What does it mean to be a beloved child of God? Really . . . if you had to define exactly what that means to you, what would you say? What strength would you draw from the statement, “I am a beloved child of God”?
This week in Traditional Worship we will examine that idea in the context of our baptism to begin our Epiphany worship series, Back to Basics: Luke’s Portrait of Jesus with the sermon, “Jesus, God’s Beloved Son.”
This first Sunday after Epiphany is also called Baptism of our Lord. The baptism of Jesus is found in three of the four gospels and in each of those gospels it precedes a time of testing in the wilderness and the start of Jesus’ public ministry. He is a young man, going out to the River Jordan where John the Baptist is baptizing people. If we were there, we’d probably see nothing unusual at all about that.
And then something unexpected happened. In a single moment, Jesus’ identity was clarified. The key verse here is “and the Holy Spirit came down on him in bodily form like a dove. And there was a voice from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.”
Baptism is a sign of God’s grace poured out like water upon us. It’s a proclamation of identity.
This statement of identity is what sustained Protestant reformer Martin Luther when he was facing opposition from the Pope. Standing before the church council as they demanded that he recant his teachings, Martin Luther said simply, “Here I stand. I can do no other.”
As he was going through this threat, which even escalated to the threat of bodily harm by the early church, he would say to himself over and over again, “I was baptized, I was baptized, I was baptized.” In repeating that simple statement of identity, Martin Luther was reminding himself that no matter what happened, he was a precious child of God, claimed by God and called into his life of ministry. He came to understand that this basic truth of our faith extends to all who were baptized — and therefore called to ministry. He referred to this as the Priesthood of all Believers.
Do you remember your baptism? Chances are you don’t remember the event itself. More than likely you were an infant. But, you can remind yourself that you were baptized. What does your baptism mean to you? What does it mean to you that you are a child of God? How could you draw more strength from that knowledge, as Martin Luther did? How might repeating that simple phrase make a difference to you in times of trial?
I look forward to exploring these ideas with you this Sunday in the Sanctuary.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster