New Yearís Eve, 2005
What Lasts Forever
1 Peter 1:22-25
St. Peter points to three things
at once. First, he tells us
that our souls have been purified by holy baptism.
ďObeying the truthĒ was how St. Peter would refer to being
baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
Secondly, St. Peter tells us that this obedience to the truth
involves us in a sincere and fervent love for one another. Third, St. Peter reminds us that we are born again by the
gospel, the word of God that endures forever.
We will enter the year of our
Lord 2006 as saints. Baptism
makes you a saint. Mere
water only makes you wet. The
water that is joined by Christís command to the name of the Holy
Trinity is the water that purifies the soul.
The water is poured over the body, but this sacrament cleanses
the soul from sin. The body
in which we live right now cannot live forever because it was born in
sin. Baptism promises
resurrection from the dead. In
Holy Baptism we died to sin and rose to live the lives of saints.
We were purified. And
as many times as we soiled our souls by sin, so many times our God
graciously washed us again in the waters of Holy Baptism.
The reason the absolution we receive here in church is valid is
because it applies to our souls the same forgiveness of sins first given
to us in Holy Baptism. Obeying
the truth is not the same as obeying laws, though it most certainly
entails obedience. Obeying
the truth is dying and rising. Obeying
the truth is being joined by Holy Baptism to the true and only God: God
the Father who created us; God the Son who by his blood redeemed us; and
God the Holy Spirit who sanctifies our bodies to be the Temple of God.
We enter 2006 as saints.
We enter the New Year as
brothers and sisters who love one another.
The Son was begotten of the Fatherís love from eternity.
The Fatherís love sent him to be our Savior.
Love incarnate was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary.
It was revealed in the manger.
It was love that sent this holy Child to the cross thirty-three
years later. Love kept Him
there as He bore all of our griefs and carried all of our sorrows.
Of this love Paul Gerhardt writes:
wondrous Love, what hast Thou done!
The strong love of God is the
love to which we were bound when we obeyed the truth.
This is the love that binds us as well to one another.
If I have what you have and you have what I have we have the same
thing and we have it together. To
hate your brother or sister is to deny the love into which you were
baptized and which saves your soul from hell.
This is why St. John wrote, ďHe who hates his brother is a
murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in
him.Ē This is why we must
return to the washing that purified our souls, not just once in a while,
but every day of our lives. We must receive Godís love by faith in the gospel.
We must love one another. This
is the life that God has given us to live.
Only love is eternal.
St. Paul wrote, ďNow these three remain: faith, hope, and love,
but the greatest of these is love.Ē
Love is the greatest because love is eternal.
It comes from the eternal God and it is revealed here in time and
then it takes us to the eternal joys of heaven.
Love does all this. This
is why we love one another. This
is why we forgive one another. This
is why we bear one anotherís burdens and live patiently together as
Godís children. This is
why we explain each otherís actions in as kind a way as we can within
the bounds of the truth. This
is why contending for the truth without loving one another is a dead
orthodoxy that, far from honoring Godís name, blasphemes His holy
But we are born again and we are
born again to live forever. The
word of God is from everlasting to everlasting.
Christ Himself is the Word incarnate, and the written word of the
Holy Scriptures points to Him. The
oral word, that is the word that is preached to us, points to Him. From Him comes the new birth because He is the Seed of the
woman who crushed the head of the devil, that liar and murderer who
brought death into this world. In
Jesus is life, and so in his words are life.
As Jesus said, ďThe words I speak to you are spirit and they
Only the truth has any power to
bring life. Lies bring
death. The word of God that has the power to bring us to life is
entirely true. It is
eternal truth. Just as
Godís love is eternal, the word of God lasts forever.
We arenít born again to die.
We are born again to live forever.
We sing, ďTime, like an ever-rolling stream, bears all its sons
away; they fly, forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day.Ē
But we are not sons of time.
We are children of the eternal God.
We are born from above by the word preached here below and this
is a birth to eternal life.
As 2005 turns into 2006 we look
upon the past year and see Godís blessings and our sins.
We thank God for His blessings and we confess to Him our sins. Sin is glorifying man as man without giving all the glory to
God. The glory of men
fades, is forgotten, and when forgotten is lost forever.
Godís word takes us into eternity.
Nothing else will do.
There is no power in heaven or
on earth that can equal the power of the word by which we are born
again. The power to keep us
in the true faith is the gospel because the gospel derives its power,
indeed is the power, of Christís righteous obedience and holy death.
Every sin you and I did during this past year and all the guilt
that we brought upon ourselves was covered up by the obedience of Jesus
and washed away by his blood. When
God gives us to eat and to drink of that body and blood of Jesus, God
puts into our bodies and souls the eternal life that is Christ.
This holy Sacrament is rightly called the medicine of
immortality, because it guarantees us who receive it in faith the
forgiveness of sins once and for all purchased for us by Christís body
and blood. And where there
is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus