Sermon: Gerhard Weissenbrunner
Luke 3, 15-17, 21-22 The Baptism of Repentance
When children in our church are baptized or when adults are given a baptismal confession, the sacrament of baptism is based on a decision of the persons involved. In the beginning is the promise of the gracious presence of God. God calls all people to him. God calls each individual person and speaks personally to them. And God’s call expects an answer.
With a clear, „yes“, to the baptismal issues, people profess their faith in Jesus Christ and promise to responsibly shape their lives in their fellowship. They promise to trust in Christ’s grace, to leave evil and do good, to acknowledge scripture as the foundation and guide of faith and life, and to serve God through prayer, cooperation and regular gifts.
The baptism is a joyous celebration. The baptism is a two-sided covenant. First is the call and the promise of God, „I have called you by your name. You are mine! You are wanted! You are no child by chance! You are a child of love! You are invited, to form your life in my presence. Do you want this? “ And in response to this pledge, the respondents respond, “Yes, I do!”.
Then comes the joy. The joy is founded in the experience of this holy moment. I believe and I know, God, my creater, my savior, has turned to me.Something new has been born. It is like a new birth. Luther states somewhat roughly, „during baptism, the old man is drowned and the new is born!”.
And joy is also based in the hope of a good future. I believe and I know, God keeps his word. He is faithful! And he keeps what he promises: „Nothing can separate me from his love, which is in Jesus Christ, our Lord.” (Rom. 8, 39)Linked to the love of God, my present standpoint changes and with his power succeeds a new way.
John the Baptist calls to this new path. The people feel that there is something new. They are full of expectations. They give him their hearts. They ask, whether perhaps he might be the Christ? “No” says John, I am not Christ. I am his harbinger. I’m not worth loosening the straps of his shoes. I baptize you with water. He will baptize you with the holy spirit and with fire.
John asks the people to decide for the good. He addresses the grievances and calls for repentance. „Do no one violence or injustice and be content with what you have!” John calls for a change of mind.
Concretely, repentance means the renunciation of injustice and the false Gods and the return or the return to God. – A return to a behavior, which corresponds to the will of God. Reversal means a total change in the direction of life. And it affects all areas of life.
Turn back! One would like to call this in today’s society.
Before Christmas, DER STANDARD started a survey. The question was, „Who says to you what is good and right or rather what is bad and wrong?”. Especially young Austrians doubt that the church has a right answer. Also, it is hardly believed that the church has the moral authority. 85% of the respondents said that their own conscience is the highest authority. They are of the opinion that Christmas is a festival of peace and reconciliation. But only 8% associate the joyful Christmas message with Jesus Christ.
When the Chancellor was recently asked about his opinion of Christian social politics, he answered analogously that he understands his politics are Christian social. However, when people are asked about this, there will be many different definitions.
However, Mr. Chancellor, what is Christian social is not defined by personal opinion, but it is in the holy Scriptures.
I realize: they do not know anymore! The majority of our society does not really know what, “Christian” means. Either they do not read about it where it is written. Or they do not ask if there are other standards other than their own. They think they can do what they want and there are no consequences. If, however, someone claims that his/her own conscience is the highest authority, then it has to be questioned. Especially if someone is a leading figure. And has taken over the responsibility for the welfare of the people.
The politicians should be asked, „How do you deal with the welfare of the minority, the welfare of the poor, the welfare of the disadvantaged or the foreign, etc? “. The managers and companies should be asked, „ How do you deal with your employees? Do they share in the company success or do you first look at the shareholders and your own profit? “. The civil servants should be asked, „Do you judge the asylum decision by blind obedience or do you see the person in his/her plight? “.
This question should be asked to everyone in the society, in the family, in the partnership and one’s self, „what about your own sense of responsibility? “. It is problematic to take one’s own conscience as a valid standard. If everyone would do this, then we would have as many opinions as there are people. Then everyone is the next one him/herself. And one means, that what is valid for ones is valid for everyone else in the world. Then we would have a hodge-podge like it was before the beginning of creation.
I invite them to that one! They should defend their conscience with decency and honesty. And we will see – they cannot!
Therefore, the call to conversion. And to turn away from injustice and the false gods.
God’s kingdom is the kingdom of justice. Written right must not be lawful if it is wrong. God’s justice is the standard for a life together. And this is valid for the entire world. Whoever believes in the true God and in the son, Jesus Christ has to know that this belief is defined by social justice.
Whoever closes their hearts to the poor, gives Christ the cold shoulder.
Hence the reminder about the baptismal promises: Listen people to what God says to you and do what you have promised!
It is time to face your own responsibility. Jesus Christ speaks, „love God and love the people! “. Jesus reminds us about the wonder of the human connectedness. His love binds us. And he assigns to us: love one another!
Compared to others, the criticism and complaints are first against injustice. And it is important because then the injustice will be shown. But it can’t stop here. That would be hopeless. As successors to Jesus Christ, we know: Christ, who asks us to call to repent gives us the strength and the understanding to do this.
I believe in the power of love. It combines heaven and earth. It is really interested in forming a great union of humanity. That this union should be strengthened globally. And that a world will be formed not by fearing or being angry about, „others“, but from hope and love for each and every one.
Love also has power to overcome the aversion we have against others whom we dislike. Regardless of whether it is a neighbor, a colleague, a particular politician, a Trumpist or an Orbanist, whoever. Love is the only way to resolve hostilities without creating new hostilities. It is the only means that drives us to intercede with for the rulers. In the hopes that God’s changes will be for the better.
We are like John, callers in the desert. But as successors we know something and we point out what many do not know. This is God’s love in and through Jesus Christ. This love should be expanded. Let’s make a world wide, „Action Love“ together. So that the world will become human and also so our children and our children’s children can have a hopeful future. Let us live and spread the message of love. According to the measure that each and every one of us received through Jesus Christ.