he who keeps you will not slumber

Millions of young people all around the world have learnt this Psalm by heart in their Sunday Schools and confirmation classes. To millions of people this text has given strength and confidence in difficult situations. In a wonderful way it comprises and puts in words what we as Christians believe and experience: God’s caring hands and his presence in our life. This is the wide horizon in which we are put in through our baptism. This is the wide horizon in which we put all of you in who are going to be baptized today.

Therefore this day is a very special day for you and your children. As you parents take good care of your children in every day’s life, as you provide food for them and look after their physical needs – now you are also concerned about their spiritual wellbeing and that they may be born again and become children of God so that they can take part in the fullness of life which God grants to us.

Without baptism there would be something missing in your lives, something really essential and important.

Of course we can live without baptism as many people do. Looking from outside it makes no difference whether someone is baptized or not. We can be as successful as the other ones. We can fail just as the other ones. We can be as sick or healthy, we can be hit by an accident or saved just like anybody else. Our baptism is no life insurance, it is no guarantee that we always will feel good and happy.

And still: we would miss out something very essential and decisive if we were not baptized. We would miss God’s firm promise that he loves us. We would miss God’s promise that these old words from Psalm 121 are spelt out right for you very personally: He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Today God reaches out to you who are going to be baptized. Today he wants to put his peace into your heart. Today he wants to reconcile you. This is the wonderful promise which lasts for your whole life. God’s hand is there.

No matter which way or detour you will walk in your life. No matter into which kind of dead end you may get in. No matter what kind of silly things you may do or where you might slip in. In your baptism God tells you: “You are valuable to me, I am in favor of you”. You are so valuable to God that he gave his own son Jesus Christ for you, nailed him to the cross to save you, to overcome all our fears, our needs, our sorrows and to open the way into his presence, to open the way into eternal life and an intimate and everlasting relationship with the almighty God.

This is the wide horizon, this is the promise which God gives us in our baptism. This counts and this is valid for the rest of our life. This would be missing if we were not baptized. Today the living God gives you the promise that he will be there for you even if you run away or if whatever circumstances want to separate you from him. God’s covenant counts. God knows you. God knows you by name. You are not just a nobody amongst millions of other nobodies. The almighty creator of heaven and earth signs his covenant with you today in your baptism. This is also what Martin Luther counted on when he was in deep doubts and temptation. “I am baptized”. God has chosen me to be his beloved child. This is the solid ground we can stand on. God is the one who acts. God is the one who grants me new life – just because he loves me. This is the foundation of our Christian faith. It is not my decision. It is not my good works. It is not my pure and good moral way of life. No. It all depends on God.

That is what Psalm 121 talks about: He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. To this God I may and I shall lift up my eyes. It is both at the same time: I may and I shall. What a privilege that I tiny little human being, that I am allowed to call the almighty eternal God just Abba, daddy.

And at the same time this is something which I actually shall do. God wants to be asked. God urges us to bring all our needs into his presence. There are so many stories where people come to Jesus and ask him for something. Just think of the blind man in Jericho who shouts to Jesus: “Jesus, you son of David, have mercy!”, or the four friends who carry their crippled friend, open up the roof and drop him down, or think of the Roman soldier in Capernaum who approaches Jesus for the sake of his sick servant. Here is the foundation for our prayer and intercession. This is the foundation why we may and why we shall ask God – for ourselves and for others. – And all this imbedded into the irrevocable assurance and into the steadfast confidence and firm trust that he will not let our foot be moved, that he who keeps us will not slumber, that he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep, that the Lord is our keeper, that he is our shade at our right hand, that the sun shall not strike us by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep us from all evil; he will keep our life. The Lord will preserve our going out and our coming in now and forever more. – Amen.

This sermon was shared by Rev Thomas Paulsteiner of ELCB at the baptism of 23 Orang Asli in Pengkalan Hulu, Malaysia.