Summary: What we hear about ourselves, shapes us. Messages children often hear lead them to be negative. God’s message to us is that we are loved and chosen.

The Baptism of Our Lord Isaiah 43:1-7 January 7, 2001

Rev. Roger Haugen

If a Child Lives with . . .

By Dorothy Law Nolte

If a child lives with criticism . . . . he learns to condemn.

If a child lives with hostility . . . .he learns to fight.

If a child lives with fear . . . . he learns to be apprehensive.

If a child lives with jealousy . . . . he learns to feel guilt.

If a child lives with tolerance . . . He learns to be patient.

If a child lives with encouragement . . . . he learns to be confident.

If a child lives with praise . . . he learns to be appreciative.

If a child lives with acceptance . . . . he learns to love.

If a child lives with approval . . . . he learns to like himself.

If a child lives with recognition . . . . he learns it is good to have a goal.

If a child lives with honesty . . . .he learns what truth is.

If a child lives with fairness . . . . he learns justice.

If a child lives with security . . . he learns to trust in himself and others.

If a child lives with friendliness . . . he learns that the world is a nice place in which to live.

What we hear, what we are told about ourselves, shapes us. This is not just for children but for everyone. We are either built up or torn down, little by little. What messages do you hear? What messages bombard us every day?

- You are too fat, too old, too young, too tall, too short

- not qualified, over qualified

- in need of this or that hair colour, investment solution, car

- win the lottery and be fine, meaning you aren’t now

- if you really were something you would be living in L.A.

Imagine how different life would be if we heard positive messages, affirmations of who we are. Just like the children, we are shaped by what we hear. Listen to Isaiah spoken to each one of us.

1 But now thus says the LORD,

he who created you, O Jacob,

he who formed you, O Israel:

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by name, you are mine.

2 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.

you are precious in my sight,

and honored, and I love you,

Do not fear, for I am with you;

This is what God thinks of us! We are created, chosen, loved. This is the God who knows the number of hairs on our head, the God who claims us in baptism and tells us that we are chosen, that we are unique, that we are created in the image of the one who speaks to us with such love.

The God whom we gather to worship — grateful to be in the presence of this God. We gather in worship to hear positive affirmations that come from God. We open our worship with the words, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” And I hear the response, “And also with you.” We share that peace with one another several times in the service. We gather to sing praise of God and bask in God’s presence, grace and love.

We hear affirmations from Scripture telling us who we are, whose we are counteracting the messages we hear all week.

“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation.” 2 Cor. 5:17

“I am confident in this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” Phil. 1:6

“Call to be and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you had not known. Jer. 33:3

“You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God,” 1 Peter 2:9

We gather to baptize our children and hear those promises of God, promise to be a part of the process of reminding this child who he is despite what other messages he might receive in his life. We share in the awe of Jesus’ baptism where God declares to Jesus, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

This is a love showered on Jesus before he had done anything. This is what Henri Nouwen calls “first love”. A love that is not contingent upon who we are or what we do. It is a love that is ours without our deserving. A love that states who we are and promises to help us live out what God envisions us to be. A love which wants to help each one of us live out the mission God created us for and calls us to.

The St. Louis Jesuits sing “We have a treasure / not made of gold / In earthen vessels / wealth untold.” This is who we are, this is our authentic self, not some imagined idea of perfection created and peddled by the culture in which we live. We are treasures created by God loved even before we do anything. The starting point of all we are and do. You are loved, you are the Beloved, with whom God is well pleased.

We come to worship to remove us from the hurried pace of life, but often we need to slow down in worship and allow the grace of God to flow over us, to be cared for, to give up our need to be doing something, to be in control. We need to “hear” the affirmations spoken to us as though spoken only to me. To see and hear the wonder of a baptism, to taste and smell the wonder of the Holy Communion knowing that these are gifts from God. Gifts that come out of a love that surrounds us.

I am going to read the Gospel text again. This time close your eyes, put your feet flat on the floor and sit comfortably. I want you to put yourself in the story. Use all your senses to see, hear, taste and smell the story. Feel with all you emotions.

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, "I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with* the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved;* with you I am well pleased."*

Now imagine that you are alone.

Think back to the events of the day and re-experience the day.

After a while, Jesus returns and sits with you.

Enjoy the silence together.

Jesus asks you, “What may I do for you?”

Tell him what is in your heart.

Ask Jesus, “What may I do for you?”

Listen with your heart, prayerfully.

End by thanking God for sharing this time together.