“God is Well Pleased!” – January 8, 2017

“God is Well Pleased!”

January 8, 2017 – Epiphany and Baptism of Jesus – Year A

“This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”  This is my Daughter, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”  “This is my Child, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”  “This is my child.  I love him.  I am really pleased.”  “This is my beloved, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life.”  “This is my Own, my Beloved, on whom my favour rests.” 

Such is the affirmation to Jesus upon his baptism and is our confirmation by our generous God.  God is well pleased with every one of us!  God’s blessing is as if God says “I know you, and you are good.  You are worthy of praise.”  Isn’t it wonderful to be so completely and deeply known?  Isn’t amazing that even when we blow it big time, God sees through the awfulness and knows that deep down we are God’s beloved?

Those of us who have fallen in love know that from that moment your life’s agenda is to learn about the beloved.  You have this great desire to be with that beloved.  It is the beginning of a new way of living.  Such is true with God’s relationship with us.  From the moment we are born, God looks at us and names us beloved.  God’s greatest dream for us is that we             grow into the fullness of who we can be.

About 20 years ago, I was invited by the community psychologist to work with him in offering communication skills workshops.  We conducted them in churches, the community college, to sororities and then one day he asked me if I would go into Kent Correction Centre and do a one day workshop there.  I said yes, shaking in my shoes.  So, in we went.  We were screened, patted down and then allowed into one of the common areas.  There were about 20 men waiting for us.  These were men who were sentenced for up to 25 years.  Rob was not only the community psychologist but also a United Church minister.  He did prison ministry for many years.  This was a first for me.  We lead the men through our workshop and they were amazing involved in what we offered.  One disclosed stories about his abusive childhood, another told about not being allowed to attend his father’s funeral, another spoke about being gay in a men’s prison.  Several broke down in tears.  These men were owning their stories and speaking in clear ways that allowed them to get in touch with deep pain.  Rob and I were able to affirm that though they had done horrendous things are being punished for it, God loves the core of who they are.   Many of the men who gathered for a communications workshop heard the story of Jesus baptism in a new light and could own “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

A 12 year-old boy was baptized at a revival meeting.  The kids at school asked him about it.

“Did you hear God talk?” one asked.

“No.”

“Did you see a vision?” another asked.

“No.”

“Well, then how did you know it was God?” a third friend asked.

The boy thought for a moment and then said, “It’s like when you catch a fish.  You can’t see the fish or hear the fish; You just feel it tugging on you line.  I felt God tugging on my heart.”

God tugs at our hearts in interesting ways.  The sight of beautiful art-work – a moving piece of music – a spectacular vista in nature – “I love you” spoken by one’s beloved – involved in a cause for justice – cradling a newborn baby – seeing a person with disabilities accomplish a task after much practice – greeting a refugee after a time in detention – and the list goes on.  Will we take the time to appreciate those “God moments?”  Over and over God tugs at our heart and reminds us that we are valued and loved.

When we hear the powerful affirmation “You are my daughter – my son – my servant – in whom my soul delights.  Here is where I need you to serve.  Now, let me delight in you as you share the love I’ve invested in you,” we are encouraged to go out into the community and be lovers, justice makers, and compassionate caregivers.  Some of the ways that I see you folk living out that call are as you make phone calls to those who are ill or lonely.  I watch you helping out at the soupateria, preparing teas following funerals and memorial services, doing odd jobs around the church ensuring it is in good repair, volunteering for coffee time following our worship services, visiting the ill and home-bound, driving others to appointments and shopping, and other acts of grace and service.  All of this delights God.

Jesus was willing to do whatever it takes to make him pleasing to God.  Is that also true for us?

This is where the text from Isaiah proves helpful.  “To bring forth justice” is the key – repeated 3 times for emphasis.  Being chosen isn’t about being blessed so much as it is about being given responsibilities.  The nation of Israel (and we too!) had forgotten that being chosen by God meant more than “favoured nation” status.  It meant being a “light” and a “covenant”.  As a light, they were to reach into the dark corners of the world and bring the message of God’s abiding love and majesty.  As a covenant, they were to demonstrate what it means to be in relationship with God.

To be chosen by God – to have God’s Spirit within us – is something with which we are all endowed.  Jesus was unique in that he fulfilled completely the mandates of God, not for his own benefit, but for the sake of the world.

How do we respond to being “chosen” – to being God’s servant in and to the world?  Is God pleased with us?  I am convinced that love is both the question and the answer.  If we are committed to the way of extravagant love, then our lives are rich.  If we are willing to love lavishly, then our church is a beacon in Penticton.  If we are determined to love selflessly, then our world will be transformed.  And God says, “This is my beloved, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life.”  Well done good friends.  Amen.

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