A voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased”—Mark 1:11, New Revised Standard Version
It’s Sunday late afternoon. My thoughts and emotions cannot escape the joy experienced in this morning’s worship when over 120 children and adults either experienced baptism or reaffirmed their baptism. In addition, over 1,000 people came forward to participate in their baptismal remembrance. I find myself, once again, astounded by the movement of the Holy Spirit among God’s people at Central and Genesis. In total, approximately 1,200 people, either claimed for the first time, reaffirmed, or remembered their identity as God’s beloved child.
It’s important that we never tuck away our baptism. We should never get over our baptism and our identity as God’s beloved sons and daughters, just as Jesus never got over his identity as God’s beloved. The temptation is to give into lesser identities than our identity as the beloved. Henri J.M. Nouwen wrote Life of the Beloved in response to a friend’s request asking Nouwen to write a book explaining the spiritual life in simple terms. Nouwen’s response, “All I want to say to you is, ‘You are the Beloved.’” Nouwen confesses his own struggles with living into his identity as the beloved with what he calls the “trap of self-rejection.” Nouwen calls self-rejection the greatest trap in life, greater than success, popularity, and power. He writes that it is not easy to hear God’s voice proclaiming us as his beloved in a world full of voices screaming to us: “You are no good, you are ugly; you are worthless; you are despicable, you are a nobody” (31). These voices are so tenacious and loud that it is easy for us to succumb to them. “Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life,” writes Nouwen, “because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the ‘Beloved.’ Being the beloved expresses the core truth of our existence’” (33). This is why we should never get over our baptism: God never gets over us as his beloved!
I read a quote a couple of months ago that asks, “If God, through Jesus Christ, has given us a new script for our lives, what makes us keep referring to the old one?” If God has given us a new script as his beloved, why do we refer to an old script that says we are anything less than God’s beloved?” You might want to read those questions again and ponder them for a moment.
I have a phrase I sometimes use to stress the importance of not filing away our baptism in the past. The phrase is “living wet.” What this means is that we live with an awareness of our true identity as God’s beloved. Again, Jesus did this. The affirmation that he is God’s Beloved launched him out into ministry to impact the world. On Sunday, we begin a new sermon series called “Impact.” If we neglect our true identity as God’s beloved, the impact we will have on the world for Christ will be weak. However, if we cling to our identity as God’s beloved our impact will be strong. So “live wet” people of Central and Genesis. You are God’s beloved!
-Dr. Steve Pulliam
Central’s Executive Pastor