Vicar Kyle Backhaus

“And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’”

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, how loved do you feel right now? How loved do you feel by your father or mother. How loved do you feel by your spouse or children? How loved do you feel by yourself? Love is a fickle thing. Some days you may feel more loved than others. Some days you may feel you have more love to give than others. It may seem pretty easy to love yourself when things are going right, when work seems to be going well, when family seems to be getting along. But how loved do you feel right now? Do you ever look in the mirror and think “How could anyone love someone like me?” After committing a sin that plagues your life, after seeing how badly you have hurt someone, after a flood of emotions overwhelms you, in a time of trials and struggle, have you ever thought “Why would anyone love me, when I can’t even seem to love myself?”

THE BAPTISM OF OUR LORD, 1-13-2013
Vicar Kyle Backhaus

“And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’”

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, how loved do you feel right now? How loved do you feel by your father or mother. How loved do you feel by your spouse or children? How loved do you feel by yourself? Love is a fickle thing. Some days you may feel more loved than others. Some days you may feel you have more love to give than others. It may seem pretty easy to love yourself when things are going right, when work seems to be going well, when family seems to be getting along. But how loved do you feel right now? Do you ever look in the mirror and think “How could anyone love someone like me?” After committing a sin that plagues your life, after seeing how badly you have hurt someone, after a flood of emotions overwhelms you, in a time of trials and struggle, have you ever thought “Why would anyone love me, when I can’t even seem to love myself?”

Satan loves it when he can make us ask the question “How could God ever love someone like me?” But Satan also loves it when we love ourselves. When we love how wonderful we are, when we love how wise we are, or when we love our own sin-filled bodies. Satan loves it when we idolize ourselves.

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus had also been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.” John’s baptism was one of repentance, was meant for conversion from unbelief to faith. If this is the case then why is Jesus there? Why is Jesus, true God in the flesh, there to be baptized by the sinner John?  Is Jesus there to be baptized and repent, is He there to be converted? No! But in His baptism, Jesus shows us just how much He loves us. He stands in waters that are muddied by your sins, and He receives John’s baptism to take up the sins of the world.

One of my favorite icons is of Jesus baptism. It depicts Jesus standing in the waters that are muddied by all of the peoples’ sin that had been baptized before him. Jesus standing in the water retracts that muddied sin-filled water as Jesus takes up their sin. He stands in that sin-filled water to take up the pains, and hurts of all people, and He pours out His healing, His grace and mercy so that they may walk in newness of life. He knows already at the start of His earthly ministry that His love will lead Him the cross to die in their place.

In Jesus’ Baptism, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit show us where God in the flesh dwells. He dwells amongst sinners, and receives a sinners Baptism. The Father and the Holy Spirit make their appearance known at the Baptism of Jesus sharing with Him that they are pleased. They are pleased with the Son as He takes up the sin of the world in His Baptism, and they will be pleased as He goes to cross to die in the place of all sinners.

Baptism is a cleansing and redeeming death for us sinners. Romans 6 says “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”  His death on the cross and our death in Baptism show us just how much the Father loves us. But we can deny this perfect gift of love? Yes, for it is only by faith in Jesus Christ that we receive this perfect love.

Jesus reveals His Divine identity in the midst of sinners, and in your baptism you were revealed to be God’s child, his pure, clean, free from sin, child. Isaiah 43 says “Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. God preserved the Israelites as they passed through the Red sea. He exchanged their lives for those of the Egyptians who were swallowed up by the Red Sea. In your baptismal flood, God claimed you, and on a hill called Calvary He exchanged you for His Son. This means that God has more than just eyes for you, He has a heart for you, for you are His beloved.

What’s not to love about your new identity?   How can you not be pleased with yourself when you share the love of Christ with your neighbor through your words and actions?  How can you not be pleased with yourself when you love God with all your heart? But Satan comes in again, and he tempts us to no longer identify with Christ and His love but with ourselves. He turns the focus back on YOU! He not only wants us to boast in just how great we are for sharing our love of Christ with others  but he also wants us to doubt God’s love for us when we do not feel like anyone could love us. He wants us to forget about our Baptism. He wants us to no longer hunger or thirst for Christ and His good gifts but instead focus on our fickle emotions. He wants us to well up with pride when things are going well and dwell on OUR feelings and emotions in times of hurt. It is then that Satan throws our sin in our face. He shows us our failure to love others; he shows us our pride and our despair and tells us we have the answers to our problems.

How loved do you feel right now? How loved do you feel when we talk about ourselves in this way? For Satan plays both sides of the fence. He hides himself in good times and in good feelings so that we may become comfortable in our sin and unaware of our own pride which wells up from within, And in times of despair and struggle he drowns you with questions. “How can God love a sinner like you, when you can’t even love yourself, How could anyone love someone like you?

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased. God’s word keeps pointing us away from ourselves and instead points us to the cross. Isaiah knew this and he points us to Christ. He says “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” In times of trouble, doubts, worries, trials and temptations we should not forget that we have been redeemed by Christ. We have been redeemed by His blood. Isaiah says that He is with us through it all and even better than that He has gone through it all. He has experienced troubles, doubts, worries, trials and temptations. He has promised that these things will not overwhelm or consume us.

When we feel as if we are undeserving of love or even God’s love the Holy Spirit points us to Christ. It points us to Christ with whom the Father is pleased. As Jesus stood in the Jordan with water still dripping from His head, He took up your sins. That water would soon be replaced with blood as a crown of thorns would rip into His flesh, in this God was well pleased.
When you feel unloved by God, when you feel as if you have failed and no longer deserve the love of anyone, it is then that we look to our new identity in Baptism. We are God’s children, forgiven, pure and clean. Remember the words of Romans 6 “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” His death opens the gates of heaven and He floods you with His grace here and now with His supper. It is here that Jesus gives to us His very Body and Blood. God says to you as you come to the table, “With you I am well pleased.”

Our Lord and Savior, after being baptized, hears some of the most beautiful and comforting words in all of Scripture. “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.”  It is these words that give us peace when we feel undeserving of love. For they point us outside of our self, and to God’s gift of Jesus. The Father was pleased with the Son, for in His baptism along with His death and Resurrection, Christ gathered you to the Father. Even in the flood of fickle emotions, whether doubt, guilt, worry or shame, rest assured in the promises of your baptism. For you are God’s child, His beloved, and in you, He is well pleased.

 

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