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Hey, Beautiful!


Baptism of Our Lord A 2018


One morning back in my stay at home days in Manchester, I was riding my bike to my son’s school to volunteer. 

I was in my full regalia: I had my backpack on my back, helmet on my head,  

baby seat behind me (with no baby in it), and the best fashion accessory:  

a rubber band around my pant leg so it wouldn’t get caught in the spokes. 

As I hopped on the bike, I thought to myself: 

Wow.  I am such a loser. 

I got a backpack on my back, this helmet on, a baby seat with no baby in it… 

I look like a total idiot. 

Then I crossed Main Street, and here is this guy leaning out of a second story window above the shop. 

He’s got no shirt on, and he was the kind of guy that had no business being without a shirt on. 

He had long hair and scraggly old beard, 

and he called out as I whizzed across the street, 

“Hey, beautiful!” 

And I thought to myself: “He’s right!  I am beautiful 

with my ridiculous helmet, my empty baby seat, and my rubber band pant leg--  

and guess what, man, you’re beautiful too!” 

I was thinking of these words on high this week as I read our Gospel lesson.

Jesus at his baptism hears a voice from on high too- a voice from heaven, God’s voice.

And not only that, Jesus sees the heavens torn open and the Spirit descend him.

In Matthew’s rendition of this story, the voice from heaven speaks to the crowd:

“This is my beloved Son,” as if revealing Jesus’ identity to them.

But here in Mark, the voice speaks directly to Jesus, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

I wonder what it might have meant to Jesus to hear these words.

He was, after, the Son of God.

Did he really need a reminder?

And yet, the very next thing that happened in the story is Jesus’ temptation.

Scripture says that “the Spirit immediately drove him into the wilderness.”

He was out there for 40 days and 40 nights, in harsh terrain.

It’s not easy for anyone to be alone in the desert, but on top of that, Jesus was out there with Satan.

The wilderness is a place of testing. (wild beasts , danger)

The same Spirit that came to Jesus in his baptism pushed him like a mighty wind out into the wilderness.

The two events are linked, and so it seems to me that in his time of testing,

Jesus must have recalled and drawn strength from the words that he heard from on high.

Like a deep well, Jesus’ baptism was an experience from which he could draw strength and sustenance

For the hard testing times.

When have you been in the wilderness? When have you struggled with a time of testing?

Was there a voice of affirmation that you returned to for strength?

There was a time some years back when I was losing a dear friendship.

A deep seated conflict arose, and there was no getting around it.

We had been an inseparable pair, best friends, and roommates;

Now we were enemies living in the same house.

We talked about our differences, but we couldn’t seem to resolve them.

It cast me into the wilderness, away from all that was familiar and comforting,

I no longer was sure of which way to go, and I felt terribly alone.

Sleep was a problem, so I began a nightly routine that included praying compline,

the monastic prayer that ends the day (which, by the way, you can find in our hymnal).

Compline includes reading suggested Psalms, one of which was Psalm 131.

It says, “I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother;

My soul is like the weaned child that is with me.”

As I read the psalm, I imagined myself as the child, sitting on its mother’s lap, safe and secure,

And deeply loved.

I let that love surround me, until I felt safe and warm, and could relax enough to sleep.

The scriptures are for me a way of hearing that divine voice, the voice that reminds me that I am deeply loved.

But there are many ways to hear that voice:

Some hear it in the voice of a trusted friend,

Others hear it in the quiet of meditation or a morning run.

The divine voice can be a word of grace offered by a loved one or a complete stranger

And others feel it in the honest to goodness exhaustion of a hard day’s labor of love.

We speak it to the best of our ability here at St Matthew, in our worship and in our welcome.

We echo the divine voice of affirmation,

the deep sense of goodness and value in each person of every age and ability.

You are accepted just the way you are, no conditions.

There are other voices in the world which crowd out the divine voice—

Critical voices, competitive voices, voices that belittle and demean.

And so on this day where we remember Jesus’ baptism and the voice of affirmation,

We also remember the voice that spoke on the day we were baptized.

On the day you were baptized, the pastor spoke the words of God’s voice:

“Child of God, you are sealed with the Holy Spirit, and marked with the cross of Christ forever.”

Like Jesus, you are family. You are God’s beloved child. You are the light of the world.

Martin Luther taught to begin each day with the sign of the cross,

as a reminder of our baptism and God’s unshakable love for us.

Today the font is front and center, so that when you come to communion,

or before you leave after the service, you can come and touch its waters.

You might even make the sign of the cross on your head.

And as you do so, I invite you to greet yourself with the words of the voice from on high:

Hey, beautiful!

And remember that no matter where you go, what you have done, or what you have been called,

you are precious and beloved

you are beautiful

you are a child of God.

#epiphany

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Avon, CT 06001

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