“Solitude is listening to the voice who calls you the beloved. It is being alone with the one who says, `You are my beloved, I want to be with you. Don't go running around, don't start to prove to everybody that you're beloved. You are already beloved'. That is what God says to us.” (Henri Nouwen)
I wonder if your best friend were to introduce you what they would say about you? How is this different than what you usually say about yourself? If you are like most people, you often don’t see the best qualities in yourself, or at least you minimize them; we are way harder on ourselves than we are on others. The critical voice inside our own heads can drown out the truth that we are God’s beloved.
Take a moment to read the story of Jesus’ baptism in Luke 3:21 - 23. In this passage from The Message, God’s voice is heard saying “You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life.” Other versions like the NRSV translate this, “You are my Son, the Beloved…”
This past Sunday in worship, we discussed the importance of resetting your soul in Christ through the Holy Spirit. Like Jesus, resetting our soul begins with remembering who you are. In baptism, God calls us beloved.
Throughout my life, I’ve been called my fair share of nick names. Some of them, I’ve received fondly, others not so much. Who likes a coach or a parent cheering you on at the top of their lungs, screaming “Go get ‘em, Froggie!” (this was one of my nick names because I swam competitively throughout the year). My husband when he is trying to be endearing will call me a small cabbage (okay, it’s in French, he says, "Mon petite chou"... so it sounds a little better!).
But none of these names feels quite right. None of them are true to who I am as a child of God -- even when they are expressed with love and affection.
Sometimes we don’t feel like ourselves, or others’ perceptions of us just don’t seem to really fit. As we reset for the new year ahead of us, it’s important that we remember our baptism -- our Resurrection Day -- and what God says about us! God sees every one of us through the eyes of grace and love; you do not have to be baptized to do a “soul reset” in God’s love (although, if you would like to be, please see the asterisk at the end).
In this passage in Luke, God says to Jesus, “You are my Son.” But Jesus was also the son of Joseph! However, we must remember that before Jesus was Joseph’s son, Jesus was always God’s son. This is true for all of us – we belong to God first, before any of our earthly relationships or roles.
This “belonging” to God is not possessive, it is an expression of God’s freely given love and grace. Jesus is God’s son “the Beloved.” Before Jesus has even begun his ministry, God calls Jesus “the Beloved, with [whom he is] well pleased.” (in the NRSV, “Beloved” is capitalized like a name or title!). Likewise, for us, God’s love does not need to be earned. It is who we are.
So, why was Jesus baptized? Jesus was baptized to identify with us (verse 21 shows Jesus was baptized along with others). By faith, we identify with him.
In baptism, we are affirmed in God’s love for us and our adoption into God’s family, by grace, is proclaimed. The principal actor is God. God offers grace, regardless of our past, our sins, and our actions. There can be no doubt, you always belong and are beloved in the family of God. This is why this past weekend; we reaffirmed our baptism – to help us remember that we are beloved!
So, I ask again, does your perception of yourself fit the reality of how God sees you? Do you see yourself the way God sees you? The world puts conditions on our value. It tells us we are beloved or worthy if we do certain things or are certain things. However, before Jesus has done anything, God says he is beloved. God says we are beloved. This understanding helps us to “reset” so that our perception aligns with God’s perception. And, once we reset how we look at ourselves, we will also be in a better place to look at others through God’s eyes.
Questions for Reflection:
- How can we look at the world, not for what it says that it is, but through God’s eyes?
- How does our baptism invite us to see others and the world?
Dear God, we have a fresh desire to reset our souls. Today we begin by remembering who we are in your eyes. As we ponder the words of the scriptures, may they come alive in our hearts, minds and spirits. May we build each other up and encourage each other in faith. Amen.
* If you would like to be baptized – please email me (Pastor Abi) so that I can help you take your next steps in faith.