"A Different Kind of Race"
TEXT: Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
Gentlemen! Start your engines! – these words send men and women wearing tons of very expensive metal hurtling around a track at 200+miles/hour in a race for a checkered flag, a pile of cash, hero status, and maybe a jug of milk or other refreshment.
Aaaaaand they’re off!– at these words gates crash open and tons of very expensive horseflesh begin hurtling around a track, whipped by the rather small men and women wearing rather colorful yet silly clothing who ride them intent on whipping them across the digital finish line for a pile of cash, hero status, and maybe a bunch of roses or other trophy.
On your mark. Get set. Go!– these words and the crack of a gunshot sends hundreds of pounds of well muscled men and women dashing around a track in short shorts, tank tops, and funny looking spiked shoes trying to be the first person to break the tape for screaming fans, points for the team, scholarships or future endorsements involving piles of cash, and a blue ribbon, medal, or team trophy.
I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen! With these words begins the human race. Countless people throughout the ages, as many as grains of sand on the seashore or stars in the heavens -- of all shapes, colors, sizes, nations, and tongues -- are sent forth into all the world, the world from which they came, already possessing all there is to have by the grace of God and restored through faith to be fully human and bearing the image of God once lost in sin. Yes, this race is much different, for it is a race whose outcome is never in doubt, whose champion is Christ, which is finished before it even begins.
Oh, the participants, the baptized beloved children of God, will certainly still experience the blood, sweat and tears of dedicated preparation, of unexpected twists, turns, and even fights and crashes. It may be seemingly far too short, or woefully long. But this race is different because it is a race where you do not compete toward the finish line, but the finish line is brought to you. Though the race remains to be run for as long as we are given to live on this earth, the outcome is never in doubt. The salvation from our sins that gives us eternal life was finished by Christ on the cross and has been delivered to us through the water poured over our heads, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
With these words, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:5-7 NKJ)
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. With these words we are given the image of God which we were intended to be from the beginning, when God created the first man and woman. For in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, the image lost -- as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned (Rom 5:12 NKJ), is the image restored to us – so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. (Rom 5:18 NKJ)
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. With these words, we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection. (Rom 6:4-5 NKJ)
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. With these words we have been freed from the burden of forever trying to please God. And make no mistake about it, every other religion, every other worship of god apart from these words is a false religion and a false god, based upon an endless, fruitless, hopeless quest to please or satisfy some ambiguous, obscure god – or figure out which god one should be concerned about pleasing and satisfying today. For with these words of Holy Baptism, God the Father (the One and only true God) looks upon us just as He looked upon His only begotten Son at His baptism, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Matt 3:17 NKJ)
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. With these words God gives us the comfort and assurance that we are already among "they that have done good [and] will go into everlasting life," as we confessed earlier in the Athanasian Creed, for [by these words] we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:10 NKJ)
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. With these words not only is the race begun, but it is finished. For with these words, heaven has come to earth. Where these words are spoken, we can join with Luther in saying, "This is surely God’s house, here heaven has been opened to you." Yes, here in this place where God speaks the words recalling your baptism, where God speaks His words of forgiveness to you when you confess your sins, where God gives you the very body and blood of His Son Jesus Christ, here heaven has been opened to you. Here, as in the word of God spoken through the Apostle Paul, The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit [is] with you all. (2 Cor 3:14 NKJ)
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, you can be sure that the finish line of heaven is always before you because the God who awaits you at the finish line to give you the crown of life says, "I am with you always, even to the end of the age." For with these words, God forgives you all your sins – in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen