Isaiah 43:1-4, Psalm 139:1-12, Matthew 3:13-17
What amazed you this week? …… OMG
Competition good for Athletics and world records; not so good for relationships with God and with one another — and with ourselves. When competition creeps into the way that we treat one another as humans, we get ourselves into trouble.
God has a different way. A more amazing way. The way that God accomplishes the most dramatic changes in our lives and in the world is through love.
God’s actions in the Gospel represent love in action — more dramatic (more OMG) than we even think.
God’s love refocuses us from competing to sharing our unique contribution to the whole.
“Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.” (Matthew 3.13–15 NRSV)
John was stuck in competing mindset
- didn’t make sense that Jesus would disregard pecking order
Let it be so now; righteousness > winning
In the Kingdom of God, there is no first place, second place, there is your place. There are no gold, silver, or bronze medals. In the Kingdom of God, all are precious.
We need this kind of game-changing love so urgently because the need to compete creeps into every part of our lives.
Happens in household
- diaper competition
Happens in classrooms
Happens in politics
Love works differently. As the Apostle Paul writes, ‘love is patient; love is kind…love does not boast…or insist on its own way.’ In other words, love doesn’t try to win against others. Love changes life from an individual event to a team event. And we’re all on the same team.
We’re all in this together, but we aren’t all the same. We each have our own unique contribution to make. It’s how God made us…
God’s love reminds us we are each personally chosen.
“And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”” (Matthew 3.16–17 NRSV)
God is pretty direct about his love.
The amazing thing, though, is that Jesus hasn’t actually done anything yet……This is like awarding the medals before the competition.
God’s love is not about what we’ve done, but who we are. God’s love reminds us who we are. Like Jesus, we each receive the blessing of God in the waters of baptism. We each are named beloved child of God, with whom God is pleased. Not because we’re Lutheran, not because we’re good people, not because we go to church…because: Jesus.
In Jesus, God drew close to us so that we could see that we are made in the image of God. That each neighbor of ours is a holy connection to the God who calls us by name.
It can be an amazing experience to come to know that God doesn’t just love everybody. God loves me. God loves you.
But what’s most amazing is what happens next.
God’s love gives us courage to do the impossible.
Immediately after Jesus’ baptism, he heads into the wilderness. He fasts — no food! — for forty days. This would be a test for anyone and I won’t pretend it was easy even for the Son of God.
But Jesus did not go alone into that wilderness. He was accompanied by God’s love. He had just been told, and he trusted that truly he was beloved. We know he did, because how else could he have made it through those 40 days? When those moments of panic, fear, temptation, questioning and doubt arose — and we can be sure they did — what else could have kept Jesus from giving up…except knowing that he was loved. That God’s love held him despite hunger, anger, fear. And kept him focused on what he was called to do.
God’s love always connects us to others, and Jesus knew that love was calling him to connect others with his Father — that was the ultimate mission of Jesus and it began with love.
There will be times in your life when God’s love calls you to difficult tasks. Maybe tasks that seem impossible. You will not go alone — God’s love will accompany you. It will give you courage to face fear, anger, or doubt that otherwise might make you give up — except you know that God is with you.
With God’s love, nothing is impossible. It’s the very nature of the church to do the impossible over and over again…to die and then to rise. We live in a world that is full of injustice, violence, and hatred. There is evil not just in far away places, but in our own society, in our own homes, in our own hearts. The evil may seem impossible to defeat.
But God does not call us to win. God calls us to love. In love, you are freed to offer your own contribution. In love, you are chosen by God. In love, all things are possible. In God’s love, you will be amazed.