Last week we begin a new series entitled, “a light shines.” We’ll see over the series the readings will lift up the Son of God as he begins his life and his mission. Jesus is the light that shines in the world, a light that darkness cannot overcome. We will look at Jesus presence in the world and the light that he brings with him.
The Christmas season has concluded and the story of Jesus moves to his public ministry. It begins with his Baptism by John. The Gospel of John has Jesus going to Jerusalem for Passover three times, so the common understanding is that Jesus had a public ministry of three years. In that time he taught, healed and lived an example that he hopes we will follow. In fact it is the words he used when those first disciples after his Baptism see him and ask where he lives, “Come and see.” (John 1:39) Follow Jesus and your life is better and you will be better at life. Jesus is the light, we should follow the light.
As we noted last week a bright star led magi to the new king. Isaiah proclaimed, “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1) The light of Jerusalem is the Lord come to be present in the temple. We will see that Jesus is that light that attracts, a light that has all seeking and curious.
The readings last week centered on light, it is a light that draws the magi to the new king, it is light that restores radiance to Jerusalem and attracts pilgrims and visitors, it is the light that Paul speaks about to communities as one selected to announce the gospel message of light. Light is needed to see and we see it brings life. But, the light comes as a person, one who will share a message of love, a light who is the shepherd of all people, a shepherd who cares for his sheep, who thinks all people are his sheep and he will do everything to keep his sheep. The week focused on the coming of light who is the shepherd of Israel.
We read that the chosen of God is coming as a servant. God has selected a chosen people to tell us of the light to come, Jesus has selected leaders to expand the light to all people, showing no partiality and letting all people know they are beloveed. God also proclaims his Son is the beloved, who pleases God. This beloved Son calls us to be like him and we become beloved and adopted son and daughters.
The readings this week are from the Lectionary for the Baptism of the Lord are; Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7; Psalms 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10; Acts 10:34-38 and Matthew 3:13-17. This week we see a bleoved Son who calls us all tobe bleoved of God.
The first reading from Isaiah proclaims the role of God’s servant who is coming. Chosen of God and pleasing to God. This servant has the Spirit of the Lord on him and will bring justice through a very humble manner and will continue to spread the message of God until justice has been established. God himself will bring victory through the servant he has formed by establishing a covenant. The once coming will be a servant that will be a light for all nations, open the eyes of the blind, bring liberty to captives and end all darkness. The servant can be the prophet himself, or some king of the house of Judah or even the future Messiah. God has a means to make one prophecy fit many people and times. We see this servant now as the Messiah, come to serve and redeem Israel, and thus all humanity. Particularly since Jesus, the Messiah, read a scroll of Isaiah and proclaimed in his time the prophecy has been fulfilled (see Luke 4:16-21.) We focus on the light to the nations, and that Jesus is this servant accepting his own description. We hear God saying he is upheld, chosen and pleasing to God. God is pleased with this servant and proclaims at his Baptism he is the beloved.We focus on the light to the nations, and that Jesus is this servant accepting his own description. We hear God saying he is upheld, chosen and pleasing to God. God is pleased with this servant and proclaims he is beloved. Click To Tweet
In the second reading from the Acts of the Apostles we see Peter a Jew going to Cornelius a Gentile and ultimately baptizing him and his entire family. Peter preaches the story of Jesus to Cornelius and family, highlighting the baptism of Jesus by John and how he received the power of the Holy Spirit. This was Peter’s first evangelization of a non-Hebrew people. It was not anything Peter thought he would be doing but was pushed in this direction through a vision from God. God very clearly lets Peter, Jesus’ rock upon which the church is built, know that the message of the gospels is intended to be a light for all nations. God has used the people of Israel to establish his kingdom on earth and now it is time to share the kingdom completely. God shows no partiality, every nation is acceptable to him. The light expands and is shining everywhere, thanks to the beloved Son. He was with God, and is the light of the human race, and He is God. In the beginning God said let there be light and there was light (cf. Genesis 1:3.) We have this light from the beginning until the end. It is a light that God calls beloved.God very clearly lets Peter, Jesus’ rock upon which the church is built, know that the message of the gospels is intended to be a light for all nations. Click To Tweet
In the gospel of Matthew we read the story of Jesus’ baptism. John had been a popular figure, and when there was talk of a Messiah, people asked John the Baptist if he was the Messiah. John knowing he was in place to point to one greater, said he baptized with water but the one coming would baptize with the Holy Spirit. John challenged the Pharisees who came to seek out what he was doing. Telling them he is providing a baptism of repentance while the one coming, whose sandals John wasn’t even worthy to loosen, would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.
John doesn’t feel worthy to baptize Jesus but allows Jesus to convince him to go ahead for now. God changes the scene dramatically. We read that the heavens opened, a form like a dove descended upon Jesus and the voice from heaven proclaimed, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” We can’t be sure if this voice was heard by everyone present, or just Jesus. It may be each person was hearing this same proclamation spoken over themselves.
John had been proclaiming a baptism of repentance, people committing to change the way they lived. In this moment baptism changed, it was not a repentance, but a new life. God was establishing the new covenant. Those baptized became adopted sons and daughters of God. To initiate this change God speaks his belovedness to each one as they are baptized.At Jesus baptism everything changed, it was no longer a bpatism of repentance, but a new life. God was establishing the new covenant. Those baptized became adopted sons and daughters of God. Click To Tweet
The message through these readings is God entering into humanity in a new way and he is asking for the participation of everyone. God has brought the light into the world and we are to choose this light, through baptism. Once we have chosen the light, we must always remain in the light, letting our light shine. We are beloved and we must live so others see our joy and want to be beloved as well. God needs all of us beloved to walk in the light so others will ask to be baptized as well.
