Matthew 3:13-17 (New Revised Standard Version)
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 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. 16 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. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
Book of Faith Devotional Questions:
- What scares, confuses, or challenges me in this text?
- What delights me in this text?
- What stories or memories does this text stir up in me?
- What is God up to in this text?
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, grace to you and peace, from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
“This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17 NRSV)
These are the words that God the Father uses to describe Jesus at the event of his baptism in the Jordan River by his cousin, John. The thing that always amazes me about this description is that Jesus hasn’t done anything yet! He was born, he grew up, and he lived, but he hasn’t yet begun his ministry for God on earth. He hasn’t yet set his face towards the cross. And yet, Jesus is God’s Son. God loves Jesus. And God is well pleased, even before he begins to do anything worth writing down.
We received this same promise on the day that we were baptized:
“You are my child, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
Once again, this description is a gift. For many of us, who were baptized as infants, it is just as much of a miracle as when God said it about Jesus. We hadn’t done anything yet. We hadn’t made anything, or produced anything, or contributed monetarily to society in any way. And yet. And yet. In baptism, we are God’s sons and daughters. In baptism, we assured that God loves us all the time, no matter what. In baptism, we begin our ministry on this earth knowing that, even without our actions, with us God is well pleased.
What implications does this have for us in ministry together as Tri-Saints Lutheran Parish in Byron and Hardy, Nebraska in the year of our Lord 2017? Because we are children of God, our lives are grounded in this identity. We are God’s, first, last, and always. Because we are Beloved, our lives reach out in love. We live by the greatest commandment, and love God and one another with all our hearts, and minds, and souls, and strength. Because God is well pleased with us, our lives so forth God’s mercy and grace and compassion. We give each other the benefit of the doubt, and, as Luther’s meaning of the 8th commandment says, “we come to [our neighbor’s] defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light” (ELW pg. 1161). In baptism, our lives are changed in an indelible way, and our attitudes towards God and the world are different. Here are some of the ways I see our parish living out their baptismal callings here and now and in this place:
Children of God
I thank God for all of those in our parish who are faithful in seeing that the work of the church is accomplished, day after day, week after week, and year after year. Please take some time to thank those who serve on the council, worship and music, and parish education committees of your church. They work hard as children of God to create meaningful spaces, worship, and educational experiences for all of our saints. Without their leadership, we would not be the witness that we are in our communities.
I thank God for all of those in our parish who have been willing to use their hands and feet to show forth God’s love in the community in the world. This year, I especially thank the continuing work of the LWR quilts and kits, the NICU sheets, the Little Shorts for Africa project, and the Soles for Hope shoes. We have also prepared boxes for Operation Christmas Child and, through the work of God’s Work, Our Hands Sunday, painted the park in Hardy, made fleece hats for foster children in Nebraska, and collected school supplies for an elementary school in Donna, TX. This parish takes the command to reach out in love seriously, and I am so thankful to partner with you in this way.
God is Well Pleased
Finally, I thank God for all of you, who faithfully attend worship and Bible study, who give to mission and ministry of the church, who visit our sick and shut-in, and who show forth Christ in so many little ways every day. I know for certain that, when we are at our best, God is more than well pleased with the work and witness of our parish. It is just who we are. As Paul exhorts in II Thessalonians 3:13:
“Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.”
Our baptismal calling is not always easy, but it is holy. As we enter into this new year, how can you live more fully into this calling? How is God calling you to be his child? How are you be sent to love and serve your neighbor? Which gifts and talents can you more fully engage on behalf of God, secure in the knowledge that he is already well pleased with you? I hope that you will take the time to seek God’s will in these matters, and talk with me if you are either stuck or inspired. I rejoice to journey with you on this road of faith.
Thanks be to God for all of you. I am looking forward to discovering what God is calling us to in the coming year.