Beloved

We were sitting at a table in Starbucks.  My friend had just come from his wife’s—our good friend’s—hospital bedside.  For two weeks, he had been at her side watching her slip away, catching sleep when he could.  But that day was different.  He had a calmness about him I hadn’t seen before.  We talked about the horror he’d been through and how he was coping with it all.  In retrospect, I suspect he knew that she was dying.  But he didn’t mention that.  What he talked about was how he was getting through those horrendous days.  That’s where his story joins the story we just heard.

You see, my friend had this deep sense of peace about him, a calm, a fixed point in the storm that was his life in that moment.  My friend kept coming back to how he felt grounded in and held by God.  I think that’s what happens when you know deep in your bones you’re beloved of God.   Everything else seems to fall away.  It’s freeing.

Look what happens to Jesus when the heavens are ripped apart and God whispers to him, “You are my son.  My beloved.  With you I am well pleased.”  He’s driven out to the wilderness, tempted by Satan, ministered to by angels.  He’s ridiculed by family and rejected by neighbors.  Powerful insiders taunt him and plot against him.  At the end, even his own disciples flee from him.

And yet Jesus keeps his focus on the work before him—healing the sick, feeding the hungry, giving sight to the blind and proclaiming the good news that God’s reign is at hand.  Jesus knows he’s beloved of God and that makes all the difference in the world.  He doesn’t have to worry about earning that love or somehow disappointing the One who loves him or falling short in one way or another.  He’s loved before he even begins his work.  He is; therefore, he is beloved.

That’s true for Jesus and that’s true for me and you.  We are; therefore, we are beloved.

I wonder what it would be like if we lived from that place of belovedness.  Would we, like my friend, develop a deep peace?  Would we, like Jesus, focus on our mission and our ministry?

I wonder if knowing that we are beloved of God just as we are would make it easier for us to delight in ourselves.  Do you think we could get a kick out of just being us?

And I wonder how seeing one another as beloved of God would change how we treat one another.  Would we be more tender?  More patient?  More attentive?

How would our expectations of and interactions with one another change if we kept in mind that God is well pleased with us before we do or say a single thing?  Would we be more accepting of one another?  Would we find it easier to delight in each other?  Would we be more likely to show compassion?

One of my seminary friends tells the story of a classmate—a person she found particularly annoying.  When she found out she would be rooming with this woman for two weeks, she wondered how she would ever survive.   Finally, she turned to a particularly sweet priest who had served a difficult parish for a long time.  She asked him how he put up with the difficult ones.  He told her, “Whenever I look out at my congregation, I see the beloved children of God.”  The way my friend tells it, that shift in perspective made all the difference in the world.

Beloved of God.  That’s true of me, that’s true of you and that’s true of all God’s children.  How do we live with this knowledge?

In a few moments, we will reaffirm our baptismal vows.  They are our response to the love God showers on us.  As part of this reaffirmation, I invite you to stop by the baptismal font after receiving communion.  Pick up one of the pebbles.  Hold it your hand.  Let it remind you of God’s love for you.  Let it remind you that you are beloved of God.  How will you live with this knowledge?

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