God blesses Jesus with his belovedness and each of us who let the light shine in us have this same belovedness cast over us. We are “in Christ” as Paul says in his letters, many, many times. We too become the beloved of God as was his Son.
God witnesses to what it means to be a father. When Jesus begins the ministry God sent him to begin God makes sure his Son knows he is proud. God rarely proclaims anything from the heavens, typically God will send a prophet to share the message God wants people to hear. But in the case of his Son, God wants him and everyone to know how proud Jesus makes him. God is also showing an example of how to act in the manner of a good Father. So God proclaims from the heavens, this is my beloved Son!
Author, Priest and Spiritual Guide Henri Nouwen wrote a book entitled, “Life of the Beloved” It was written as a personal letter to his friend Fred. Henri began the writing with a chapter “Being the Beloved” which captures the essence of what it means to be the beloved. I would like to share some of his ideas.
Preparing for the writing Henri wondered, what is the one word he wanted Fred to remember when he was finished, a special word. The word that came to Henri was “beloved.” Most Christians first hear of this word in the story of the Baptism of Jesus, when the voice from heaven proclaims, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.”
Henri read these words for many years, reflected upon them in sermons and lectures, but it was only in relationship with his friend Fred that they had taken on meaning far beyond the boundaries of his faith tradition. Henri through many conversations with Fred has come to the inner conviction that the words, “You are my beloved” revealed the most intimate truth about all human beings, whether they belong to a faith tradition or not.
Henri wants to tell Fred, he is the beloved, hoping Fred will receive the words with all tenderness and force that love can hold. Henri wants these words to fill and reverberate in Fred in every corner of his being – “You are the beloved.”
The greatest gift Henri’s friendship with Fred can give is belovedness. But it can only be given as a gift insofar as Henri has claimed it for himself. Henri questions; “Isn’t this what friendship is all about, giving each other the gift of our belovedness?”
There is that voice, the voice that speaks from above and from within that whispers softly or declares loudly: “You are my beloved, with you I am well pleased.” It is not easy to hear this voice in a world filled with voices that shout: you are no good, you are ugly, you are worthless, you are despicable, you are nobody, unless you prove the opposite.
The negative voices are loud and persistent, it becomes easy to believe them. That is the trap, a trap of self-rejection. Success, popularity, power can indeed present a great temptation, but these are temptations trying to cover the larger temptation of self-rejection. It is too easy to believe the voice that calls you worthless and unlovable, then use power, success and popularity as attractive solutions to overcoming the voices. But there is always self-refection, it is surprising how easily we give into this temptation. As soon as someone accuses us or criticizes us we think, well that proves once again I am nobody. Rather than look at the circumstance and try to understand our own limitations, we tend to blame ourselves, not just for what we did but for who we are. Our dark side rears its ugly voice telling us, “I am no good. I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected and abandoned.”
Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts that sacred voice calling us the beloved. Being the beloved expresses the core truth of who we are, of our existence. We sometimes refuse to hear the voice that speaks to the very depth of our being, saying, “You are my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts that sacred voice calling us the beloved. Click To Tweet
God speaks of our belovedness first, hoping we will take becoming the beloved into everything we think, say or do, that it becomes a truth that is part of us, that we can’t think of ourselves without thinking we are beloved. God speaks it to us first because God knows us and Gods knows we need to hear we are beloved. We need to accept our belovedness, and we need to reveal it.
Becoming a member of the family of God, becoming God’s beloved requires that we reveal it to others. We like Henri must reveal belovedness in our friendships. We must walk in the light of our belovedness so others will know being a child of God is more than just a title. Becoming the beloved of God means we are to reach out to others and let them know they too can become beloved, they too can hear God’s voice saying to them, “You are my beloved, in whom I am well pleased.”
In our daily existence we must claim our belovedness and we must reveal it to others. We take our cue from Jesus. That day he had to feel such pride in knowing that God reached down and spoke to him about his belovedness. Jesus also knew it was part of his mission to pass it along. God is a God who wants everyone to know how much he loves them and that they are the beloved. In creating every person, God put this imprint into them, that they are the beloved and that they will search until they discover this belovedness. Nothing will satisfy the search, not things, not money, not pleasure, only knowing our belovedness in the eyes of God will bring us peace, and allow us to live without chasing something we can only find when we rest in the one who calls us beloved.God is a God who wants everyone to know how much he loves them and that they are the beloved. In creating every person, God put this imprint into them, that they are the beloved too. Click To Tweet
Being a follower of Jesus, being the beloved of God requires we reveal to others, to our friends, they too have a Father who thinks of them as the beloved. No matter what the world speaks into their lives, nothing can remove our Father’s repetitious voice speaking, “You are my beloved, in whom I am well pleased.
A light shines
Jesus is proclaimed the beloved of God, a Son in whom God is well pleased. We must move toward Jesus and the light that shines on him will shine on us. As Jesus is the beloved we are the beloved. As Jesus is a light that shines, we too are called to be a light that shines. In all you do accept your belovedness and let the light shine on you. Ultimately you will be the light that shines too!In all you do accept your belovedness and let the light shine on you. Ultimately you will be the light that shines too! Click To Tweet