31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
January 30, 2022
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
Long before Jesus healed ten lepers, before he turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana, before he preached the sermon on the mount or was transfigured, before all of that, Jesus was loved. Jesus was loved.
The Bible story we heard today, the baptism of Jesus, is the first story we hear of Jesus as an adult. The first two chapters of the gospel of Matthew focus on Jesus’ birth, and except for the story from the gospel of Luke about twelve year old Jesus in the temple, we don’t have any other stories from the time Jesus is an infant until he is thirty years old.
We have no idea if he was teaching in his local synagogue. We don’t know if he was the one everyone always knew they could turn to for help. We don’t know much about Jesus’ life before this moment.
What we do know is that when Jesus was about thirty years old, he traveled from Galilee to the Jordan River where John was baptizing people and inviting them to turn, to repent, from their old lives and be made new in God’s spirit.
After some initial resistance on John’s part, John baptized Jesus, too – immersing Jesus in the waters of the River Jordan and making Jesus new in God’s spirit.
The gospel of Matthew goes on to tell us:
And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17)
“This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
But what had Jesus done? How had Jesus earned God’s love? We aren’t told. We don’t know. We only know that Jesus was loved, loved before he was tempted in the wilderness, loved before he fed the 5,000, loved before he faithfully and obediently endured suffering on the cross. Before Jesus did any of these miraculous and amazing acts, he was loved, loved by God.
Can you imagine what that feels like? To be loved just for yourself and not for any other reason. To be loved for you and not for what you can do for others. Can you imagine what that feels like?
I hope so because you are loved. You are loved by the Creator of the world; You are loved by our God most high; You are God’s child, the beloved, with whom God is well pleased – not because of how much money you earn, not because of how many tasks you accomplish, not because of how much you give of yourself to others. God created you and God loves you for who you are. You are loved.
Be still for a moment and soak in God’s love. Like the baptismal waters of the Jordan River, let that love wash over you. Be immersed in God’s love.
You are God’s child, the beloved, with whom God is well pleased.
Before Jesus did a single act of ministry, before he preached or taught, healed or did a single miracle, he knew he was God’s Beloved. And he could have sat by the riverbank and just kept soaking in that unconditional love, feeling warm and fuzzy for the rest of his days; however God’s unconditional love gave him purpose. It gave him strength to be able to resist the temptations of the devil, to stay true to his calling in ministry, to keep going even when he faced ridicule and persecution.
God’s unconditional love gave Jesus the gifts he needed to keep moving forward in faith – even when that journey led to the cross.
What gifts does God’s unconditional love give to you?
Does the awareness of God’s unconditional love give you the courage to leave the old behind and try something new? Does it enable you to let go of those things that are holding you back? Does it help you resist temptations, let go of fear, and move forward in faith?
Does knowing that you are God’s beloved heal you and help you to reach out your hand to another, offering them healing, hope, and the good news that they, too, are God’s beloved?
Does understanding you are unconditionally loved by God help you to leave the safety of the riverbank and take up your cross and follow Jesus? Serving as he served and proclaiming the good news of God’s inclusive community of love?
Maybe or maybe not yet. Maybe you are ready to turn from the old to God’s new, boldly and courageously sharing your gifts with the world. And maybe you aren’t quite ready yet. Maybe there is healing to be done so you can see yourself as God’s beloved.
No matter where we are on this journey of faith, no matter where we are in understanding ourselves as loved by God, no matter if we have been a faithful servant for decades or are contemplating how to share our resources and talents, no matter what, before any of us did a single act of ministry, before we made a single financial gift to the church, volunteered a single hour with our community, helped even one single person, before all of that, we were loved. We are loved.
You are God’s beloved, with whom God is well pleased.