Sermon by Rev. Steven McClelland on Matthew 3: 16 – 17. Focus on what it means to be beloved and why its important for us to bless one another. Check out Jody Sinkway and the Choir following the sermon.
My mother is famous in our family for sending everyone and I mean everyone – love notes. She sends them throughout the year whether it’s a nationally recognized day or not she sends her children and grandchildren notes telling them why they are so special to her and why she loves us all so much. I save these notes. Everyone is precious to me.
What she does is what God was doing with Jesus at the Jordon River during his baptism. This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.”
It’s the voice of God and it’s a voice saying: “I love you with an everlasting love. I have molded you together in the depths of the earth. I have knitted you together in your mother’s womb. I have written you name in the palm of my hand and I hold you safely in the shade of my embrace. You belong to me and I belong to you. You are safe where I am. Don’t be afraid. Trust that you are the beloved. That is who you truly are to me.”
I want you to hear that voice, because it’s not a very loud voice as the psalmist reminds us “It’s the still small voice of God.” But more importantly is believing that this voice speaks the truth of who we truly are.
Henri Nouwen, after having had a very successful career as an ordained priest, professor of psychology at the Menninger Clinic in Kansas and at the universities of Notre Dame, Yale and Harvard left this behind to go and share his life with mentally handicapped people at the L’Arche community of Daybreak in Toronto, Canada.
In his book The Life of the Beloved Nouwen writes:
The people I live with sometimes have a very hard time believing they are chosen to be loved by God. They suffer, not so much from their mental handicap, but from the feeling of being not wanted, not desired. They have lost touch with the truth that they are chosen. It’s hard for them to be in touch with that, precisely because the people around them have often said, “I don’t’ want you around. I don’t want you to be here. Why don’t you go away?
Therefore the life of the beloved starts by trusting that we are chosen in our uniqueness, that we are unique in the eyes of God and precious in his sight.
Now the second aspect of the quality of the life of the beloved is that we are blessed. It is so important that you and I experience that we are blessed. The word benediction means blessing. Therefore to bless someone means to say good things about them. “You are good.” We need to know that good things are being said of us. We really have to trust that, otherwise we cannot bless other people. Way too many people feel that they are not blessed.
“There is one of my friends (where I live) who is quite handicapped but a wonderful, wonderful lady. She said to me, “Henri, can you bless me?” I remember walking up to her and giving her a little cross on her forehead. She said, “Henri, it doesn’t work.” I was embarrassed and said, “I gave you a blessing.” She said, “No, I want to be blessed.” I kept thinking, “What does she mean?”
We had a little service and all these people were sitting there. After the service I said, “Janet wants a blessing.” I had an alb on a long robe with long sleeves. Janet walked up to me and said, “I want to be blessed.” She put her head against my chest and I spontaneously put my arms around her, held her, and looked right into her eyes and said, “Blessed are you, Janet. You know how much we love you. You know how important you are. You know what a good woman you are.”
She looked at me and said. “Yes. Yes. Yes. I know. I suddenly saw all sorts of energy coming back to her. She seemed to be relieved from the feeling of depression because suddenly she realized again that she was blessed. She went back to her place and immediately other people said, “I want that kind of blessing too.”
The people kept walking up to me and I suddenly found myself embracing people. I remember one of the people in our community who assists the handicapped, a strong guy, a football player, said, “Henri, can I have a blessing, too?” I remember our standing there in front of each other and I said, “John,” and I put my hand on his shoulder, “you are blessed. You are a good person. God loves you. We love you. You are important.” Can you claim that and live as the blessed one?”
I think it’s very important that when we are in touch with our blessedness that we bless other people. People need our blessing; people need to know that their father, mother, brothers, sisters and grandparents bless them.
Then the third thing happens – we are broken. Nouwen says,
We are broken people. You and I know that we are broken. A lot of brokenness has to do with relationships. If you ask me what it is that makes us suffer, it is always because someone couldn’t hold onto us or someone hurt us. I know each of us can point to a brokenness in our relationship with our husband, with our wife, with our father, our mother, with our children, with our friends, with those we love.
Wherever there is love, there is also pain. Wherever there are people who really care for us, there is also the pain of sometimes not being cared for enough, or in the way that we needed.
What do we do with our brokenness? As the beloved of God we have to embrace it, to befriend our own brokenness, not to say, “That should not be in my life. No. We should dare to embrace our brokenness, and really look at it. “Yes, I am hurting. Yes, I am wounded. Yes, It’s painful.”
Quite often we want to solve people’s problems and tell them to do this or to do that, to help them get over it. But that creates distance. The main task we have is to put our brokenness and the brokenness of the people with whom we live under the blessing of God. If you believe your brokenness is a curse, even a little brokenness can destroy your life.
It’s like an affirmation that you are not good and suddenly you say, “You see what has happened? I lost my job. This friend won’t speak to me. We can hold on to it and see it proven that you are no good or you can put the brokenness under the blessing of God, to live as people whom good things are also being said.
If we live our life as people who are called, blessed, and broken, then we can give of ourselves. We are taken, blessed and broken. I want to tell you something that may sound a little strange, but I really believe deeply that our greatest human desire is to give of ourselves.
Quite often we say that we want to have a lot for ourselves then we will give a little bit back. No, I think the greatest fulfillment of our heart is in the giving, to give ourselves. It’s letting go. The mystery is that as we let go for others our lives start bearing fruit. That is the great mystery.
Jesus says, “It is good for you that I die because when I die I can give you my spirit and you will bear much fruit in your life.” I really believe that is the final call for all of us – to give ourselves away for others.
The people who have lived as the beloved continue to bear fruit generations after they have died. When we think about certain great people in history, they still give us life and hope.
Their stories say something about our lives. We are little people, but if we believe we are chosen, that we are blessed, that we are broken, to be given, then we can trust that our life will bear fruit. It will multiply like the loaves and fishes. Not only in this life, but beyond it. To this day I will hold onto my mother and father’s words of love to me. In every book my father writeshe inscribes in my copy: This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased. Everyone should hold onto the promise that they are blessed and beloved too. And then go out from here and bless others. Amen