v.25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
Alleluia! Christ the Lord is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Dear friends in Christ, it is one of the most cherished times for new parents—bath time. It is a beautiful experience, almost beyond words, to hold your infant in your hands and bathe them—gently washing them with warm water—listening to their gurgles and looking into their eyes—as we speak to them with nonsensical sounds in order to elicit a reaction or, heaven be praised, a smile! It is a tremendous joy and gift that parents are blessed by God to care for their children in this manner.
Of course, as most experienced parents know (particularly mothers), bath time can quickly turn into a struggle with their older children. It seems as though most children reach a certain age where they rather enjoy the dirt much more than the clean. They would rather wallow in their filth than step foot into a bathtub or shower. Their own personal stink seems unto them as the most pleasing aroma—despite the evidence of dying flowers left in their wake. And so bath time can become a chore—a battle—rather than a pleasant moment—it is greeted with dread—by both parent and child alike.
Now, why all this talk of bath time today, this final Sunday of Easter—Exaudi—or "listen/hear" Sunday? Well, not only is this the day on which we celebrate God's gift of mothers and motherhood, which involves a good deal of bathing of children, but moreso because the prophet Ezekiel, moved by the Holy Spirit, spoke in this way to God's people. You see, the prophet Ezekiel lived and worked during the time of the great exile of the southern kingdom of Judah. They had forsaken God, abandoned Him and His Word, and so God had brought destruction upon them, after much warning and earnest pleas for their repentance. Many of the people who had survived the dreaded Assyrian assault were taken into captivity, where God declared they would remain for 70 years.
But herein the prophet speaks words of hope to the exiles. He speaks of the steadfast faithfulness of the Lord who will restore His people, not for their sake, but for the sake of His own holy name. The Lord declares to these unworthy people that in order to vindicate His own holiness He will gather them from all the places they have been scattered and bring them back to the land that He had promised them from of old.
But how can this be? This is a people covered in sin—rebellious and stubborn—a people who cling to worthless idols—which brings the stain of guilt and shame upon them. Nevertheless, God's Word is clear, "I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you." Though this stubborn, wicked people have clung to their worthless idols—wallowing in the filth of their sin as children desire to remain gross and dirty—yet God would give them a bath. Kicking and screaming God would draw them to Himself and bathe them with clean water, washing away their sin and giving them a new heart and a new spirit—a heart of faith in place of cold, dead, unbelief.
Indeed, the Hebrew here is rather strong, indicating that God would not only cleanse them from their uncleannesses, but from their "poop" idols—their false gods. These worthless objects of worship that only led the people further into sin and death—into the sinking cesspool of faithlessness—wherein they worshiped the created rather than the Creator and Redeemer of all. Through His prophetic Word, God would work His salvation—bringing His beloved children out of bondage and slavery in exile—into the promised land—by His grace. They did nothing to deserve this—they did nothing to save themselves—indeed, they could not. Yet God worked faith in their hearts through His blessed Word of promise and hope.
Such is the case for you and me, today, dear brothers and sisters in Christ. For this wonderful text in Ezekiel foreshadows the gift of Holy Baptism instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ for all people to be cleansed from their sin and purged from their disgusting "poop" idols. In Baptism you are washed clean by the power of God's own holy name. Though in your sinful condition into which you are conceived and born, you would have nothing to do with God, being His enemy, yet in love for you, He takes you as His own beloved child and bathes you with water and Word in order to cleanse you and rescue you from the filth of your guilt and sin, which leads only to death.
Now, having been bathed in the blood of Jesus who went to the cross to pay for your sin with His own suffering and death, you are restored and given a new heart and new spirit, just as Ezekiel foretold. In your Baptism you have received the gift of the Holy Spirit of God who has come to work faith and life in your heart. No longer are you focused on your sins—nor your works—nor anything else—but rather your eyes are focused upon Jesus—the Author and Perfector of your faith.
As Christians we rejoice in the gift of life and love that our Lord has so freely bestowed upon us by His work on the cross—and delivered to us in our Baptism. We see the world around us, though marred with sin and death, as a wondrous gift of God given to us to enjoy and a place for us to work to serve our neighbor with love and fidelity. For in your Baptism we are new creations in Christ Jesus! We live and love and learn and work and play, all the while secure in His love and mercy for us.
How do we know? How can we be certain of His continued love and faithfulness toward us? Well, as parents make sure their children are properly bathed and clean—as a sign of love for them—so our Lord continues to do for us. Not that we are re-baptized every day (for there is only one baptism as St. Paul declares in Ephesians), but rather that we return to our Baptism every day and every time we make the sign of the cross in remembrance of our Baptism. As Luther taught us this is a return to our Baptism—an act of repentance and faith—acknowledging that we are sinners in God's sight—but trusting in His cleansing love poured out for us in our Baptism.
For as God is our Father, even so the church is our mother—having given birth to us through Baptism and the Word, which the Holy Spirit used to create faith in our hearts. And so we return to our Baptism each day and every week, as we begin our service in the holy name of God—the very name into which we all are baptized—the Word combined with water that washes us clean of every sin, stain, and spot.
This is why, beloved, it is so beautiful to see people on their way to the Lord's Supper, touch or lean or rest upon the Baptismal font. For just as you wash and dress in your finest clothes before going to a fancy banquet meal or dinner, so, too, are you washed and dressed for this most sacred and blessed meal by virtue of your Baptism! You have been washed clean of all sin and robed in the righteousness of Christ Jesus Himself. This is the ONLY reason why are worthy to come to this holy meal—for you have been prepared for it by the Lord Himself—who longs for you to come and eat and drink with Him and receive His gifts of forgiveness and mercy given by His own crucified and risen body and blood.
So come, dear friends, come! Eat, drink, and be merry for you have been cleansed of all your sin by the washing of water with the Word. The Lord God loves you and cares for you better than any earthly parent and He will keep you in a right relationship with Him. He has taken you out of the world of sin and death, and brought you into the promised land of forgiveness and life—all by the work of His own beloved Son. For Alleluia! Christ the Lord is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Thanks be to God in Christ Jesus. Amen.