Friday, December 21, 2007

Advent 3 Weekday Service, December 19, 2007, Ezek 47:1-12

Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side. Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through. And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” Then he led me back to the bank of the river. As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to En-eglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.” (Ezekiel 47:1-12, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from Our Lord and Savior, Jesus, Christ.

“Come to Calv’ry’s holy mountain, Sinners, ruined by the fall; Here a pure and healing fountain Flows for you, for me, for all, In a full, perpetual tide, Opened when our Savior died” (LSB 435:1).

Christian artists have throughout history painted many different kinds of pictures of Jesus on the cross. They were attempting, in art, to portray the importance of what Jesus did there. How do you make a picture of the forgiveness of sins that comes to us through God’s Word and the sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion? Many artists have pictured angels capturing the blood streaming from Jesus hands, feet and side, into Chalices. One picture captures the moment when the soldier pierces Jesus side with a spear, with a chalice collecting Jesus’ blood and the water flowing into a font, a Baptismal font. It’s a vision of God’s gifts to us through Jesus death, delivered to us through the means of Grace.

Well, that’s what Ezekiel’s vision that I’ve just read is about too. Ezekiel sees water flowing from the temple. Notice particularly he describes the water. It starts with a trickle, ankle deep, and then knee deep, then waist deep, then over his head, deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be crossed. He calls it living water. It watered trees on the bank, and brought life everywhere it went. There is a connection between Ezekiel’s vision and the water that flowed from Jesus side. Remember Ezekiel describes water flowing from the Temple.

St. John’s is the one who tells us.

Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness— his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth— that you also may believe. (John 19:31-35, ESV)

Blood and water flowed from Jesus body. John is also very careful to tell us that Jesus calls himself the temple.

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up,” he said. The Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” “But he was speaking about the temple of his body” (John 2:19-21, ESV)

Just like Isaiah the water of life flows from Jesus.

“If anyone thirsts,” our Savior Said, “let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’ ” (John 7:37-38, ESV)

Jesus’ body is the temple. That’s what Ezekiel was talking about. In Jesus very body, God was present in bodily, human form, true God and true man united in a miraculous and mysterious way. When the soldier wanted to make Jesus dead, for sure, he drove the spear into His heart, and out flowed blood and water. I think of the picture from Mel Gibson’s movie, where the man was sprayed, drenched with water. That water, flows into Holy Baptism. That water is the water of live that gives us all that Jesus did; His life, death and resurrection for you and me. When we are drenched with the water of Baptism we are connected right to Jesus on the cross, right to His perfect life, right to His birth in Bethlehem, right to His resurrection, and even more importantly right to His coming again to judge the living and the dead.

Over the years the church has understood this very well. In fact, the early Christians used a symbol to remember their connection to Jesus in a vivid way. You may know that they used a fish to mark their worship places, as a secret symbol to guide each other, and bring them together. The reason they use a fish is because if you take the works Jesus Christ God’s Son, Savior in Greek Iesu~ Cristo~ qeu~ Uio~ Soter. But that’s not all there is to the fish symbol. They were also thinking of Ezekiel’s picture of the water of life.

Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea.

Our brothers and sisters in Christ, oh, so long ago, thought of themselves as little fish who swam in the living water of Jesus, the water of Holy Baptism. One of the early church fathers wrote:

“But we little fish, like our Fish Jesus Christ, are born in water, and it is only by remaining in water that we are safe. Therefore . . . [the enemies of the faith] well knew how to slay the little fish by removing them from the water” (Tertullian, De Baptismo, para. 1; translated Alexander Souter, 1919).

Jesus says a much too.

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:16, ESV)

He actually gives His followers a purpose for living, in the water. This is what we are to be about as a church, even right here in Howard. If this purpose isn’t in our hearts, if this isn’t the reason we gather together and make plans and budgets, we are not doing what little fish should be doing.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20, ESV)

That life giving water flows from Jesus side flows to the whole world. It began as a little trickle. But the flood gates were opened. Peter preached at Pentecost. Repent and be baptized every one of you for the forgiveness of sins. 3000 little fish were born that day. And it didn’t stop there. Paul and Silas baptized the Roman Jailer and his family. And Philip baptized the Ethiopian Eunuch. We could recount each one of you, too. Here at this font you were born, little fish, in the water of Holy Baptism. The water of life flows from Jesus side to this small pan where you were born again into God’s family, having your sins forgiven.

This gift, Holy Baptism, is for you and your children. It is a wonderful gift for you. It is your connection to the Babe in the manger. It is your promise of eternal life through the forgiveness of sin. It is new life that flows from Jesus on the cross to you. Don’t let anyone take you, little fish, out of the water! Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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