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Saturday, January 08, 2011

Matthew 3:13-17
Baptism of our Lord Sunday
January 8, 2011

Let’s be honest, you and I.
Jesus hadn’t done anything as far as we know.
The scriptures are silent. All those childhood years. Those young adult years.
Adolescents and puberty. Whisper quiet.
He had accomplished exactly zip. Nada. Zero.
His resume wouldn’t have completed a proper paragraph.
No one healed. No sermons preached. No bread yet broken, nor fish multiplied.
No demons banished, nor the powerful humbled, nor the dead given back their life.
No suffering, cross, no victory. Not yet anyway.
Soon and very soon and then in generous plenty.

Oh, there are stories outside of the Bible here and there.
About Jesus the irascible child doing this or that, but those aren’t scripture,
just curious tales and depending upon your inclination, creative fiction.
And then Jesus rises out of the waters of his baptism and God speaks: “Beloved.”
"This is my Son, my beloved, and with him I am well-pleased."

And we may wonder, you and I,
What about us?
In the grand scheme of things,
Our life,
As we rise each day, new in our Baptism.
The power of the one event, the one day,
The day when the water met the word and met us.
The day when we died to sin and rose to newness of life.
The day we died to ourselves to live for Christ.
The day we were signed, sealed and delivered to God and for God.
Mark with the cross of Christ forever.

That day.
And then this day, we rise this day, still wet, still soaking, still a child of promise.
Still brothers and sisters to Christ and in Christ.
Still children of God.
Still Kingdom-bound.
What about us?
We may wonder.
Are the heaven’s ripping wide open?
Is the voice of God booming, we imagine, not whisper soft but loud and strong
and resonate, echoing in the halls of heaven, resounding from the deepest deep,
the very power of creation its strength.

And does that voice of God speak to us and all within hearing and call us,
call us by name, but more.
In a word, in the power of brevity, speak the word: Beloved.
Dear to the heart of God: Beloved.

Gone is the idea: God as some far away deity, some great creator on permanent vacation or even just a creation-long sabbatical.
God is not some far away deity that put everything together and then went away to plant other gardens and to admire the way that grass grows, and flowers blossom. Somewhere else.
God does not love us from afar.
Beloved is not a word that tolerates distance or intentional separation.
It speaks of intimacy. Of hearts and souls and minds for one another in trust and love and life and death, not merely at the same table or in the same room or at the same party.
Beloved: Dear to the heart of God.

Does being that close to God make us uncomfortable?
Too intimate, too powerful, too personal: Beloved.
What if?
What if we began to define ourselves, to understand ourselves,
to find our meaning in that place, in God’s love for us?
Is it true that we have spent far too much time and effort trying to find answers everywhere else and we are not satisfied with what we have found?

Perhaps some have sojourned here and there and everywhere, trying this and that, trying to find the right formula, the correct mixture, the elusive balance, the ephemeral peace , when the peace that passes all understanding is right there. There is the very heart of God, that loves us, calls to us, died for us, whose grace accepted us first before we could even dare raise our eyes and ask for forgiveness, loved us first knowing everything there was to know about us, even the things we would not dare admit to ourselves or speak aloud.

Perhaps we have forgotten our Baptism.
Perhaps we have dried ourselves off. Dressed ourselves in other clothes.
But today is a day of remembrance. Of affirmation.
Of sacred and generous celebration
We the baptized soaking ourselves again in the promise of God
Throwing away the towel.
Kicking off our shoes.
Wading into the water. Immersing ourselves in the very heart of God.

Gracious God,
your love for us is beyond our understanding.
You love us when we feel most unlovable;
When we cannot even love ourselves,
you declare that we are dear to your heart.
You invite us to enter more deeply into your love,
that there you may be more fully known.
May we immerse ourselves in your heart
And come to realize that we cannot even begin to exhaust
even the smallest portion of your love’s meaning;
its height, its width, its depth.
Thank you Lord for your love for us.

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