Jesus comes to John to be baptized.
He comes to John in order to fulfill all righteousness.
This means that he is being baptized so that he can answer God’s call in his life.
After being baptized the heavens open and the Spirit of God descends upon Jesus like a dove.
And then this happens.
This is the part in the reading that truly hits me.
God says to him, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
God delights in God’s own Son.
Just as a human parent takes delight and joy in their own child, God finds great joy in his Son.
God deeply loves Jesus.
Jesus is the beloved.
Think now how we experience this same powerful, spiritual experience of receiving God’s love through our own baptism.
In baptism we are called out by God, named by God, and spoken words of grace upon us a beloved child of God.
If you are like me though you may not remember your baptism.
But even if you do not remember your own baptism I am sure that there are many baptisms that you do remember.
In baptism we believe that God calls us the beloved.
How important it is to remember this truth each and every day.
Because there are many voices in this world that drown out the voice of God who calls us beloved.
The voices of this world can be so negative and destructive that it can be too easy to forget that we are indeed God’s beloved people.
The spiritual teacher, Henri Nouwen once said that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power.
Rather it is self-rejection.
He goes on to say that success, popularity, and power can and do present a great temptation but often these temptations come from the much larger temptation which is self-rejection.
When we believe the forces of evil at work in the world that call us worthless and unlovable then success, popularity, and power are easily seen as attractive solutions.
But the real trap is self-rejection and self-rejection is the true enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts God’s voice that calls us the Beloved.
Isn’t that good.
I love that.
I think Henri Nouwen has a good point here.
How often do we find ourselves caught in this trap?
Believing the voices of this world rather than the voice of God.
How do we receive the faith to believe that we are God’s beloved just as Jesus is God’s beloved?
There are no easy answers here.
In his life the late Henri Nouwen often had a very hard time communicating this message of God’s love to those who were steeped in the secular world.
But for us as followers of Jesus we know that being the beloved is our true baptismal identity.
For us this is the very proclamation of our faith that we are people of God and that God loves us.
In this world we receive love from many sources.
We receive love from our parents, relatives, friends, teachers, neighbors, and even strangers.
But the love that we receive from God is something entirely different – something beyond us.
We are loved by God in a deeper and more real way than any person on this earth can ever love us.
I know that this is hard to understand.
This is difficult to even explain.
God’s love is not something we can earn it is something that we continually live more deeply into.
As people of God we look to receive love first from God before we look for it in any person or from anything in this world.
That is why we believe so firmly in infant baptism.
We want to give our children this gift of being baptized as soon as we can.
We don’t want to wait.
In fact, what’s there to wait for?
We want to give our children God’s love and hear those words of love spoken to our children as soon as possible.
We want to hear the promise in baptism.
The promise of God calling the child Beloved.
In life every time we are still and present to God we discover within ourselves a great desire to hear God’s voice more deeply.
And that is the spiritual journey into being the beloved which begins at our baptism.
After Jesus was baptized he took time to fast, to pray, and to think about his baptism and what that would mean for his life.
After that period of fasting and prayer he began his ministry which eventually led him to giving his life for us on the cross.
His love for us took him even there to the cross.
And so the takeaway from my sermon today is to encourage us to hear and to receive God’s word from our Gospel reading.
Especially take to heart that is the word beloved.
Take that word with you this coming week.
If you feel discouraged, spiritually poor, or feeling alone or sad say that word.
Repeat that word to yourself.
Pray to God saying that word.
Recall that word and remember that you are God’s beloved.
We are not to leave this world or to turn away from our goals or despise success.
We are to live our lives.
But we do so with a purpose.
We live more deeply into our lives while always remembering that we are God’s beloved people.
In closing my sermon I would like to again quote from Henri Nouwen.
The mystery of our faith is that God is a lover who wants to be loved.
The one who created us is waiting for our response to the love that gave us our being.
God not only says, “You are my Beloved.
God asks us: “Do you love me?” and then offers to us countless chances to say, Yes.
May we respond this coming week with a clear “Yes” to God.