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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

The readings for Sunday, January 10, 2009:

First Reading: Isaiah 43:1-7

Psalm: Psalm 29

Second Reading: Acts 8:14-17

Gospel: Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

In this season of New Year's resolutions, consider this question: How would your life changed if you believed that God loves you the way you are, right now, before you even make any changes to become a better person?

It's true. God's not waiting for you to become more spiritual before God claims you. Even if you never get to the point where you pray more often, where you give away more money, where you become that good and patient person you are sure you can be, God loves you, marks you, claims you, is deliriously happy with you.

You don't have to lose that twenty pounds for God to find you worthy. You can have a wrecked household budget, and God still loves you.

Is your wounded elementary school/high school/adult child within you leaping up for joy yet? God would have given you beautiful Valentines during those horrid parties where the popular kids got all the Valentines and you didn't. God would choose you for the volleyball team, even if nobody else would, and God would never say hurtful things about your serve. God would have made sure to include you at lunch so that you wouldn't have had to spend your lunch hour hiding out in the library. God wouldn't make painful comments about your frumpy wardrobe, your golf swing, your decorating skills, your home repair skills, your kids, your career.

I worry that I'm veering towards goofiness, but I think that during our long years through the nation's educational systems, most of us learn all the ways we are inadequate, and most of us never unlearn those lessons. Even as grown ups, often the focus (in pop culture, in our jobs, in our families, in church even) is on our failings, on all the ways that we would measure up if we just did this thing or that thing or another thing. And then we work hard on self-improvement, and we've still got those messages: well, great, now you can focus on changing this next enormous thing.

All this effort towards self-improvement can make us a bit self-absorbed, and we forget to work on some of the real and serious problems in the world. What would happen if we decided that God needs us to be the person that we are, right here, right now, without any changes? What if we declared ourselves to be good enough?

Try it for a week or two or three. Tape the words of God to your bathroom mirror: "You are my beloved son/daughter; with you I am well pleased." Act like you believe that God loves you. Silence those voices in your head that tell you otherwise. Cease that negative self talk. And minimize the amount of time you spend with people who don't value you.

Think about the ministry of Jesus. Think about the healing nature of kingdom building that God calls us all to do. Jesus doesn't waste time saying, "Oh, if only I didn't have to spend so much time with all these sick people. If only I could get an audience with our Roman ruler. If only I had a different purpose, a different ministry, a different destiny."

We never see Jesus working to lose weight or to exercise more or to read more or . . . . Jesus gets right to work at the job God has called him to do. And keep in mind that God declares Jesus beloved and pleasing early on, before Jesus has actually done anything.

We don't have time to waste with all this negative New Year's negativity. God loves you before you ever make a self-improvement plan. In your baptism, God has already declared you perfect. Perhaps this year, instead of endless self-improvement plans, you could pledge to remember God's love for you each time your skin touches water. Imagine how your life might change if you could just do that!

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