Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
In 1965, the Coca-Cola Corporation primarily as a means for advertising commissioned Cartoonist Charles Schultz to create a Christmas special. Charles Schultz then began to create a vision of A Charlie Brown Christmas. Schultz embarked on the project not merely wishing to entertain, he insisted if he was going to attach his name this special was going to be about some sort of deeper meaning. Charles Schultz wanted to craft a special that captures the melancholy or bitter sweetness of the Holiday season faced by so many people. To add to the realness of the story, Schultz insisted that there be no laugh-track so the story would develop organically. Schultz also insisted upon having children rather than adults do the voices (unheard of at the time) as a way of emphasizing the lack of polish he wished for his characters to convey. But the ultimate request that Charles Schultz made to CBS was that a reading of the Nativity Story from the Gospel of Luke be included. Executives were reluctant of the overt religiosity of a special that dared to include a 51 second reading from the King James Bible. Executives after A Charlie Brown Christmas sneak previews were convinced that this would be the last Charlie Brown special because it was going to bomb, so bad. They would have taken it off the air, yet it was already on the schedule with the backing of one its biggest sponsors in Coca-Cola. Yet a Charlie Brown Christmas was a smash hit. Half the TV’s in America were turned into it; it won Emmy and Peabody awards later that year. The same special in 2010 was a given a five year extension by ABC taking it up to 50 years of Christmas viewings. A Charlie Brown Christmas is the definition of a Holiday Classic. What I wish to talk about tonight is the reasons for its popularity.
A Charlie Brown Christmas is popular because Charlie’s experience is all of our experiences. Charlie comes to the Holidays living in a painful place, feeling isolated from the world around him, it’s the story of feeling sad on what is supposed to be the happiest of occasions, yet it is in the midst of all this that Charlie Brown through his friends Linus receives the surprise of Grace. It was in the magical 51 seconds of a reading from tonight’s Gospel from Luke 2nd Chapter that the Charlie Brown was lifted from his gloom and his existence changed forever.
For those unfamiliar of not remembering the story well, A Charlie Brown Christmas tells the story of a depressed Kindergarten boy on the eve of Christmas. Charlie couldn’t understand why he wasn’t in the mood for the Holidays. Charlie had a hard time grasping why he felt like he did with everyone around him seeming to be so happy. Charlie on the advice of his friend/enemy Lucy agrees to direct a Christmas play as a means of trying to get into the Holiday Spirit. Yet Charlie’s leadership soon encounters kids who seem more interested in just trying to have fun then discovering the true meaning of the season. Charlie figures the only way to fix the cast’s attitude, with the play, is to go purchase a tree. Lucy gives Charlie the suggestion of purchasing the biggest, shiniest, pinkest tree in the lot. Yet when Charlie gets to the Tree Lot a certain tree stands out to him, the only real tree in the lot. Yet this tree was not a beautiful tree it was a wimpy tree, a weak tree, a dying tree. Yet there was something about this tree that captivated Charlie Brown. The Tree was a metaphor of how Charlie Brown saw himself. Once Charlie returns with this puny tree, he is instantly laughed at. Lucy couldn’t believe how dumb Charlie would be to purchase such an ugly tree. This last bit of mockery began to break Charlie Brown down. Charlie had come to the point in his life where he viewed everything he touched as a disaster. The cruelty of the children around him caused Charlie to eventually break down as a he said in a tone of agony, “Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”
Then out onto the stage walks Linus. Linus was an interesting choice to read the Christmas story in front of an audience since Linus whole existence was marked by a lack of self-confidence. Linus was known by everyone else around him for his famous security blanket, which people thought of as being silly, childish, and unnecessary. Yet Linus needed this blanket as something to grasp so that when he was weak and heavy laden, he could be given comfort and rest- Matthew 11:28.
So as soon as Linus steps onto the stage- he reads Our Gospel Lesson.
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
As soon as Linus proclaimed to Charlie Brown the true meaning of the Holiday. Charlie Brown was given a new sense of purpose. Charlie decided to pick up his fragile little tree, and then walk home. After hearing Linus’ words, Charlie decided that this tree was important because it was his tree. Charlie wasn’t going to abandon his tree; he was just going to keep on loving his tree. In the meantime, moved by Linus’ reading as a critique of their selfishness the Peanuts gang follows Charlie Brown home, where Linus upon seeing the tree standing before him proclaimed another word of Grace as he says, “I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little bit love.”
