Jesus’ identity is confirmed….not by the crowds who like his teaching, not even by the he heals. Jesus’ identity is confirmed by the one who formed his very being, who breathed life into his bones, who created him in God’s image.
January 15, 2023
“Lessons from the Gospel of Matthew”
Matthew 3: 13-17
Rev. Dr. Heather W. McColl
Matthew 3: 13-17
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw God’s Spirit descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from the heavens said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
The Beloved Matthew 3: 13-17
This week, as I was trying to figure out just exactly what I would say for this sermon today, after reading commentary after commentary, I will tell you that I was also having some very unpreacher-y thoughts. Instead of being excited about the privilege to preach the Good News this week, I kept thinking to myself-“How many more ways can I talk about God’s grace? How much more can I say about God’s love?” All I could think about this week, as I read this passage, was “Surely, everyone wants to hear something else, something new, something different. To me, it seems like week after week, I keep saying the same thing-God loves us more than we could imagine. To me, each week, it feels like I keep saying the same thing: We are God’s beloved. To me, each week it feels like the same sermon, like some sort of broken record or computer glitch that just keeps repeating the same line over and over again. God loves us. God loves us. God loves us.
I will tell you this week, as I was preparing for this sermon about remembering our baptisms, I was hoping for something new. I was hoping God would give me something else to say. I didn’t know exactly what but I was hoping for something more exciting than God loves us, something more exciting than just we are God’s Beloved, something more than just we are named and claimed as God’s very own. I will tell you, as I was preparing for this sermon, I was hoping for something more, something life changing, something life transforming, something that would shake us all up and fill us with passion for the Kingdom of God, something like a lightning bolt coming down from the sky, something that would make us all sit and say Wow! This is it!
But as the week progressed, I discovered that wasn’t going to happen, or at least not in the way I expected it to happen. Sure, God was certainly answering my request for something earth-shattering, something life changing, for something life transforming but it wasn’t something new. It continued to be the same answer which God has been giving me week after week. It was almost as if I could hear a voice in my head, every time I said I wanted something new, a voice saying “What else do they need to know? Tell them I love them. Tell them they are my Beloved. Tell them they are my children in whom I am well pleased.” What else is there? What’s more important than that?
Because here’s the thing we tend to forget, the thing we tend to ignore…. God’s message hasn’t changed. Since the beginning of time, God’s message has been the same. God called all of creation good. God claimed and named all of us as God’s own. God called all of us God’s beloved. But somewhere along the way, we as people of faith, we as people of God decided not to listen. We thought we heard something else. We heard that faith, that our relationship with God was all about rules and regulations. We heard that we had to do certain things to make God love us. We heard that we had to earn God’s grace. Somewhere along the way, we as people of faith, we as the church, distorted God’s message.
And in doing so, we have not done the one thing we as the Body of Christ were called to do… We have not told everyone this life-changing, life-transforming news about God’s grace, about God’s love. And what I discovered this week is God’s not going to give us anything “new” to say until everyone hears it, until everyone believes it. God is not going to give us anything “new” to say until it becomes a part of everyone’s body, mind and soul.
The world needs to hear, we need to hear that God loves us more than we could ever imagine. The world needs to hear, we need to hear that we are God’s Beloved in whom God is well pleased. The world needs to hear, we need to hear that God desires to be in relationship with us. The world needs, we need this little bit of hope, this little bit of light, this little bit of new life infused into all our everyday existences.
We need to share this life changing, this life transforming news because as much as I hate to admit it, apparently everyone has lives outside of this church. People have experiences outside of these walls, experiences which tell them something different. Each one of us is surrounded by voices each and every day, voices which tell us we are not enough, voices which tell us we are not good enough, voices which tell us no matter what we do, we will never measure up. And unfortunately most of the time, these are the loudest voices in our lives.
It is our calling as the wider Church, as a community of faith, as the people of God to silence these negative voices, to remind people that God is saying something different. God is calling each of us God’s Beloved. God is telling us over and over again that God loves us more than we could ever imagine. God is telling us over and over again that we are God’s children in whom God is well pleased.
This is what brings us hope. This is what infuses our lives with the grace and peace of the Kingdom of God… the life changing, the life transforming news that the God who created the heavens and the earth loves us more than we will ever know. The God who is Almighty and Majestic wraps God’s arms around us and holds us close when we are hurting. The God who was, who is, and who is to come, knows our coming and our going and never leaves us alone. The God who brought forth light out of the darkness has claimed us and named us as God’s very own.
In a few minutes, everyone will be invited to remember our baptisms, to remember what it was like to emerge from the water, to remember what it was like to have the water on our foreheads and to remember God’s promises made to you that day.
As we dip our hands in the water, let us Remember that we are claimed and named. remember that we have been transformed and that our lives are called to blessings for others.
Remember that from the moment we emerged from the waters, we were called to live a life based on the principles of the Kingdom of God, embracing our mission which is to bring love, healing, comfort, justice and peace for all of God’s creation.
In just a few moments, you will be invited to come forward and remember your baptism. And as you do, Remember your call as one of God’s children to bring hope and grace to all that are hurting. remember your call as one of God’s servants to support those around you on their journey. remember your call to pray for one another and to pray to nourish your spirit.
As we dip our hands in the water, Remember whose we are. We are God’s, named and claimed as one of God’s own, loved more than we could ever imagine. Remember we are children of God in whom God takes great delight. Let us Never forget this bit of good news because this bit of life-transforming, this bit of earth-shattering, this bit of life giving news makes all the difference for you and me as children of God, loved more than we could ever imagine.
See also: Theology Tuesday for Sunday, January 15, 2023 – The Beloved Matthew 3: 13-17.