Baptism of Our Lord - "The Voice of the Lord Speaks 'Beloved'"


Today we are going to continue our journey through the Season of Epiphany and the sermon series, "Expect the Unexpected."  Epiphany is a season of surprise realization.  It's when we have the opportunity to begin to see more clearly who Jesus is, and what Jesus came to do.  

Fr. Thomas Keating once wrote about this season:  

The great enlightenment of the Christmas-Epiphany Mystery is when we perceive that the divine light manifests not only that the Son of God has become a human being, but that we are incorporated into his body.  This is the special grace of Epiphany 

Today we are going to take a bit of a detour in the Epiphany journey however because the official "Feast Day" in the historic church calendar today is The Baptism of our Lord. This is the moment when Jesus is baptized by John and something amazing happens... 

The Voice of the Lord speaks and says something beautiful... we'll get to that in a moment.  

I want you to think about the most recognizable voices you can think of.  I'm actually going to play some clips and I want you to see if you can guess which actor fits with the iconic voice that you are hearing. 

There's something about a familiar voice, right?  When you hear the voice of a loved one after a long absence... When you hear a voice mail from someone special... Even someone who has passed away... 

In the story of Jesus' Baptism, the Voice of the Lord speaks over Jesus as he emerges from the Jordan River---speaking the word "Beloved" over him.  The Voice of the Lord calls Jesus "Beloved" before he begins his ministry... before the miracles... before the Cross... 

Today we're going to explore this moment in a roundabout kind of way.  I'm going to be preaching and teaching from Psalm 29, and we're going to learn a bit more about the Voice of the Lord, and how God is still speaking... and what God is saying over you and me.  

Here's what I want us to hold on to today---the main idea that we're going to be coming back to again and again:  The Voice of the Lord Speaks "Beloved." 

Don't go anywhere---we'll be back with much more.  

1 Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,[a]
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name;
    worship the Lord in holy splendor.
3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
    the God of glory thunders,
    the Lord, over mighty waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
    the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
    the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
    and Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
8 The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
    the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl,[b]
    and strips the forest bare;
    and in his temple all say, “Glory!”
10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
    the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
11 May the Lord give strength to his people!
    May the Lord bless his people with peace!

Okay, let's dig a bit deeper into this psalm---and learn a bit more about why it is connected to the story of Jesus' Baptism from the Gospel accounts.  

Scholars have recognized that there are some ancient Canaanite rhythms in this psalm---as if it was borrowed heavily from a pagan liturgy.  In the ancient Canaanite poems, the gods controlled the chaos--and there are more than a few of them that tell the tale of gods contending with water deities and having to overcome them in order to gain control of Creation.  

There's no mistaking who is being talked about here, though. The singer speaks of Yahweh and Adonai---names of the Most High God.  

But the phrase that gets used over and over again is "The voice of God." So any time I see something like that repeated, it sparks my curiosity.  Here's what I found out. The voice that is being described here is referred to as the bat qol in Hebrew. It literally means "daughter of a voice" or a still, small voice... a voice that cannot be posessed.  

This is a voice that is speaking underneath all of the other noise of the world.  It's the voice that makes the world hum with reverence.  

It is the voice of Yahweh speaking shalom over the whole world.  This isn't a special message that comes only to a select few---prophets, mystics, holy people... This voice can be heard by everyone, and can be heard by everyone if they are willing to listen.  

And this voice breaks through in the moment of Jesus' baptism in order to declare how God's shalom is going to be realized in the world---through Jesus himself.  

The voice speaks over Jesus before he has an opportunity to do anything.  Before all of the ministry and mission... and before the full realization that he is the Christ.  And what does the ever-speaking voice of God say?  "Beloved... This is my Beloved." 

So what does this all teach us?  

The always speaking God speaks in a way for all to hear, but you have to be listening to comprehend what God is truly saying… about who you really are.

So where do we go from here?  How do we live into what God is speaking over us?

Epiphany brings us to the realization that we are “in Christ” 
The Voice that speaks “Beloved” is speaking that word over you and me. 

Being "in Christ" means that we have been mystically, wonderfully, mercifully brought into deep, abiding relationship with God because of Jesus and what Jesus did for our sakes, and for the sake of the world.  

God looks upon us and sees us as we will be... and God longs for us to see that same vision of ourselves. 

Epiphany offers us a chance to expect the unexpected 
We may be “not yet” versions of who we will be… but we are still “Beloved” 
Here is where the rubber meets the road for you and me.  We are most definitely not where we need to be... where we will be when we become our best and truest selves.  We are both now and not yet.  

But just because we haven't gotten things figured out does not mean that we are not Beloved by God.  We are Beloved simply because God speaks it over us, not because of anything we might be able to do.  

You are Beloved.  

You are filled with holy purpose, and you will do great things when you realize it.  But even so---you are beloved long before you begin the journey toward your destiny.  

You might feel broken... messed up... wrong... tired... uncertain... anxious... fearful... none of this matters.  You are beloved.  Rest in this, and let it be enough.  

And remember to listen carefully beyond the noise, and the distractions in the world around you because God is always speaking.  

And the voice of the Lord speaks "Beloved." 

Say it with me. 


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