Linus saw hope where no one else saw it in the scrawny, little tree. The Peanuts Gang then decorated the tree revealing its beauty and self-worth, right before singing “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing“ together as the show closed.
As a way of illustrating the impact of this special on the American public about the weak, little tree. One thing that should be noted for anyone born in 1979 like myself is that a very popular trend of the early 1960’s was skipping real Christmas trees for brightly colored aluminum ones hence the pink trees being prominent in the special. But when viewers saw Charlie Brown stand by his tree in spite of its ever diminishing life span, it caused the aluminum tree market to collapse. Hence aluminum trees were no longer being manufactured just two years after A Charlie Brown Christmas first made it on the air.
The story of Charlie Brown brings us to our Gospel lesson for today. It’s a message to the Charlie Brown’s and Linus’s other there. It’s a message that Jesus Christ was born as a way of bringing good news to those who have been beaten down by self-doubt, anxiety, and despair. It’s a message to those who see in the mirror everyday all the ways they’ve fallen short, for not being pretty enough, rich enough, tall enough, or strong enough. It’s a message that seeks to break down the fake human masks that we tend to portray for all the world to see versus the weakness of our very reality as emphasized by Charlie Brown’s little tree. It is a message that seeks to reach those who feel forgotten and abandoned by the world. It is a message about Shepherds, the people who occupied the very margins of society. Shepherds were considered to be the type of people who society had given up on yet. Yet when the Angel comes to them it illustrates that God does not give up, when others around you do.
For born this night was a baby lying in a manager wrapped in swaddling clothes as a mere mortal, the Son of God was born in a feeding trough. It’s a story which proclaims that Jesus is being born amongst those who least expect it. It’s a tale that says when you’re like Charlie Brown and about to give up as you’re broken by the world, broken by your own sin, to remind you that God does not give up on you. God sent his own son into the world, born of a Virgin. So that as a many as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ- Galatians 3:27. The message of tonight is we are all ultimately Charlie Brown. So that even when we are afflicted by that which occurs around us this Holiday Season or the months that come after it, we know that we are not alone in this world.
Be assured that on this night a baby was born to be your savior. This baby was born to unexpected parents in the lowliest of places of a feeding trough. This Baby was born to embrace you in the midst of your failure, and never let you go. This is the story of A Charlie Brown Christmas and this is our story for tonight. Amen
 Cavna, Micheal. “ ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas 2012’: The gospel truth behind how tonight’s ‘Peanuts’ special became a beloved holiday classic. Washingston Post. 28.Nov.2012. Web. Dec.10.2013
 Cavna, Micheal. “ ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas 2012’: The gospel truth behind how tonight’s ‘Peanuts’ special became a beloved holiday classic. “
 Habeeb, Lee. “The Gospel According to Peanuts”. National Review Online. 25.Nov.2011. Web. Dec.10.2013
 Habeeb, Lee. “The Gospel According to Peanuts.”
 Habeeb, Lee. “The Gospel According to Peanuts”
 Marciuliano, Fransesco. “6 True Facts about ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’. Smosh Online. 3.Dec.2012. Web. Dec.10.2013
 Cavna, Micheal. “ ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas 2012’: The gospel truth behind how tonight’s ‘Peanuts’ special became a beloved holiday classic.
 Habeeb, Lee. “The Gospel According to Peanuts”.
 Johnson, Matt. “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown.” Resurgence Online. Mars Hill Church-Seattle, WA. 21.Dec.2012.Web. Dec.11.2012.
 Schneider, Matt. “That’s What Christmas Is All About, Charlie Brown: Law and Gospel According to Peanuts, Pt. 2.” Mockingbird. Christ Episcopal Church- Charlottesville, VA. 7 Dec.2012. Web. Dec.10.2013
 Schneider, Matt. “You’re a Hopeless Case, Charlie Brown: Law and Gospel According to Peanuts.” Mockingbird. Christ Episcopal Church- Charlottesville, VA. 18.Jan.2012 Web. Dec.10.2013
 Schneider, Matt. “You’re a Hopeless Case, Charlie Brown: Law and Gospel According to Peanuts.”
 Schneider, Matt. “That’s What Christmas Is All About, Charlie Brown: Law and Gospel According to Peanuts, Pt. 2.”
