A Conjoining Disjunction
Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist
29 August 2018
The holy cross is the church's banner signifying both her Lord and her calling. Although as an instrument of execution it is a sign of suffering and death, for us Christians it is also the fruitful tree of life (Jn 12:24). That is why it is also our calling. It does not remain his alone but becomes ours by faith. And while the church waxes eloquent about the power of life in that cross, that eloquence is lavished upon that to which it points as something greater and more powerful; namely the death of Christ for the world. The cross and Christ's death are inseparable. The cross is the instrument upon which the sacrifice for the sins of the world was made; the high altar of the greatest divine work. Christ on His cross is an indispensable vision of the work of God in the world; hidden under the sign of suffering and death.
 
Do you remember your elementary school science class, in which your teacher showed you that when you put a ruler into a bowl of water, the ruler appears to bend. Water causes a visual disjunction. The water of baptism also causes a disjunction, but one that is more than visual. While baptismal fonts may be designed in various ways, whether simply or elaborately, what breaks the surface of the water and is the bent shaft that shimmers below its facade is nothing other than the death of Christ on the cross; His wounds flowing and suffusing the water with the life of His blood (Lev 17:11). What is below that water in the font is the image imprinted on our hearts through baptism. The disjunction caused by the water separates us Christians from all other persons by placing us into Christ; His death, and His resurrection. The disjunction of baptism changes everything for us Christians by putting us into and under the cross of Christ. Thus, it is that the signs that God uses to give us Christ are effective signs, doing the very things they signify. In the disjunction of baptism, we are conjoined with all the gifts of God in Christ.
 
In the disjunction of baptism, we are also pointed to the ultimate disjunction of this life, called death. In baptism, we are assured that that disjunction will be an eternal conjoining with the Christ whose cross gives us life.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"Baptism is an external sign or token, which so separates us from all men not baptized that we are thereby known as a people of Christ, our Leader, under whose banner of the holy cross we continually fight against sin. In this holy sacrament we must therefore pay attention to three things: the sign, the significance of it, and the faith.
 
"The sign consists in this, that we are thrust into the water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; however, we are not left there but are drawn out again. This accounts for the expression: 'lifted out of the baptismal water.' The sign must thus have both its parts, the putting in and the drawing out.
 
"The significance of baptism is a blessed dying unto sin and a resurrection in the grace of God, so that the old man, conceived and born in sin, is there drowned, and a new man, born in grace, comes forth and rises. Thus St. Paul, in Titus 3:5, calls baptism a 'washing of regeneration,' since in this washing a person is born again and made new. As Christ also says, in John 3, 'Unless one is born again of water and the Spirit (of grace), you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven' (Jn 3:3, 5). For just as a child is drawn out of his mother's womb and is born, and through this fleshly birth is a sinful person and a child of wrath (Eph 2:3), so one is drawn out of baptism and is born spiritually. Through this spiritual birth he is a child of grace and a justified person. Therefore, sins are drowned in baptism, and in place of sin, righteousness comes forth.
 
"This significance of baptism-the dying or drowning of sin-is not fulfilled completely in this life. Indeed, this does not happen until man passes through bodily death and completely decays to dust. As we can plainly see, the sacrament or sign of baptism is quickly over. But the spiritual baptism, the drowning of sin, which it signifies, lasts as long as we live and is completed only in death. Then it is that a person is completely sunk in baptism, and that which baptism signifies comes to pass."

Martin Luther, 
The Holy and Blessed Sacrament of Baptism
Mark 6:17-29

It was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because he had married her. For John had been saying to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.
 
But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. For when Herodias's daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl, "Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you." And he vowed to her, "Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom." And she went out and said to her mother, "For what should I ask?" And she said, "The head of John the Baptist." And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, "I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter." And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John's head. He went and beheaded him in the prison and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.  
(ESV)
Collect for the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist
Almighty God, You have given Your servant John the Baptist to be the forerunner of Your Son, Jesus Christ, in both his preaching of repentance and his innocent death. Grant that we, who have died and risen with Christ in Holy Baptism may daily repent of our sins, patiently suffer for the sake of the truth, and fearlessly bear witness to His victory over death; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

For Amy and Robert Paul who were blessed with the birth of a healthy baby girl, Isla Joy, that both mother and child would be kept in the care of Jesus until Isla Joy is brought to rebirth in the water of holy baptism
 
For Cheryl Lueck, following cancer surgery, that the Lord Jesus would grant her full and complete healing
 
For all persons who do not appreciate the gift that they received in holy baptism, that they may return to the faith and set their hearts on the promises of God
 
For Bart and Julie Day, Jonah, Seth, Caleb, Jotham, and Lydia, that the Lord would shower down upon them ever greater blessings as they go from strength to strength
Art: CARAVGGIO, The Beheading of St. John the Baptist (1608)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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