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Wednesday, July 5, 2016

Today’s Reading | Romans 6:1-11

What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (NRSV)

Before these verses, Paul spent a great deal of time writing about sin and grace. The free gift of God’s grace, Paul argued, is stronger than any bondage to sin. But then it is as if Paul sensed a possible reaction from the church people and tried to put to rest any notion that God’s enormous grace was “cheap” and did not ask anything from us in response.

He pounded the pulpit with his words: “Look—in your baptism you renounced the jurisdiction and rule of sin over your life. You died to that. The tomb of your baptism became the womb of your new life. You have been reborn into the reign and rule of grace, freedom, and salvation. Live like it.” We need not fear death, for in our baptism we have already died.

John Westerhoff once wrote about a baptism he witnessed in a Latin American church. After recalling God’s gracious acts, the congregation started singing a funeral hymn. A solemn procession moved down the center aisle as the father carried a child’s coffin and the mother carried a bucket of water. The priest carried their sleeping infant. When they reached the front, the father placed the coffin on the altar, the mother poured the water in the coffin, and the priest covered the wakening baby’s skin with embalming oil. Then the priest slowly lowered the infant into the coffin, immersing the child’s head in the water. He exclaimed, “I kill you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” “Amen!” everyone shouted. Quickly lifting the child into the air, the priest declared, “And I resurrect you that you might love and serve the Lord.” And the congregation immediately broke into a joyous Easter hymn (quoted by William Fogleman, “Romans 6:3–14,” Interpretation, 1993). Quite a baptism, don’t you think? May it be so for you and for me.

Life-giving God, I thank you for destroying anything that would try to keep me from knowing your love and claim on my life. May I live this day trusting in your Easter power and in your promise that I am a new creation. Amen.

Written by Shannon J. Kershner, Pastor

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