 Marciuliano, Fransesco. “6 True Facts about ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’
 Satterlee, Craig. A. “Commentary on Luke 2:1-14 [15-20]”. Working Preacher. 24.Dec.2012. Web. Dec.11.2013
 Satterlee, Craig. A. “Commentary on Luke 2:1-14 [15-20]”.
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
I want to tell you the story today of a man who didn’t say much. A man best described as the strong, silent type. Yet this man was an integral part of our Gospel despite never issuing one word throughout it. This morning, we’re going to look at the story of Joseph, the Father of Jesus.
Joseph was raised in the town of Bethlehem. Joseph moved to the town of Nazareth probably to find work as a carpenter. The town of Nazareth wasn’t very big; it only had a population of about 400 people. Barely anyone had even heard of Nazareth. Yet Nazareth was nearby the city of Sepphoris which was the regional capitol of Galilee a little more than 4 miles away. Within the town of Sepphoris lived Joachim, Anna, and their daughter Mary. Joachim and Anna knew Joseph, they were distant cousins, and they knew that he would be good for Mary. They both knew that there were things that Joseph lacked mainly money and desirable skill. Joseph was merely a common laborer. Yet Anna and Joachim figured he had the type of character that would see to it that Mary was always treated well and cared for her above all others.
Mary would have been prized above all else for her virginity. The Marriage of Mary and Joseph was arranged when Mary was about 12 years old. Joseph and Mary were then considered to be betrothed to each other. They were considered to be husband and wife in the legal sense, yet they were going to have to wait for a period of one year to consummate the marriage in a moral sense.
Then one day Joseph’s whole world began to change. Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant. Joseph knew that he wasn’t the Father. This news crushed Joseph! Joseph had so much going on inside him when he found out. Joseph feared becoming a laughingstock; once it was made known to those around him that he wasn’t the father. Joseph internally went through a whole range of emotions upon hearing this news: Joseph was depressed, then Joseph was confused, but more than all this Joseph by shattered wishes that things weren’t going to work out with Mary. Joseph’s response to Mary’s pregnancy though was noteworthy. Joseph was a man of high character. He was the type of person who would stick up for someone when the chips were down. Joseph was the type of person who would stay loyal to someone who didn’t give them any obvious benefit.
Joseph didn’t want to try to one up Mary as a way of lessening his own humiliation. Joseph looked upon Mary with grace. So Joseph looked at Mary wishing to divorce her quietly. Joseph knew that if he made a spectacle of what Mary had done the consequences would be dire. Joseph knew that the Law of the Land was such that if a woman cheated on her finance, she and her lover were both ordered to be stoned to death. People were especially harsh if the women involved were a virgin.
One night, Joseph’s whole world changed forever. Joseph was visited by an Angel. The Angel then proclaimed to Joseph- “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit”
As soon as Joseph heard these words, he was at the crossroads of his life. He probably couldn’t have imagined the purpose behind such an arrangement. Yet the Angel’s next words brought it all into perspective.
“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us)
Joseph was given no concrete proof of this new reality of life. He merely knew that he needed to marry Mary as soon as possible to protect his wife from getting stoned to death once evidence of her pregnancy began to show. Mary and Joseph then had to get ready to the 80-mile journey with his pregnant wife Mary to his hometown of Bethlehem to participate in the Roman Census as she readied to give birth.
What Joseph’s story does for us this morning is illustrate how one’s worldview guides them in life.
To illustrate this let me tell a story.
I knew a guy we’ll call Jim that had all sorts of things going for him in life; Jim was smart, he became a lawyer, Jim was hard-working, Jim was detailed-oriented, and made millions of dollars. Yet Jim had one guiding principle that carried him through all human interaction, “Never forget a wrong”. When Jim was getting up there in years, he decided to write notes to all of his 8 children to be given to them upon his death. These notes were going to highlight the ways that they disappointed him over the years. Some of Jim’s children upon reading these notes proceeded to take the last words that they ever received from their father and throw them in the trash. As you can imagine, years after this man’s death kind words are rarely spoken about Jim. I want to defend Jim this morning. Jim had experienced plenty in life to cause him to expect disappointment in other people. Jim had seen others try to take advantage of him for his wealth. Jim wasn’t a villain; he was incredibly smart, and more complex than others would give him credit. He was generous with his money and always wanted what was best for other people. Yet Jim thought like plenty of other people think the same type of people who laughed at Joseph for daring to take Mary as his wife. The type of people who would think it was foolish to risk their whole world on the visit of an angel. Jim didn’t want to embrace the possibility of hope and renewal when it came to other people
Compare Jim to Joseph. I imagine Joseph was taken in with an almost gullible, optimism as he heard the words “and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” These words seemed to be a pronouncement of foolishness. Words that a hardened cynic would laugh at, yet Joseph embraced a great hope that these words could be true. Joseph believed that grace was real and was about to come to him in the form of a child.
