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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