You are God’s beloved child, and God knows you by name, and is with you in all things, good and bad. Now God sends you to share that good news with all God’s children.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Baptism of Our Lord, Lect. 1 C
Texts: Isaiah 43:1-7; Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name, you are mine.”
Hear that again: God, the creator of the universe calls you by name, and you belong to God.
Jesus heard the same thing at his baptism, as the Holy Spirit came upon him in the waters: “You are my beloved Son.” Nels will hear the same thing today, too, as he comes through the waters of baptism: “You are my beloved child. You belong to me. I know you by name.”
But this is your gift, too, always: as the Holy Spirit comes upon you in your baptismal waters, God says to you, “You are my beloved child. I have called you by name, you are mine.”
Let that sink into your heart and mind.
The Triune God who placed the stars, created the planets and galaxies, knows your name. “You are precious in my sight,” God says to you today, “and I love you.”
What if you could live every day in the joy that the God of the universe has claimed you, knows you by name, loves you? That you are precious to God? If you could cling to that promise, you wouldn’t need to be afraid anymore. That’s worth hoping for. When was the last time you weren’t afraid of something?
Because maybe you don’t feel precious to God very often, or beloved.
You might feel abandoned by God sometimes, as if God were absent. You might feel you’re not worthy of God’s love. Maybe you’re burdened by the weight of guilt and regret, the pain of things you know you’ve done wrong.
We can live under heavy weight these days – a weight of “might have beens” and “should have dones”. Especially in this broken world where so many of us are awakening to realities we didn’t understand before, awakening to our involvement in other peoples’ suffering even without wanting to be. Lots can make you fret about God’s love for you.
But God says – don’t be afraid. Don’t carry that weight. I have redeemed you, God says. I came to you in my beloved Son, to show you a way of love that will transform you and the world. To take all of the hurtful things you and all my children do, and draw them into my love to be forgiven and forgotten. To carry the world’s brokenness and suffering through death into my risen life that can heal all things.
When God says to you today, “I love you, and you are precious to me,” God means it. So you really don’t need to be afraid.
And know this, child of God, known to God by name, redeemed of God: nothing in this world can take you from the arms of the God to whom you belong.
God says to you today: when you pass through the waters, the floods, you will not be overwhelmed. Don’t be afraid.
When you pass through the fire, through the suffering in this world, you will not be burned. Don’t be afraid.
Did you hear? God says, “when” you pass through the flood, “when” you pass through fire. God expects bad things can and will happen. But whatever happens – flood, fire, death, tragedy, pain, suffering – God says, “do not be afraid, for I am with you.”
God promises far better than a life free of suffering and pain. God promises to always be with you, no matter what happens. Even if it’s death: God in Christ has broken death’s power. Even there you are safe with God.
Like Jesus, you are God’s beloved child. And, like Jesus, there’s one more thing to know.
After his baptism, Jesus went out into his ministry as God’s beloved Son, to let all God’s children know who they are, too. And so you, and I, and all God’s beloved, are sent out as God’s children in the world to let all the others know they’re precious to God and known.
Just before today’s words in Isaiah, God tells the same people in exile who are promised God’s eternal love that they also will be sent into the world. “I will give you as a light to the nations,” God says to them – and to you – in chapter 42. I need you to free prisoners from their chains, to heal those who are sick, to be a sign of my covenant promise of love for all my children.
In a couple weeks in our Gospel we’ll hear Jesus claim those words of Isaiah 42 as his own call. But in Acts, Luke says they’re your call and mine, the call of all who are filled with God’s Spirit, all who are God’s children.
It was that way for Jesus after his baptism. So it will be for Nels. And so it is with you.
You don’t need to be afraid. You are God’s beloved.
You don’t need to be afraid. God knows you by your name, and you belong to God. You don’t need to be afraid. You are precious to God, and God is always with you.
Now take that love and grace into your world. To those who are going through the waters and the fires but don’t know God is with them. To those who are in pain and in need, wherever they are. To those who are oppressed, or captive, or sick. So they know they don’t need to be afraid, either. So they know that God knows them by name and they are beloved and precious to God.
Go, now, and do this. It’s what God’s beloved ones do. It’s who we are. So that all can know this joy themselves.
In the name of Jesus. Amen