January 13, 2013
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
Grace and Peace to you this morning. Grace and Peace.
Isaiah goes out of his way to tell us who God is before saying what God says and does.
This is the God who created Israel.
This is the God who formed Jacob.
(Please note that Jacob was renamed Israel after wrestling with the angel, and then the people took his new name for themselves. So this couplet is simply reinforcing that God is the one who created and formed them, and us, and all of creation.)
This is the God who has redeemed the exiles.
This is the God who called them by name.
You are mine, says the Lord.
This is the God who claims them.
These are the same kinds of things we say in Baptism: God created us, God formed us, God redeemed us, God has called us by name and God has claimed us.
We are fearfully and wonderfully made, says the psalmist.
Even before we loved God or even knew God, God loved us, says the Apostle.
God calls us by name and claims us as Gods own, says the Gospels.
In our baptism, we are named and claimed. In our very creation, we are loved. Let that sink in.
Isaiah is not done. Isaiahs first audience was people who feel like the world is no longer right, people who long for what life should have been, exiles. As you know by now, I find exile a powerful way of understanding the world in which we find ourselves. Our world does not match the promises we were given by technology, by government, by medicine, by military might. The old ways no longer seem to work, and the new ways sure seem slow in coming.
And to such a people, Isaiah says,
You are precious in the sight of the Lord.
You are honored in the heart of God.
You. Are. Loved.
Our reading in Luke this morning skips a little bit of the story that interjects some narrative for later on and we focus on John the Baptizer, at the Jordan, preaching repentance, proclaiming the one who is coming. In our good Protestant fashion, we look at this call to repentance and we start listing for ourselves those things which we need to repent, those things we do that we know we shouldnt and those things we dont do that we know we should be doing.
I would suggest this morning that it is important to take our own spiritual inventory, but that we tend to get moralistic when perhaps our focus should be elsewhere. We all have stuff we need to confess and ask forgiveness, but that is not all this passage is about.
The other problem is that once we are done being moralistic about ourselves, it is just a hop, skip and a jump to getting moralistic about others. Perhaps there is truth to the widely held perception that Christians are some of the most judgmental people.
On the one hand, it is pointing to Jesus as the one for whom John is waiting, the one who is to come. On the other, as we follow Jesus into the waters of baptism, as we die to the old life and rise to the new life, perhaps the water away all the bad voices of the world and we can finally hear what Jesus heard:
You are my beloved child; in you I am well pleased.
What difference will it make for you this week, going into it knowing that you are precious to God, honored by God, loved by God?
What difference will it make in the lives of your co-workers, your colleagues, your partner, your spouse, your parents, your kids, if you went through this week remembering that you are precious, you are honored, you are loved?
Because if we remember it for ourselves, it is much easier to remember it for others as well. This is not something to turn into a holier than thou stick with which to smack others. It is not a license to judge, nor does it confer the right to go neener-neener-neener.
Being seen as precious, as honored, as loved, sounds like pretty weak tea in a world that depends on success, on status, on accomplishment, on strength, on wealth and political clout and all of that. But God uses what is weak to confound the strong, and Gods foolishness is better than the worlds wisdom.
What would it mean if the ones who have committed the recent mass shootings had known that they were precious and honored and loved?
What would it mean for the rate of suicide in our country if people who were labeled and shamed as outcast or unworthy or different knew that they were precious and honored and loved?
What would it do to our epidemic of bullying if both bullies and those bullied knew that they were precious and honored and loved?
We may not be able to reach all of them. So we are going to start small, we are going to start where we are, right here.
You. Yes you. Are precious in Gods sight. You are honored in Gods heart. By God, you are loved.
Go and live it, and see what a difference it makes.
Thanks be to God.