(Sermon began with the children’s book, “Incredible Ned”)
In Genesis Chapter 1, at the very start of our story, after God has created the light and has given shape to the earth and as placed stars in the sky and birds in the air, fish in the water, and animals upon the land.
God says – Let US make humankind in our own image.
In the image of God –
And so God creates humans. Male and female.
In the image of the living God.
An intentional act.
A purposeful moment.
A great work of art –
Made with love and generosity and made with
God’s image irrevocably woven into our DNA.
And God says – it IS GOOD.
The author of Psalm 139 seems to understand this –
That God was involved in our very creation – knitting us together in our mother’s womb.
Forming our inmost parts. Knowing us fully.
The psalmist says – it’s too wonderful for me to fully fathom.
We are a beloved creation of God.
We are made with intention and care.
We are not an accident.
Every last bit of us.
Our doublejointed arms, our super frizzy hair,
Our skin pigmentation, our sexual orientation… even our enormous feet.
Our weird fascination with elephants or our deep love of dark chocolate.
All a part of the plan.
Made with intention and love and care and thoughtfulness.
It’s how our story begins.
It’s the fundamental part of our identity that shapes who we are.
We are beloved. WE are blessed.
We are called God’s children.
And God says – it is GOOD.
There are few things more central to the story.
But let’s be honest.
Most days –
We don’t believe it.
We struggle to claim our belovedness.
When we look in the mirror,
We struggle to be comfortable in our own skin.
We aren’t so sure we like this person that God has made with such care and intention.
Whether it has to be with us being different from others, or the same as others.
Or whether it has to do with the shape of our bodies, the things that we can or can’t do.
Or how quickly our minds process and understand and think and reason.
Whatever our complaints -
Whatever the reasons –
When we look in the mirror,
we’ve all got a laundry list of things we’d change about ourselves. Things we wish we didn’t do – or things we wish were different – or the same as others.
Ways that we stack ourselves up against others and declare ourselves unworthy.
We struggle to believe in this alleged BELOVEDNESS.
WE struggle to SEE IT IN OURSELVES.
AND WE CERTAINLY struggle to SEE IT IN OTHERS.
I think this is what I love so much about the story of Incredible Ned.
He has been created different. He is unique, but most of the people in the story struggle to celebrate the unique ways that Ned was created.
And initially Ned feels not beloved, but rejected. Because he was made differently. Because he isn’t the same as others.
It is only the art teacher who begins to see this difference not as a problem but as simply a beautiful way that he was created – something that needs to be channeled certainly – but something that is good. Something worth celebrating.
In a sense – the art teacher – is a different kind of mirror –she allows Ned and his teachers to seem him in a new light and she helps Ned to claim and live into the beautiful and remarkable child he was made to be. To see not how bad he is, but how good he is.
Friends, the very heart of our relationship with God – is God’s desire over and over again – to show us a different kind of mirror.
To help us to know and remember what is true about us.
What is indeed the heart of our story.
In the waters of our baptism, we find such a mirror. Because in these waters, we are reminded that from the very beginning – we’ve been claimed as beloved. It wasn’t because we did anything to deserve it.
But because we were created in the image of God.
And God has declared us a work of art.
As I’ve been reflecting on the deep seeded tensions around our world. Tensions that are tearing apart communities and nations – tensions that are rooted in our inability to cope with the differences we see in one another.
It seems that to claim our belovedness and to declare the belovedness of all others might actually be a radical and audacious claim – but one that perhaps might be our only hope of transformation and a way forward.
This month, we’ve talked about our relationship with God and the ways we are called to take another step forward, but I simply cannot let this month go by without being sure that we have said – that one of God’s deepest desire as you grow in your relationship – would be that you could everyday claim your belovedness and everyday live more as if it were true – for you – and for others.
And so – in these waters –
we will baptize Steven and Ethan,
and as we declare their belovedness
may this moment be a different kind of mirror for each of you – reminding you of the truth that has always been true.