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January 11, 2004
(Luke 3:15-16, 21-22)
I thought we could look briefly at the baptism of Jesus and see what it means for Jesus, what it means for us, and what it means for the world.
What did the baptism mean for Jesus? I think baptism changed Jesus. He was trying to support John the Baptist and to share our need for baptism, but then while he was sitting there praying by the Jordan River, centering himself in the presence of God, something dramatic happened. The heavens opened, the Holy Spirit came upon him in the form of a dove, and a voice from heaven said, “You are my beloved. With you I am well pleased.”
That’s what changed Jesus. From then on, he knew who he was. He was the beloved of God and he would be faithful to his beloved God, no matter what and that’s just what he did for the rest of his short life. He announced God’s reign, called us to love God, kept his focus on his beloved God and surrendered himself in perfect love on the cross to God. As God’s beloved son, I think he was the perfect human, the model human being.
So what does all this mean for us? As his followers, we share in the baptism of Christ, the ministry of Christ, the death of Christ and the resurrection of Christ. That means, that just as God says to Jesus, “You are my beloved,” God says to each one of us, “You are my beloved.” This is amazing. God loves us. God affirms us. God is pleased with us. God is happy with us. God wants to be with us. God looks upon us as a proud parent and calls each one of us individually and personally, “My beloved son, my beloved daughter.”
But the world tells us, “No, you can’t be God’s beloved. God couldn’t love you. You’re not loveable. You’re junk. You’re a great sinner. You don’t count. You’re nothing.” Or to some of us, “You’re just a troublemaker.” But in fact, the good news is that God does love each one of us, that God is trying to say to us, “I love you. You are my beloved. I am well pleased with you. I have prepared a paradise for you. I want you to be with me and walk with me and live in my love starting right now and for the rest of your lives.”
Finally, what does all this mean for the world? It means that the world is wrong. God is looking down on the whole human family, and loves each one of us personally, individually, and globally with an unconditional love. So if each one of us is a beloved son or daughter of God, like Jesus, that means, each one of us is the beloved brother and sister of one another, which means every human being on the planet is our beloved sister and brother, whether a child walking somewhere in China, or a woman making breakfast in Colombia, or a man in the Sudan, or a family in the Philippines, or some children in Iraq.
Everyone is our sister and brother, so we can never hurt anyone. Once you enter into the spiritual life of baptism, you will not participate in the world’s violence or wars. From now on we love everyone the way God loves us. We are God’s beloved, so like Jesus, we are going to treat one another as God’s beloved. Life is good and precious and wonderful, so why waste it on stupid things like gossip, negativity, and resentment and horrific cruelty like war or nuclear weapons or greed. Instead, let’s live out our baptismal promises and share God’s love with everyone everywhere.