Damariscotta Baptist Church
Saturday, October 20, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

01/08/12 Sermon

Mark 1: 4-11

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Thy sight O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer, Amen

In the Christian year, today we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord.  Today we recall the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as he is set apart to go out and proclaim to the world the kingdom ways.  It is a sending off where Jesus is identified as the Son of God on a mission to give himself to all who would be willing to receive him.  And it’s a day that we also remember our own baptism, our own identity and our own calling to go out into the world to give ourselves to others in a way that Jesus did.

One thing that sticks out to me the most in this scripture is verse 11. After Jesus was baptized by John, the heaven opened up, the Holy Spirit descended, and a voice came from heaven that said, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased." 

And when I read those words, I thought about what it must have felt like to hear those words—to be called the beloved; to know that God is well-pleased with me.

Imagine God saying that to you, “John or Jim or Sharon or Sarah, you are my beloved, with you I am well pleased”

Can you imagine how you might feel after hearing that? Especially, coming from God; I mean it doesn’t get any better than that. What awesome words of blessing!

You know, it’s always good to hear words of encouragement and blessing. We certainly don’t hear it enough. Too often we hear words that curse us.

People tell us what we do wrong all the time, of the mistakes we’ve made, of what we’ve failed to accomplish, of how we’re to blame for things.

And if that weren’t enuf, many of us are even worse on ourselves. We tell ourselves how much we’ve failed, how we’ve messed up our lives or other’s lives.

With all of the world’s curses it’s hard to hear the blessings.

But today we’re being reminded of the truth. For today, when we remember what baptism symbolizes, we remember that we are God’s beloved and that God is well pleased with us.

Baptism is a symbolic act that reminds us that thru our receiving of Christ as our Lord and Savior we are adopted as God’s son’s and daughters, we’re part of the family.

Through Jesus, our bloodline is changed and we are indeed beloved and accepted and God is so well-pleased with us.  And that’s the message that we need to hear. We need to be reminded over and over that God does love us----we need to hear the blessings and not the curses. For blessings define who we are.  Blessings empower us to go out into the world.  And I get the feeling that that’s exactly what Jesus needed to hear too in his baptism. He would be on a journey that was to lead to temptation and persecution and execution. 

 

It’s interesting that in Matthew, Mark and Luke, the baptism of Jesus is followed up with the story of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness.

His belovedness and his identity of sonship is established before he goes to face the temptations of Satan, those temptations of the world.

Through his baptism, Jesus knew who he was; he was grounded in that he knew how much he was loved. And he embraced that. He didn’t question it or resist it.

And it was because of that that he was able to carry out his calling in the world.  And that’s important lesson for all of us today as we go out into the world.

To be the beloved means we need to trust that we are the beloved, that God loves us despite all the voices of temptations and curses that try to tell us something different. We have to embrace and trust that we are the beloved.  Because when we do we are freed and able to live a life of simplicity and selflessness that leads us to the next part of what our baptism is all about.

You see, there is more to our baptism than just knowing we’re in right relationship with God through Jesus.  Our baptism was also the beginning of a journey; just as it was for Jesus. 

Christian author Will Willimon said it best when he said:  "Baptism is a one-time event that takes a lifetime to finish."

Our baptism was only the beginning. Tho we are indeed in right relationship, one of God’s beloved, we aren’t done. For we are also called to be the beloved by being Christ in the world.  As Jesus went from the waters of the Jordan into the wilderness, so are we to go into the world to carry out his ministry. To be him in the world.

As beloved children of God, we are to go out into the world to speak words of blessing and healing to a world that so desperately needs to hear it….

I’ve shared this true story before but it’s one of my favorite illustrations of the effect of passing on blessings.  There is a teacher in New York who decided to honor each of her seniors in high school by telling them the difference they each made. In other words, words of blessing.  So she called each student to the front of the class, one at a time and told them how the student made a difference to her and the class.  She then presented each of them with a blue ribbon imprinted with gold letters which read, "Who I Am Makes a Difference."

