We all need water to live. On average a person cannot live more than three days without drinking water. This is not to mention all the other uses we have for water such as cleaning and bathing.
Is it any wonder then why our Lord instituted baptism using water? The water of baptism is spiritually life-giving, just as plain water sustains our physical life. The water of baptism cleanses us from sin, just as we use water to bathe our bodies. Since water is so basic to human existence it's almost always readily available for baptism.
When the people of Israel left Egypt they had difficulty finding drinking water out in the wilderness on more than one occasion. So, God had to provide water for them. This He did through Moses. God made the bitter waters of Marah sweet (Ex. 15:23-25), and miraculously made water gush out of solid rock (Ex 17:6, Num. 20:8-11.) The people of God needed this water to live.
You and I need the water of baptism to live. St. Peter says "Baptism now saves you" (1 Peter 3:21). St. Paul says baptism is, "the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5). And Jesus says, "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved" (Mark 16:16). Thanks be to God that he gives water to sustain our earthly lives, and the water of baptism to grant us eternal life.
Thank the Lord and sing His praise; tell everyone what He has done. Let all who see the Lord rejoice and proudly bear His name. He recalls His promises and leads His people forth in joy with shouts of thanksgiving. Alleluia, alleluia.
These words are sung after communion in Divine Service setting 1 and 2, but I think they have a lot to say about our thanksgiving. Note first of all that singing accompanies thanks. We show our thankfulness to God by singing His praises. We praise and thank the one who gives us all things. We praise God by proclaiming what He has done. Secondly, we tell others about the great things God has done, those things for which we are thankful.
As we have just "seen" the Lord in, with, and under the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper, we rejoice. We can be proud, in a good way, of the name of the Lord that we bear. We bear the name Christian, the name given us in our baptism. We go forth into the world with this name, telling others what Christ has done, and thanking Him for His saving work.
Why are we able to give thanks? Because the Lord recalls His promises. He keeps His promise to forgive our sins. He promises to lead us through this life, through the valley of the shadow death, into eternal life with Him. For all this we thanks and praise Him.
You may have seen these letters in a church somewhere, INRI. If you look at the crucifix hanging above the literature table in our fellowship hall or the one hanging in the entry way to the sanctuary, you will see this printed above the head of Jesus. INRI is an abbreviation for the Latin phrase, Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum, or in English, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." Recall that when Jesus was crucified, Pilate had this inscription placed on Jesus' cross written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin so all could read it. (John 19:19-20).
Why would Pilate write such a thing? The Gospels of Matthew and Mark tell us that this was the charge against Jesus (Matt. 27:37). The Romans would sometimes indicate the criminal charge against the person being crucified by writing it on the cross. This was the best that Pilate could come up with. He asked the Jews if he should crucify their king. They replied, "We have no king but Caesar" (John 19:15). The Jewish authorities didn't like the placard. They told Pilate, "Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written" (John 19:21-22).
There are various ways to think about these words. On the one hand, the inscription rings true. Jesus was the king, the Messiah, that the Jews were promised in the Old Testament. Yet, most didn't recognize Him. On the other hand the statement doesn't go far enough. Jesus was also Pilate's true king. He is The King of all humanity, though the world does not recognize His authority. As God's children, we recognize the Jesus as The King and give thanks that we are citizens of His kingdom. As Paul writes, "He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son" (Col. 1:13). Praise God that in Jesus we have a merciful and powerful king!
As a congregation we have "worship" every Sunday at 10am. But what do we mean by that word, "worship"? The word is used in a variety of ways even within the church. In a sense, our entire lives are lives of worship. As God's people, we are His witnesses in our daily lives through our words and deeds. Our daily prayers, reading of Scripture, and serving our neighbor are acts of worship. But more specifically, we come together to worship as God's people gathered physically in one place at the same time on Sunday morning. This worship service, or Divine Service, is primarily a time when God is giving something to us. God is acting. God is serving us. God is feeding us His Word in our ears and the very body and blood of Jesus in our mouths.
In his book, The Fire and the Staff, Pastor Klemet Preus has this to say about the Divine Service, "If the Divine Service is viewed primarily as our praising God, then you can do that just as well at home. In fact, once we have looked at the topic of vocation, you will see that we can serve God better in the world than in the church building. But if the service is understood as God giving us the forgiveness of sins, then you've got to be there. It is very possible that the low attendance at Sunday services seen in so many churches today is a reflection of how we define the service. If I am acting, then I can do it at another time. If God is acting, I better be there."
We do not need to make God happy with us. We cannot manipulate God by what we do. Through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Lord already delights in us calling us His children. God wants us in worship for our benefit not His, so He can serve us. Worship starts with God. He comes to us with His gifts. We respond with our thanks and praise, our tithes and offerings. The opportunity to come together as God's people on a Sunday morning to receive His gifts is a great blessing. Let us not give up meeting together!