A two-week intensive course in multi-cultural ministry. In LA. We would be housed in the homes of people who worked in multi-cultural ministry. And we would spend every day exploring different elements of that ministry—liturgy, history, pastoral care, community outreach. Just my cup of tea!
Until I learned who my roommate would be. A woman who pushed all my buttons. Sanctimonious, obsequious—a goody two-shoes and a suck-up to boot. I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t going to drop out. And I couldn’t see myself saying, “I can’t room with her.” But I didn’t know how I would ever survive those two weeks. I imagine she shared my qualms!
Then I remembered Tim’s distant cousin—a sweet old priest who had seen his share of troubles. On my way down to LA, I stopped to visit him. “Boyd, there must have been a few people along the way who drove you nuts. How did you do it? How did you get through service after service? How did you survive?”
He let the silence linger for a moment. Then he looked me in the eye and said, “Every time I stood before the congregation I looked out and said to myself, “Each one of us here is God’s beloved child. And that made all the difference in the world.”
“You are my son; the Beloved; with you I am well-pleased.”
What God says to Jesus, God says to all of God’s children—to you, to me, to everybody. We are all God’s beloved. Every single one of us. Even those who push our buttons!
Beloved of God—not for what we do or who we are or what we look like or how much money we have or how many things we have accumulated or the degrees we’ve earned or even the good deeds we have done—we are the beloved of God simply because we are God’s children.
Funny, witty, observant—beloved of God. Cranky, annoyed, downright grumpy—beloved of God. Generous, warm-hearted, bubbly even—beloved of God. Afraid, confused, anxious—beloved of God. Guilty, ashamed, embarrassed—beloved of God.
Muslim, Christian or Jew, atheists too—Beloved of God. The police officer shot while on patrol in West Philly and the man accused of shooting him—Beloved of God. Those who see the world as we do and those who don’t—all beloved of God
Those with whom we agree and those with whom we disagree—beloved of God. Those whose company we enjoy, those who drive us nuts, those who make us really mad—Beloved of God.
All of us beloved of God.
To be sure, not all that we do or all that we say is beloved of God. We sin. We fall short of the mark. We stand in need of forgiveness.
Nonetheless, all of us welcomed, accepted and embraced by God.
All of us beloved of God.
Each year on the Sunday following Epiphany we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus. We hear a version of his Baptism. And we remember our own baptism as we reaffirm our baptismal covenant.
Today, I hear the words, “You are my child; the Beloved; with you I am well-pleased” and I find myself wondering “What would life look like if we lived from this place—from this sense of being deeply loved by God—all of the time? How would our lives be different?”
Surely they wouldn’t be lives without pain or grief or hardship. All of that was part of Jesus’ life from the moment he heard those words, “You are my Son; the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Remember the wilderness; remember the Cross.
Surely they wouldn’t be lives without scorn or rejection. That, too, was part of Jesus’ life. Remember what his family said of him—“he has gone out of his mind”—and remember how the disciples fled when they came for him in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Of course there are times of grief and pain and hardship, times of scorn and rejection in all our lives. Wilderness times. We can’t avoid them. They are part of life. But when we live in confidence that we are, indeed, beloved of God, the wilderness takes on a different hue. We see the angels ministering to us there. And we, in turn, minister to others.
At its core life lived from the place of knowing oneself and all of creation as beloved of God is one of solidarity and service—solidarity with all of God’s beloved children. No matter who we are or what we do or how much money we make or how kind we are or even how we worship God. A life of solidarity with and service to all of God’s beloved—in our grief, in our pain, in our fear, in our hopes, in our disappointments and in our joy. The life Jesus leads. The life of discipleship.
This is the life our baptismal covenant calls us to.
Please join me in reaffirming our baptismal covenant.