look at our sins and accuse us.

In our Gospel reading the religious leaders grumbled because Jesus not only welcomed outward sinners but he even had table fellowship with them, something forbidden by the Pharisees’ law. As a result our Lord told three parables about God’s steadfast love for the lost. First, there is the lost sheep, Second, there is the lost coin, most likely the head-dress of ten silver coins which would have been the equivalent of a woman’s wedding ring with diamonds. Third, Jesus relates the parable of the two sons, perhaps best called the Parable of the Waiting Father. In each parable something valuable was lost. While we might write off one lost sheep or one lost coin or even one lost son, not so our Lord. His steadfast love will not rest until he has found them and brought them back to their rightful place.

The scandal for the Pharisees and Scribes was that God would want anything to do with such persons as tax collectors and open sinners. They never thought of a God who acted out of loving kindness, The did not conceive of a God who acted in mercy. To them everything was earned. One earned salvation by one’s supposed righteousness.

A critical verse in Luke’s account is this one:

Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. [Luke 15.7]

God acts first. He does not wait for us. Our Lord is the Good Shepherd who goes out looking for the lost sheep. He is the woman who searches diligently until he finds us. He is the waiting father who wants to forgive his wayward sons. God is the One who pardons our inquiries. A pardon is sheer grace, sheer mercy. There isn’t any human merit or work in it. God delights in steadfast love, that’s love that is unmovable, unshakeable. 

Micah tells us that God would tread our iniquities underfoot. He crushes them, subdues them, and makes them as nothing. They are under his authority. This reminds us that our Lord Jesus Christ crushed the head of the old serpent in his death on the cross. There Satan was defeated, shorn of his power to accuse us before God.

So what does God do with your sins? He places them all on his Son and compels him to go to the cross and grave where he carries them away, to use the terms of John the Baptist. He gives everything to get back that which was irretrievably lost to temporal and eternal death. Paul, speaking of himself, says:

 . . . the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

New life was given to you in Holy Baptism just as it was given to Luke Evan Ofsansky this morning. In Baptism God the Holy Spirit creates new life. God the Holy Spirit brings Christ to us who carries our sins away to a place where they can never again be retrieved, and if they cannot be found, God never looks at them again. They might as well be in the Challenger Deep. God is the One who is baptizing through the words and actions of the pastor. So we sing in another baptismal hymn:

Once in the blest baptismal waters

I put on Christ and made Him mine;

Now numbered with God’s sons and daughters,

I share His peace and love divine.

O God, for Jesus sake I pray

Your peace may bless my dying day. [LSB 598.1]

The tax collectors and sinners rejoiced to have been found by such a Savior as this. So did the Apostle Paul, “the foremost” of sinners as he confessed himself to be. Paul is saying that he is the first in line of sinners because of his sins against Christ, not in the sense of best but of worst. Paul rejoiced in God’s mercy for him. So do all of us lost and straying sheep rejoice at what the Holy Trinity has done to deal with our sin.

Jesus ate with sinners. He still does every Divine Service when we receive his meal which does more than satisfy physical hunger; it satisfies the soul with forgiveness and peace. Yes, our God delights in mercy! He does not wink at sin because Christ himself paid for it with his innocent suffering and death. But that was done in mercy for us! Christ continues to take away your iniquities and cast them into The Baptismal Deep where they can never be retrieved. 

Thus, the Christian begins and ends every day by reciting the baptismal creed and praying the Our Father in remembrance of his baptism. In Holy Baptism you return daily for the forgiveness of sins where these, too, are drowned in The Baptismal Deep. The benefits of Holy Baptism continue until your dying day. 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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