Mark 1:9-11: “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.”
In baptism Jesus, and all of us, are told who we ARE, and it is that identity that leads us into action. Too often people think that being a Christian is doing what we “ought” to do. But that is wrong. We do things because of who we are.
Bishop William Willimon, puts it well when he wrote: “Baptism does not say, “You can be God’s own if you do this or believe that.” Baptism says, “You are God’s own with no doubts at all ... Baptism is the rite of identity. ... When you ask in desperation, ‘Who in God’s name, am I?’ baptism will have you feel the water dripping from your head and the oil oozing down your neck and say, ‘You are royalty, God’s own.’
“[But] we have clouded the Good News with a bunch of “oughts.” ... Baptism says little about what we ought to be or do. It mainly asserts who we are: We are a new people. We are a holy nation. We are royalty, so you might as well get used to it. The imperative, “you ought,” comes only after the indicative, “You are.” ... You are the chosen. ... [and by that identity you are] claimed and ordained into God’s serious and joyful business of being prophet, priest and Kings in Christ’s world.”
At the 2006 National Youth Convention in San Antonio, one of the most powerful things that took place for me was witnessing a young woman realizing who she truly was. On that particular day we were at the learning center, one of the classes that the women could go to, was an “empowerment” session, where Christian speakers shared with young women, the need to strive to be more than mere objects. At the end of the session, each one wrote down something affirmative about themselves, that up until that point they had not been able to say. As I passed by, I stopped to read some of them. Most said things like, “I am kind.” “I am a good friend.” “I am loving to others.” Some were very personal, all were wonderful, UNTIL I got to one of the last cards. Some girl had written with a real flair, “I am sexy.”
My heart just dropped. All I could imagine was some “Barbie Doll,” listening to the entire talk, smacking gum and twirling her hair, missing the point of how Jesus sees them, and then at the end when they were asked to write down a positive trait about themselves, writing down, “I am sexy.”
I was feeling disappointed, when I felt an arm gently brush against me, forcing me to move off to the side, ever so slightly. I looked up, and there was a young woman, around sixteen, her body was large, her face was slightly deformed, either by some accident or a birth defect. She moved past me. She was with a friend. She then pointed at the card that said, “I am sexy,” and broke out in the biggest smile I have ever seen, and after her friend read it, she threw her arms around her and they hugged for the longest time, crying. I didn’t join in the hug, but I shared in the tears.
Baptism – your beginning in the Christian life – is an outstanding beginning, because it tells you who you ARE, forget the OUGHTS, forget the comparisons, or how others say you should look or act. You are perfect the way you are because YOU ARE: part of “a royal priesthood.” You are “a diamond in the hand of God.” And yes, in God’s eyes and ours, you are drop-dead beautiful!
Celebrate who you are!
God bless, Dan