top of page

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

From the baptismal story of Jesus, we hear these words: “And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”[i] This story is full of revelation about who Jesus is and God’s delight over him.

Imagine the heavens as they open up and the voice of God speaks directly to Jesus, saying, “You are my Beloved.” It is hard to begin to grasp what those words – You are My Beloved meant to Jesus at this juncture and what the memory of those words would have meant in the three year journey ahead.

In her sermon, “Sacramental Mud,” Barbara Brown Taylor describes the revelation that occurs in this scene in simple terms: Jesus “goes into the waters of the Jordan a carpenter and comes out a Messiah. He is the same person, but with a new direction. His being is the same, but his doing is about to take a radical turn.” It’s a subtle twist on the notion of “repentance,” which means, of course, a turning away, taking a new direction.”[ii] Jesus doesn’t have to turn away from sin, but according to Taylor, he is turning now toward his ministry. Turning now to his ministry he begins with words of identity firmly established spoken over him “You are My Beloved” … One with whom God is pleased…one in whom God delights.

This love was real in the very beginning of Luke way before the baptism story. These words of beloved are not new; God’s love is evident in the birth narratives earlier in this Gospel, fresh in our own memories as we have so recently traveled the Christmas season. Nevertheless these words must be heard anew and certainly received and spoken over Jesus in a powerfully deep way as he leaves the waters.

To be spoken over with blessing and love is life giving and life creating for all of us. The Isaiah passage reminds us as well that We belong to God, and God loves us, God knows our names and calls us his own. As we receive the overarching story of scriptures in various ways, if we have ears to hear, we can know the wonder of God’s voice saying over each one of us, “you are my beloved”. This is particularly important when there are many voices which will tell us otherwise. The task of the life of a disciple is to find ways to listen, hear and receive, and at some level, know the beautiful message of our belovedness.

My Mom uses the word beloved quite often. Her letters were usually addressed to all of her children begin simply “Beloved”. Often when greeting others, she will say “Hello Beloved”. It is filled with her desire that we would know the fullness of love and specifically the fullness of God’s love. It is filled with a message of being treasured and cherished which fills my heart when I hear her greeting. I know I am loved by my mom but there is never a day I tire of hearing that greeting once more: “Hello Beloved”.

Her own journey with God was one in which for a time she was convinced that God did not love her. After years of isolation from God in the midst of a worship service God’s love was revealed to her in a new way and her heart melted in response to this outpouring of love. From that time her prayers have always begun with the address “Our Loving Heavenly Father…:

It is with this kind of assurance of God’s love that a pastor places their hand on the head of the newly baptized person in some traditions and says, “God’s blessing be upon you, child of God, disciple of Christ, member of the church.” It is this assurance of God’s love by which we all can look in the eyes of any person we meet and know this is one of God’s beloved sons or daughters. If feeling brave we may even say that blessing over others; Hello Beloved. We are often overwhelmed with images of success. In whatever vocation or profession, we can judge ourselves by what we own, what we wear, what kind of title we have or don’t have, by what we can say about what we do. Whether we find ourselves puffed up or wanting the assessment is invalid. The actual assessment of our worth is found in God delights in us and calls us beloved when we were first born unable to do, own or achieve anything. The lifelong practice of learning to listen to God is the hope that we might hear those words from God Almighty, God creator of the heavens who sees us and knows us and says; “You are my son…my daughter…the beloved” in ways that can fill us and empower us to live life out of this assuredness.

I wonder how many times in the journey ahead Jesus revisited this moment of blessing. His entry into this new life of ministry begins with the desert temptations. Did he take a deep breath of his belovedness before responding to those temptations? Did the beloved identity echo over him in the hardest seasons ahead; overwhelmed by crowds, rejected by religious leaders, not meeting the expectations of others?

There is this wonderful opportunity we have as Christ followers to be a people resting in God’s love. When overwhelmed, rejected, not meeting the expectations of others can we breathe deep of our belovedness and respond in ways that are engaged while also non-anxious. Can we ask questions of the moment that might mean making changes in our schedules, reflect on the hurt that causes others to reject, review expectations internally and of others? Since we are beloved, we might be freer to speak honestly of where we have failed and when we need to confess. There is an invitation to freedom in our vocation and relationships when the goal is not some success rubric but is instead to live a life of love with truth, beauty and grace because we are so deeply loved.

The delight of God is a song sung over us as we are simply faithful to God’s call and love; not successful, not impressive, not anything but faithful to the call of Christ in this moment and this day, dwelling in the knowledge of God’s love.

If I were to ever get a tattoo this the word, “beloved” is what I would want put on my body. Probably on my wrist where I could see it as a reminder each day. And perhaps equally transformative is if you were marked with the word in a way that I could see. My assumptions, prejudices, reactions would all be tempered by the reminder that the person to whom I may be tempted to dismiss, judge or express some sarcastic “whit” is one who is cherished and loved by God. Jesus carried this knowledge in his journey as well. His response to the crowds was to see the beloved of God. The list of characters in the gospel unseen and unwanted by others were called out, restored and affirmed in the actions and words of Jesus. Knowing we are beloved is not just that all is well with our soul but that the wake of our lives would be evidence of God’s love for others.

So beloved, I pray that you would hear God’s greeting to you this day, and each day: “You are my Son {daughter}, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” and you would go a live each day with the echoes of those words over you.


[i] NRSV

[ii] Barbara Brown Taylor, Mixed Blessings, “Sacramental Mud”, p. 53 A Cowley Publication Book, The Rowman and Littlefield Publishing Group, 1998.