Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel
by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
The readings for Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012:
The voice of the LORD is upon the waters. (Ps. 29:3)
This Sunday marks the baptism of Christ. I love the words of God in this baptism: "Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased." Note that God says this at the beginning of Christ's ministry, before Jesus has actually done much. In fact, in this Gospel of Mark, the baptism scene is our first introduction to Jesus. Mark doesn't give us a nativity story.
Here's the best news of all: God feels the same way about you.
God feels the same way about you: you are God's chosen ones; God is well pleased with each and every one of you.
For those of us who might have grown up with the idea of an angry God, a punishing parent, this message can be quite powerful. God loves you, regardless of what you've done, in spite of what you've done. God's love has nothing to do with what you've accomplished.
Certainly God has ideas of how we can live our best lives, in much the way a friend wants what's best for a friend, a parent wants a child to make choices that will lead the child to fulfillment. But regardless of what we've done or not done, regardless of the roads we've taken, regardless of how well we're living our mission to be the light of Christ in the world, God loves us.
This is a powerful message as we start the new year. For some of us, a new year is a chance to beat ourselves up over how much we haven't accomplished. We think of all the past resolutions we haven't been able to keep. We think of all the ways we haven't been our best selves. We think of all the people we've disappointed. We can quickly spiral into a vicious circle of self-hatred and depression.
God knows all the ways we might not deserve it, but God loves us anyway. Again, that's the great thing about being a Lutheran and believing in grace--God knows us completely, and God loves us thoroughly. We don't have to do anything to earn this love. Indeed, we can't.
Look at the great lengths God has gone to to let us know of that love. Think of the Christmas and Epiphany stories. God becomes a little baby, born in a stable--and why? To let us know of God's love. God becomes a refugee because of Herod's jealousy. God loves us so much--the Bible is full of stories that show God going to great lengths to show humanity this love. An observant person might say that God still goes to great lengths to get our attention.
The juxtaposition of the Christmas/Epiphany stories and the Baptism of Christ also gives us an opportunity to see how differently people respond to this gift of grace and love. Herod is so threatened that he slaughters every child in Bethlehem and the surrounding region. John, on the other hand, tells everyone about the coming arrival of Jesus.
How will you respond to God's great gift of love?