There was no real good reason for Joseph to be chosen to be the Father of Jesus. Joseph was no religious scholar, Joseph had no political power. The only real noteworthy thing about Joseph was that he was a distant relative of King David, who had been deceased for over 900 years. For the reason that Joseph’s story is so noteworthy is because it really emphasizes the Gospel. We receive God’s favor not for doing anything. We receive God’s favor in spite of our initial misgivings that a Virgin could really give birth to the Son of God. Joseph’s story says something to us about the nature of faith. How our faith in the Angel’s pronouncements can’t be proven. Yet the whole plan and reality of salvation is so different from our everyday experiences that it really can’t be any other way.
Joseph’s impact upon Jesus’ life cannot just be seen in Gospel lesson for Today. The visit of the Angel to Joseph would be the first of four visits in Josephs’ dreams.
The second dream would occur shortly after Jesus’ birth as the Angel tells Joseph to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt, and remain there awaiting further instruction, because Herod is seeking to find and kill Jesus as Herod had ordered the killing of all young male children born in the vicinity of Bethlehem for fear of his own throne-Matthew 2:13.
The third dream has the Angel instruct Joseph to return his family to Bethlehem with news of the death of King Herod. Yet Joseph was still hesitant because of fear of Herod’s Son- Matthew 2:19-20
The fourth dream has God himself assuring Joseph that it was ok to return his family back to Bethlehem, before Joseph eventually leads them to settle again in Nazareth in Galilee where Jesus was raised.
One thing that should also be stated this morning is that Joseph had several other children besides Jesus. Matthew the 13th chapter makes a reference to James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon being Jesus brothers along with a reference to Jesus having sisters who are never named.
The last appearance of Joseph in our Gospels is the story of Jesus visiting the Temple with the Boy Jesus at the age of twelve. This last appearance shed unique insight into their relationship. Jesus didn’t in these moments speak of Joseph as his father, but described himself as being inside his Father’s house. When Jesus spoke this description was not common. No one would have dared to describe God as their Father before this, except the one that came from heaven itself.
Yet the relationship between Jesus and Joseph still remained like that of Father and Son. In the 6th chapter of John upon a return to Nazareth early in his earthly ministry, people from his hometown grew greatly skeptical of Jesus claims to be the one to usher in the Kingdom of God. They saw Jesus as too ordinary, too common to say the things that he said. John 6:42 has the crowd asking “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven?’
Yet as the crowd grew upset with Jesus claims, they missed something very important about heaven. Heaven is not some distant far away reality, we cannot grasp, when instead Heaven came down to Earth in the most ordinary, human of forms raised by a woodworker.
Church tradition has Joseph dying around the year 18 or 19 AD or about 10 years before his son began his ministry. When Jesus and his Mother Mary attend the Wedding at Cana, the sight of Jesus first’ miracle and the beginning of his ministry, Joseph is never mentioned. In Mark the 6th Chapter upon, Jesus is referred to as Mary’s Son a reference that would only make sense in a male-leadership driven culture if the Father was not dead. There is never any evidence given in the Christian Gospels that Mary was anything other than a widow during the time that Jesus lived.
Yet the limited impact of Joseph during Jesus ministry doesn’t take away from the impact of his story. Joseph’s story for us is a story of the Gospel. It’s a story of a young man who had his heartbroken when he found out his young wife was pregnant, yet he wasn’t the father. Though Joseph even upon receiving this most difficult of news wished that harm wouldn’t come Mary’s way. Joseph’s story is a story of hope, a story of being able to embrace that a new day will be different from the old day. Joseph went against every previous life experience, because the Gospel goes against every previous life experience. “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Amen
 Markquart, Ed. “Joseph and the Virgin Birth”. Sermons from Seattle. Web. Dec.11.2013
 Matthew 1:19
 Leviticus 20:10
 Matthew 1:20
 Matthew 1:21-23
 Matthew 13:55-56
 Luke 2:39-52
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and Fire”- Matthew 3:11.
