Summary: A sermon about how God loves us even when we don't love ourselves.
“I’m So Delighted with You”
This past week I was reading about a church in another town that was trying to coin a catchphrase their church sign.
The suggestions which were put forth were good, but the church members were afraid that only other Christians would fully understand or appreciate what they were trying to say.
They wanted something with more breadth, greater reach, something that spoke directly and plainly to the heart of anyone who was happening by.
That’s when they decided on this:
“You Are So Welcome.”
I love the word “so”!
The word “so” clinches it.
It’s a tiny word that packs a mighty punch!
“So” injects heartiness into the mix.
Think about one of the most famous Bible passages: John 3:16.
What does it say?
“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life.”
God doesn’t just love us…
…God “so” loves us!!!
“So” declares that God loves us with gusto, with loudness, with arms flung wide open!!!
Like the father in the story of the Prodigal son, God embraces us, God sees us from a distance no matter what kind of shape we are in, God takes the initiative to run to us, to greet us, to welcome us, and to bring us in!!!
This is what we need to know and hear—this is what the world needs to know and hear!!!
We are “so” loved!!!
A famous movie-maker had a huge legal wrangle with his long-time mentor and guide.
The younger man, simply couldn’t handle criticism, and so he ended up rejecting the person who had helped him the most.
When it was all over, a close friend of the film maker summed up the real problem.
The younger man was looking for affirmation and love.
He hadn’t gotten it from his parents growing up, and so he couldn’t handle criticism—even if it was constructive and done with love.
So many people grow up in our world without ever having had a parent or guardian say to them (either in words, looks, or in hugs) “You are my dear child; I love you so much!”
“I am so happy with you!”
And as people grow up with their peers in school and then enter the workforce, although they are starving for love and affirmation many get the opposite: put-downs, bullying, angry voices, bitter rejection, the slamming of doors!
So many folks are walking about in our world with such low self-esteem.
Sure, they may do a decent job at masking it behind, perhaps, a big paying job, a fancy house and car…
…or perhaps, even with a body embroidered with tattoos, or a bottle to ease the pain or drugs to fill the void.
But eventually, the painful truth breaks through—they don’t know they are loved.
They don’t know just how important and wonderful they really are.
A friend of mine is a volunteer chaplain for the Dallas-Bay Fire Department.
We got together last weekend, and he was telling me about the alarming number of suicides the department is being called to.
He was just amazed, by how many people in the fairly affluent Hixson and Soddy Daisy area are taking their own lives.
We just don’t know who may be thinking of ending their life or leaving their marriage or is just feeling completely empty, broken, raw…
That might even describe you this very morning.
In our Gospel Lesson for this morning Jesus is baptized by John in the Jordan River.
And we are told that “While he was coming up out of the water, Jesus saw heaven splitting open and the Spirit, like a dove, coming down on him.”
The New International Version of the Bible says that Jesus “saw heaven being torn open…”
And this vision is both violent and yet filled with hope!!!
The only other place that Mark uses this word for ripping and tearing is when he describes what happens at the moment that Jesus dies on the Cross, when the Temple’s curtain is torn in two—marking the radical opening of the veil between heaven and earth—between God and humankind!!!
In both situations, it is God Who is doing the ripping and opening, as the boundaries which separate heaven and earth are being torn down!!!
And while this is happening, Jesus sees the Holy Spirit coming down from heaven, like a dove, descending not just upon Him, but into Him!!!
This is the same Holy Spirit of God that moved over the face of the waters at the Creation of the world; it is the same Holy Spirit which pursues us throughout our entire life—like a shepherd looking for a “beloved” lost sheep or a woman searching for a lost coin!!!