I want to start by saying: You are beloved of God. And there is nothing you can do about it. You are beloved by God and there is nothing you can do about it.
I wear my daughter a lot. You may have noticed that. I like to wear her. Sometimes people will tell me how smart it is.
And as tempting as it is to say: “Well, I came up with this all on my own…” — it is not a new idea. It is an ancient idea. I promise you that Mary wore Jesus. I’d put money on Miriam wearing Moses. This is an ancient concept.
All the best ideas in parenting are stolen. One of the things I am most proud of stealing is a bedtime liturgy from a friend of mine. Every night he tells his children: “There are two things you need to know about this world. 1) You are loved. And 2) there is nothing you can do about it.” When his second child was born, his oldest was about four years old and the new big sibling leaned over the newborn baby and said: “Welcome. There are two things you need to know about this world. 1) You are loved. And 2) there is nothing you can do about it.”
I’ve stolen this with Liv. The two things she knows about this world is that she is loved and there is nothing she can do about it.
And I’m going to steal this practice from my friend once again today and say to you: There are two things you need to know about this world: 1) You are all beloved of God. And 2) there is nothing any one of you could possibly ever do about it.
You see, what is striking about this story of Jesus baptism is that the voice speaks love over Jesus before his ministry began. Before he fed 5000. Before he healed the man born blind or saved a woman caught in adultery from the high price of patriarchy before he preached love. In fact, in Matthew’s Gospel, this is the very first time we see Jesus apart from his birth, the visit of the magi, and his early years as a tender age asylum seeker. Jesus has done nothing.
Jesus has done nothing. And a voice comes from heaven. Nadia Bolz Weber describes the voice as the love of God being too big and too wild to be contained and so it spills over and enters into our world, resting on young Jesus. Luke describes the voice as something like a dove, a gentle, graceful, but wild bird — one that God used in the story the flood to declare peace with humanity — Luke says it was something like a dove descending from the heavens and resting on Jesus, singing the words: “This is my child. Who I love. I am well pleased with this child.”
And again, God’s love and pleasure arrive and rest wildly and gently upon Jesus before he did a thing.
There are two things you need to know about this world. 1) You are loved. And 2) There is nothing you can do about it.
There is nothing you can do ABOUT it. But there certainly is something you can do WITH it.
Baptism is about a new beginning. The oft-used metaphor is death to all that is old and broken and breaking you and others and new life in the Kin-dom of liberating love and justice that is wholeness and healing for you and for others.
It is a ritual that marks a cosmic newness, identifying with the Christ who was first loved without cause and then lived a life that spread that same love without cause.
Based in this reality that we are loved, we are washed and anointed in a new reality of love that overflows from heavens and rests on each of us saying: You are beloved of God. And there is nothing you can do about it. And that overflowing, the messy spilling over love is contagious.
This morning we read excerpts from a baptism ritual. In the act of baptism and in the story of Jesus’ baptism, we are reminded that we are loved and there is nothing we can do about it and so we are asked:
Will you turn from evil and brokenness and toward Christ and wholeness?
We are reminded that we are loved and there is nothing we can do about it and so we are asked:
Will you follow Jesus as Liberator in our world and in your own life? We are reminded that we are loved and there is nothing we can do about it and so we are asked:
Will you celebrate this sacred life that God gives you and gives to all? We are reminded that we are loved and there is nothing we can do about it and so we are charged:
May the Holy Spirit be at work in you to do far more than you dare ask or imagine, keeping you in the knowledge of Christ’s love, too wonderful to be measured.
You are loved far more than you dare ask or imagine.
So go and do works far greater than you dare ask or imagine.
You are loved with a love too wonderful to be measured and so go and live love too wonderful to be measured.
In the Christian understanding of the world, in the Jesus story, in this ragtag group of people who seek to be Disciples of the Christ who was baptized and then changed the world with wildly contagious love, justice, liberation, and welcome — as Disciples, we remember Christ’s baptism, we remember our own baptisms and we hold that there are two foundational realities in this world: 1) Each of you is loved. And 2) There is nothing you can do about it.
But also 3) You are loved and there is nothing you can do about it… but there is so much you can do WITH it. There is so very much — unimaginable, beyond what you dare ask, too wonderful to be measured — that we can do WITH that contagious love.
In today’s Gospel, this is the very first we see of grown Jesus. He has done nothing so far. And on the basis of that nothing-other-than-being-himself, God’s voice cannot be contained to the heavens and spills into earth to proclaim: I love you! And Jesus, baptized in that love, then turns and lives a life of contagious love.
We are united with Christ in our own baptisms. And let me pause here and say, I used to be a Quaker. I value the physical sacrament of baptism. But if you haven’t physically been baptized, please don’t think that this doesn’t apply to you. By virtue of sitting here in this room with this loving community that lives in the image of the loving Jesus who was loved before he did anything by the God that we are told is, in very essence love — if you have not been baptized with water, let this former Quaker minister tell you: You are baptized in love. Drenched in it. Soaking. Dripping. Tracking it everywhere you go. You are baptized.
And in our baptisms, we are united with Christ. In his belovedness and in his beloving-ness.
To be a disciple of Christ is to be baptized in love and to then go forth baptizing all you encounter with that same love that has soaked you to the soul and drips from your saturated heart like so much rain on a stormy Seattle day.
And so, Disciples of Christ:
You are beloved of God — sit with that. Repeat it internally. Say it to the mirror each morning. Breathe it. Tweet it, if that’s your thing. Let it soak into your soul:
You are beloved of God.
There is nothing you can do about it.
But there is certainly much you can do WITH it.
And so, as the baptism ritual invites: May the Holy Spirit be at work in you to do far more than you dare ask or imagine, keeping you in the knowledge of Christ’s love, too wonderful to be measured.