Afterwards the teacher decided to do a class project to see what kind of impact recognition would have on a community.  She gave each of the students three more ribbons and instructed them to go out into the community and spread the words of blessing and a ribbon.  One of the boys in the class went to a junior executive in a nearby company and honored him for helping him with his career planning.   He gave him a blue ribbon and put it on his shirt.  Then he gave the junior executive two extra ribbons, and said, "We're doing a class project on recognition, and we'd like you to go out, find somebody to honor, give them a blue ribbon, then give them the extra blue ribbon to pass on.  Later that day the junior executive went in to see his boss, who was known to everyone as being kind of a grouchy fellow.  But he sat his boss down and he told him that he deeply admired him for being a creative genius.

The boss seemed very surprised.   The junior executive asked him if he would accept the gift of the blue ribbon.  His surprised boss said,  "Well, sure." The junior executive took the blue ribbon and placed it on his boss's jacket above his heart.  As he gave him the last extra ribbon, he said, "Would you do me a favor?   Would you take this extra ribbon and pass it on by honoring somebody else?  

That night the boss came home to his 14-year-old son and sat him down.   He said, "The most incredible thing happened to me today.  

I was in my office and one of the junior executives came in and told me he admired me and gave me a blue ribbon for being a creative genius. Imagine. He thinks I'm a creative genius.  And He gave me an extra ribbon and asked me to find somebody else to honor.   As I was driving home tonight, I started thinking about whom I would honor with this ribbon and I thought about you. I want to honor you.  Sometimes I scream at you for not getting good enough grades in school and for your bedroom being a mess, but somehow tonight, I just wanted to sit here and, well, just let you know that you do make a difference to me.  Along with your mother, you are the most important person in my life. You're a great kid and I love you!"
 
The startled boy started to sob and sob, and he couldn't stop crying. His whole body shook.  He looked up at his father and said through his tears, "I was planning on committing suicide tomorrow, Dad, because I didn't think you loved me.  Now… I don't need to."
 

As God’s beloved, you and I are called to be vessels that carry words of blessing to others.  While it’s easy to find faults in others, when we claim our own blessing as one of the beloved, we are called to look for the goodness and use words of blessing.

And it begins here in this church; with you and me and those sitting around you. How we speak to one another means so much.

—I’ll never forget a project I had in seminary when I went to my congregation and asked them to break out in pairs and had them speak words of blessing….

 ---------------------healing and change took place in the giver and the receiver as a result of these words of blessings.

Proverbs 16:24 says “kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”

This goes not only for us individually but also corporately; as the body of Christ. And it can happen in the same way when we speak of the church as a whole.

You know, difficult things can  happen in the life of a church--- And these past things can make the congregation feel less about itself than how God sees them.

The church can even start taking on an identity much in the way an individual can when they see themselves in a way less than how God sees them.

But the church needs to practice blessing with each other; because as it does, its identity changes.

There was a down in the dumps lawyer who moved into a new community and wrapped himself up in his new law practice. Townspeople sometimes observed him walking alone with his head down, and a look of distress upon his face.   One day he went to an artist, who had a downtown studio, and the lawyer confessed to the artist of some, sad, terrible mistakes in his life.  The artist said nothing, but weeks later he invited the lawyer to come look at a portrait in his studio.  When the lawyer got there he was surprised to see a portrait of himself, only there, in the portrait, he stood erect, with his shoulders thrown back, and his head lifted up.  Joy and confidence and freedom, and hope were written on his face in that portrait.

As he looked at it for a few moments, he saw the vision of what he could become.  And he said, to himself, "If the artist sees that in me, then I can see it……………….If he thinks that’s what I can be, then I can be that man; and what is more, I will be!"

To claim the blessing of our belovedness is to first see ourselves as a church in the way that God sees us; not how others might want to define us or to let the past define us.  And it’s also (not only to see but also) to become the church that God sees us as—a group of his beloved children who bless and love one another and want to love others too.

Today, for those of us who have received our baptism already, we are being reminded that we are the beloved and that God is well-pleased with us. Let us claim that so that we are free to go into the world and pass that blessing on to others.

And for those who have not yet been baptized, today is an invitation to you.

God wants you to be a part of the family; to embrace the truth that you are the beloved and that God is well pleased with you.

Let us all receive the blessing of the beloved; let us claim it and embrace it-----And as we do--, let us pass it on to a world that needs a blessing just like me and you.

 In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen