In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’ (Mark 1:9-11)
It always breaks my heart when I hear people talking about “those people,” others who think differently, believe differently, behave differently, or speak differently. I am talking about race, faith, culture, politics – you name it. “Us/them” divisive thinking is diametrically opposed to the intention, will, and vision of our God. The baptism of Jesus the Christ is the seminal and original example of what happens to each of us in our own baptism. Through the symbolic and integral act of baptism, we share in Christ’s death and resurrection, and we emerge from the waters to receive this powerful affirmation, “you are my child, my beloved, and with you I am well pleased.” It echoes the creation of the world and the blessing of God that the creation is good.
Why do we struggle so hard to see the goodness in “those people?” Why do we resist the shift from “us/them” thinking to “all of us, together,” honoring the beauty and goodness of all the children of God? Why do we fight against welcoming those who are new or strange to us instead of openly embracing them as reflecting the image and glory of God?
We are beloved children of God. Yet, we are broken and weak. Every day we see images on television and our various devices of people doing great harm, violence, violation, and injustice to one another. Our politics not only define us, but they divide us to the point of armed conflict. Our public witness is one of war and riot and destruction and aggression and brutality. And often each side tries to justify their behavior as their rights and freedoms and liberties. It brings to mind the short but powerful gospel passage, “Jesus wept (John 11:35).”
But the limited capacity of human beings to be loving, to be kind, to be generous, to be just and merciful and welcoming is nowhere near as powerful of the will of God to bring about unity and reconciliation and inclusion and grace. God is greater than our inability to be faithful and God never gives up on us.
Our world needs healing and hope and security for all. What is God doing to make this happen? God is relying on those who have been baptized into the Christian faith to act like Jesus. God is relying on God’s beloved children to do no harm to anyone, while doing all the good they can to everyone. The church of Jesus Christ is a church of peace, of justice, of compassion, of love, of kindness and generosity, of hope and of mercy. When we live these Christlike qualities, we receive God’s good pleasure.
God of peace and justice, fill us with your Holy Spirit. Help us to stand as opponents to violence and hate, to prejudice and division, to hostility and selfishness. Make us beacons of your glory, light for the world that love, grace, hope, and joy will always prevail. We pray humbly in Jesus’ name. Amen.