Thursday, January 13, 2011

First Sunday After the Epiphany

Matthew 3:13-17
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 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."

The Words We All Long To Hear
A reflection on Matthew 3:13-17

I must admit I am having trouble with this whole lectionary thing!  I did a few reflections and got away from it for a while then I said ok in January I’ll stick to reflecting on the weekly Gospel passages.  Then I read this week’s passage and again I thought I don’t know what to say about this.  And yet again the moment I trusted that indeed God has something to say to me and my faith community in this passage something came to me so here I go.

“This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased."  Wow, these are the words we all long to hear.  “You’re my son and I love you and I am pleased with you.”  “You’re my daughter and I love you and you make me happy.”  How many people go through their entire lives longing to hear these words said to them but never do?  This world has gone awry and it is filled with so many people who have never had an encounter with simple but life-changing love and this lack forever alters the trajectory of their lives.  Jesus’ baptism marked the beginning of his public life and it began with a wonderful affirmation of love from God the Father.  Life begins when we are loved.   That is when we begin to live, to grow, to come into our purpose.  Without it, life has yet to begin.  And all one has to do is look at the condition of our world today to see the result of so many people never hearing anyone say, “Hey, I love you.  You make me smile.  You’re alright with me.”

A friend of mine works at a lock down facility for men with issues of substance abuse.  My goodness the stories she can tell!  I’m not talking about men involved in white collar crime.  Oh no, these are street hardened men who you wouldn’t even want to walk past on the sidewalk.  Some of these men have done horrible, horrible things.  They’ve broken the law numerous times; they’ve stolen, they’ve betrayed family even their own children.  If you were to read their criminal records it would be quite easy to say, “Oh this is just too much, lock them up and throw away the key!”  And yet when my friend sits down and talks to them she sees the same thing over and over again: hardcore, street-hardened, F-bomb dropping criminals who turn out to be regular, ordinary men who were never loved and did horrible things to others and to themselves because of it.  Every single man she sat down with was a person dying to hear someone say the words, “I love you and you’re going to be ok.”

Now I have never mugged anyone or attempted to rob a bank.  I don’t have a criminal record like the men my friend works with, but I too like so many others have longed to hear the words “I love you”.  It took many years before my father ever said those words to me and by that time it was too late; it didn’t matter to me anymore.  I spent so many years without any affirmation from him I learned to do without it.  I struggled with self-doubting and low self-esteem for years, constantly comparing myself to others and constantly wondering am I good enough.  But I am so grateful that there was an intervening force in my life and that was the love of God.  I am absolutely amazed that God the Father would say to me exactly what he said to Jesus, “You are my son.  I love and you I am pleased with you.” 

I’ll never forget the day I felt like God was saying to me “You are enough for me”.  I was feeling a bit insecure.  I was in church surrounded by people who were rejoicing during worship but I couldn’t fully join them.  Then it was as if God whispered into my ear “You are enough for me”, and it made my heart stand still.  At that moment I stopped judging myself and comparing myself to others because if I was enough for God than certainly I could be enough for myself!  And God is saying the same thing to you.  “You are my son.  You are my daughter.  I love you and you are enough for me.”  I want to tell you right now that you are deeply and infinitely loved by God.  It is impossible for God to love you more than He does right now. God loves you immensely.  Know this deep within you.

Life begins when we are loved and there’s no substitute for the love of God.  We cannot be God to people but we can allow God’s love for others to flow through us.  We can be a part of the process of people coming alive and growing into their purpose by loving them as God loves them.  God’s public affirmation of love for the Son is what started Jesus’ ministry.  If you have any desire to see someone become what God wants them to be do not judge them.  Do not condemn them.  Do not shame them.  Love them.  Love is the only condition in which transformation is a possibility.  We are not qualified to judge anyone.  We are ill equipped to save anyone, but we can love and that may be all that is required.  And our demonstration of love may just be the beginning of someone coming to life, like a flower opening up to the sun, like Jesus rising out of the water after his baptism.  What an amazing opportunity to join God the Father.  Love.