Throughout the opening chapters of Matthew, Jesus is given a variety of different titles from different sources. In his Genealogy, he is spoke to as "son of David, son of Abraham" (1:1). When the angel visits Joseph in a dream, he is given the name "Jesus" (God Saves). Prophetically, he is called called "Emmanuel" (meaning God with us) (1:23), "Ruler" (2:6), "my son" (2:15), "a Nazorean" (2:23). By the Magi, he is "king of the Jews" (2:2), which leads to the term "Messiah" by Jewish religious leaders (2:4). John the Baptist calls him "the more powerful one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire" (3:11).
Now, in our text in the Baptism of Jesus, it is the turn of the Voice from Heaven that speaks and gives Jesus a new title: "My son, the Beloved.”
And I believe in this phrase, we discover the real identity of Jesus, and in discovering the real identity of Jesus, I believe that we discover our own true identity as well.
In the Gospels, Jesus is often called the Son of Man, another way of saying, a Son of Humanity, the Human One. In other words, he is a representation of our truest humanity. He represents humanity restored and made whole. Which means in Jesus, we discover who we really are, and who God has always intended us to be, “the Beloved One’s of God!” God’s beloved daughters and son’s.
As we reflect today on wee David’s baptism, and also in our story, on the baptism of Jesus, I believe that above all things, baptism is meant to be a declaration of God’s love for us, a declaration that each and everyone of us is the beloved of God.
We may not always feel like God’s Beloved. We may not always act or speak like the Beloved of God, but baptism unveils the truth of who we really The Beloved of God.
As I said last week, Alan Storey believes that at the heart of the Christian message is the truth that we are made By love, In Love, and For Love.
I would like to look briefly at each of those three statements: Made By Love, In Love and For Love.
Firstly, We are Made By Love.
This is a statement about who God is. Isn’t it interesting in the Gospel of Matthew, that the voice of God, the voice of Heaven is only spoken twice through the entire Gospel. The first time is here at Jesus Baptism. And the Second time is at the Transfiguration. On both occasions the words that are spoken from Heaven are words or affirmations of love. This is my Son, the beloved. This is my son whom I love.
In Matthew’s Gospel (as with Mark and Luke’s Gospels), God could be said to be one of few words, but when the Voice from Heaven does speak, the words that are spoken are words of love.
Matthew’s Gospel underlines this truth in Matthew chapter 5, where Jesus describes God in these words: "He makes his sun to shine on good and bad alike. He sends his rain upon the righteous and the unrighteous." God is indiscriminately loving. God is loving to those who deserve his love. God is loving to those who do not deserve his love.
The Rev. Ray Light under whose ministry I grew up used to say the following: “You can be the best person you know how to be and it make God love you any more than God loves you right now. And you can be the very worst person you know how to be, and it wont make God love you any less than God loves you right now.”
How we behave may determine the quality of life as we experience it, but it will not change God’s love for us.
Mystics of every faith and religion who have awoken to the Sacred Presence of the Divine in the end, all speak with one voice, that God, Ultimate Reality is to be experienced as Infinite Love.
On this Baptism Sunday we are reminded that the very essence of God is Love, and that each of us is made, By Love. Little David has been made by love.
Secondly, on a Baptism Sunday like today, we remember that we are all made not just By Love, but also made In Love.
It is a statement that reminds us that the Act of Creation itself is an act of love.
In the ancient Babylonian Creation Story, the creation of the world is described as an act of violence. After a great conflict between the gods, Marduk the great champion, fights and kills Tiamat. He shoots an arrow and splits her in two, and from her eyes flow the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and from her body, Marduk creates the heavens and the earth. For the ancient Babylonians, creation was an act of violence. But by contrast, the Judeo-Christian tradition, says that the act of creation is in fact an act of love. We are made by love, and we are made in love.
Creation wasn't something that only happened somewhere way back then at the beginning of time. Creation is happening here and now today. Creation happens every time a seed begins to germinate under the ground and little shoots break through the soil and a plant or tree or flower begins to emerge. Creation unfolds every time the miracle of conception takes place and a little baby begins to grow in the womb, the work of creation happens all over again. And this act of creation is God’s great act of Love.
Not only are we made by Love, but we are also made In Love. It takes an enormous sacrifice of love to bring new life into this world.
Today, we acknowledge that little David who we have baptised today has been made By love, but also in love.
Lastly, in Baptism, we remember that as God’s Beloved Son’s and Daughters, we are also made for love.
And that can be interpreted in two ways...
Firstly it reminds us that the environment that is best suited to our growth as human beings is an environment of love. And anyone who has worked with little children can testify to that. Give a child a warm, secure, loving environment, and that child will begin to thrive and blossom. The more secure, stable and nurturing the home environment is, the more a child can thrive. But the converse is also true. The less secure, stable and nurturing a home environment is, the more a child will struggle and often those struggles will continue deep into adulthood.
We are made for love. We operate best in a loving environment.
But we are also made for love in another sense. We have been made for acts of love and kindness. It is part of our human purposes in this world. Our real fulfillment in life comes through acts of love. You will know that yourself. When you do something you love, it brings joy and fulfillment. Some of you will know that my brother was a professional tennis player. For most of his career my brother loved playing tennis, it brought him joy. But at the end of his career, the last year and a half, his love for tennis had begun to wane. For those last months he said he was playing only for the money, and it became burdensome and life-sapping for him.
But we are made for love also in the sense that when we engage in acts of love towards others, it makes us feel good about ourselves and about life. Haven’t we all experienced how when we have been rude, or unkind, even when we feel it is justified, it leaves us feeling empty and hollow, unfulfilled and sometimes even dirty or unclean.
If there is a God shaped hole inside every human being that only God can fill, and if it is true that God is Love, then it is equally true that there is a love shaped hole inside every human being, that only Love can fill.
Today, on his Baptism day, we affirm especially of little David, that he has been made by Love, in love and for love. And as we hear that it is true for David, we hear also that it is true for each and everyone of us: The voice from Heaven, in the story of Jesus Baptism whispers over each of us today saying: You too are My Beloved.