These words from our Gospel lesson for today which reflects upon the ministry of John the Baptist, how John the Baptist preached in the wilderness encouraging people to be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. Our Gospel shows how John’s Baptism in being similar set the stage for our own Baptisms. But what exactly do John’s words mean “I have baptized you with water, but he who is to come will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
To reflect upon these words’ meaning, I want to reflect upon the wisdom of one of America’s greatest religious thinkers in Archie Bunker.
For those of you who don’t know Archie Bunker. Archie was the lead character on a very popular TV show “All in the Family” in the 1970’s. Archie Bunker was anything, but polished or politically correct in his thoughts. Some might call him TV’s most lovable bigot as most of the show’s humor revolved around Archie making derogatory comments to those who were of different races, nationalities, sexualities, or held different political views from his own. Archie was the definition of a hothead, who would just say whatever thought popped into his head without regard for the consequences.
When it came to Religion, Archie Bunker was complicated. Archie would frequently assert during the course of the show, how important his Christianity was to him. Yet Archie rarely went to church and when he would go he’d storm off because he wouldn’t like the Minister’s Sermon.
When Archie does finally commit to start attending church, he does everything he can to get out of it, when it starts to conflict with his wishes to attend a Football game. So, why do we reflect on the wisdom of Archie Bunker this morning?
Because in 1976, there was an episode of “All in the Family” that dealt with the Christian understanding of Baptism like no American TV show before or since.
In this episode, Archie gets into a huge argument with his Daughter Gloria and Son-In-Law Michael or Meathead over whether they should have their Baby (Archie's Grandson) Joey baptized. Archie's Son-In-Law Meathead didn't want Joey baptized, “Because Meathead considered himself to be an Atheist”.
When Archie tried reasoning with Meathead, he reminded him that Meathead had been baptized. At which point an angry Meathead cried out “How he renounces his publically renounces his Baptism and it means nothing to him”.
At which point, Archie points out with his normal sense of tactfulness, how this is the stupidest thing he had ever heard. This would be the same thing as Meathead renouncing his belly button, it's impossible to do; just because you say renounce your Baptism doesn't make it so.
This scene brings up all sorts of questions that people have about Baptism. Meathead thinks of Baptism like most people do (Atheists and Christians) alike. It's just a ceremony were water is poured over the head. Sort of a family rite of passage with religious meaning for Michael and many others, Baptism doesn't actually do anything.
For example, when I worked down in Lamberton, I was at the Funeral Home for a Visitation when a guy comes up to me because he heard that I was a Minister. This guy wanted to quiz me or interrogate me.
This guy asks me, “If I actually believe Baptism saves anyone?”
This guy proceeds to tell me it’s more important that someone asks “Jesus into their Heart” as a true measure of their salvation.
Before giving me a chance to respond, perhaps because this guy knew he wasn’t going to like what I had to say.
He then starts quoting from the 3rd Chapter of John of how one needs to be “born-again” of BOTH Water and the Spirit so Baptism isn't enough. How we can't trust in our Baptism to save us.
At this time I pointed out how we I agreed with him that if everyone who is saved must be born-again.
Yet where we differed is when I pointed out how we participate about as much in our Rebirth and as we do in our Natural Birth. Where we disagreed on what it means to be “born-again”. Where as he associated being born-again with a dramatic life-transformation where you overcome your doubt and sin, instead being born-again is the very act of God to create faith and eternal life in the midst of sin and death in the waters of Baptism.
We are not born-again because we are effective Christians; we are born-again when we're rescued from drowning in sin by work of God's own Spirit.
Water by itself means nothing. Yet when water is connected to the promises of the Word of God then new life can come into being.
For the main issue involved in studying Baptism comes down to one fundamental question. This doesn't matter if Lutherans and Baptists are debating whether to Baptize Infants or Meathead is claiming to renounce his Baptism, “Is Baptism the work of God or the work of Man?”
If Baptism is the work of God then it's proper to associate Baptism with salvation. If Baptism is the work of God then one's age or intellectual ability is meaningless. If Baptism is the work of God then the Mark of the Cross upon our forehead given in Baptism is as difficult to take away for who you are as a permanent scare across your own leg. Whereas if Baptism is the work of Man then your Baptism can be declared worthless if you claim to lose your faith like in the case of Meathead.
But what do the scriptures say on these issues.
Titus 3:5-7 states “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
This passage clearly associates the act of Baptism with the work of the Holy Spirit to do wonderful, magical acts in Baptism of renewal and regeneration.
I Peter 3:21 states this truth more explicitly when it states “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
One of the most common misunderstandings I here about Baptism is in relation to Confirmation. When people seem to believe that “Confirmation makes Baptism valid” or “Confirmation completes Baptism,” while Confirmation is useful for religious instruction, the celebration of it is little more than a family ceremony or rite of passage.
This is in direct contrast to Baptism where
To quote my good friend Dr. Joe Burgess
“In infant baptism the Word of promise (Our Gospel) produces faith, and such faith is obviously not a decision. Nor is such but a fragment of faith, a kick start, as it were, for the infant receives the Holy Spirit, who cannot be divided into parts and is not merely potentially present. Just as the infant does not potentially receive forgiveness and eternal life, but actually and fully.”
Yet people get nervous if you associate Baptism too closely with Salvation. They say what about professing Atheists like Michael from “All in the Family” who refuses to get even his own kid Baptized? They say what about people who show up for Baptism then you never see them again? What about the nominal Christians like Archie Bunker of the world?
I think part of the problem with all this is we love to hear Grace for ourselves and judgment cast upon everyone else. We're continually wanting to associate God's salvation with our worthiness in some way, shape, or form. Yet the only hope any of us for the gift of eternal life whether we're active Church members or never in attendance is the Grace of God to save whom he wants to save.
God does not save any individual unfairly, God saves every individual he chooses unfairly. If God chooses to save more people through Baptism then we think he should, this is God's business not our own.
So, what do we say about Atheists who have been Baptized years ago like Michael?
It's important to point out that people's faith is often complex.
When people claim to be Atheists they may have been jaded by the church or people in it somewhere along the line. These people then consider themselves to be Atheists. When it's just anger they hold at other people.
Sometimes people claim to be Atheists when they're just plain angry at God. A famous example of this type of Atheist would be Larry Flynt who's the Publisher of Hustler Magazine had a very public conversion to Christianity in the 1970's only to become a very public Atheist after he was shot and permanently paralyzed. Flynt then began cursing God at every turn.
Some teenagers might claim to be Atheists just because they're looking for attention. And it's sometimes tough to differentiate between a person's reality and person's pose.
So, in cases of Atheists like Michael or Meathead, we would never say one's Baptism didn't work since faith was there at some point in time. God did not fail these people. Rather they fell away from the Christian faith due to their own sin, pride, and anger.
As far as a Baptized Atheists' final eternal destination I prefer not to attempt to answer this question. The scriptures clearly state in several places that those “Who do not believe, shall not be saved?”
Yet at the same time-plenty of people have been saved in spite of imperfect beliefs. None of us can ever believe rightly on the basis of our own sin.
So, we always want to stress caution when considering one's final destination, instead we just proclaim the promises of Baptism which are the promises of our Gospel. We might not see magical transformations right away. Yet the power of the Holy Spirit is such that he can breakdown the seemingly most impenetrable of walls. And reach people with the hope that God has claimed them as his own.
Back to the conclusion of this “All in the Family” Episode. Archie comes up with some scheme to get Baby Joey out of the house with him. Once Archie realizes the Minister is going to be of no help with his dilemma. Archie takes the radical next step of sneaking the Baby into the Church himself and bringing his Grandson to the Baptismal Font. Archie then dips his hand in the water and places it over his Grandson Joey's head at he mouths the words “I baptize thee in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit”.
Archie Bunker may have seemed or appeared to be one of the worst people possible to shed light into how Christians understand Baptism. But in reality, he was one of the best. Because Archie wouldn't have thought Baptism was important, if he didn't understand the darkness in his own soul. Archie wouldn't have thought, Baptism was important, if he didn't realize his own powerlessness to change himself. Archie wouldn't have thought, Baptism was important, if he didn't realize how we all fall short of the glory of God. How spiritually dead we all are inside yet within the waters of Baptism, a miracle takes place which washes away our sins and gives us new life.
Why this happens? This makes no sense, other than the love of God who gave his life to save our own and will stop at nothing to bring us into his presence by the power of his Holy Spirit in Water.
For as our Gospel lesson states just as John baptized with Water, the one that came after him in God's own Son, Jesus Christ our Lord has baptized us through water with the Holy Spirit. Amen
 Mark 1:8
 John 3:18, John 3:36
 Romans 3:23
Pastor Stew Carlson
These are all Sunday sermon's written by Pastor Stew.