Loved

Rev. Megan Huston
January 11, 2014

Mark 1:4-11
4John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.6Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.7He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals.8I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
9In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.11And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

 

I think I may have shared with you all before that I love all things minion. These cute little creatures are featured in the movie Despicable Me and apparently I’m not the only one who loves them because now they have their own feature film.

The original movie “Despicable Me” is a spoof about a villain superhero struggling with his identity as he ages. The main character, Gru, played by Steve Carrel, is painted as a mean and hateful man who lives in a dungeonous mansion and wishes to be the most evil of all villains.

At one point in the movie, the evil villain Gru thinks back to his childhood. First, he is a toddler and paints a picture of a rocketship. He says in his Russian accent (because all evil villains come with a Russian accent), “Look mom! I drew a picture of me landing on the moon” His mother looks at the masterpiece with her eyebrows lifted and then shrugs… ehh… The next clip shows him as a young child. “Look mom! I made the prototype of the rocket out of macaroni!” He displays a perfect model of a rocket ship made out of macaroni. His mother again raises her eyebrows, unimpressed, and then… ehhh. Finally as a teenager, he meets her in the backyard and excitedly proclaims “Look mom I made the real rocket based on the macaroni prototype!” And then the lifesize rocket shoots up into the air out of their backyard. His mother seems to finally be impressed when she sees it and then once again she repeats… ehhh…

No matter what Gru does, he cannot achieve the love & approval he desires from his mom. Therefore Gru must take on his most ambitious crime yet. He plans on stealing the moon. It seems that even this insane criminal mastermind is driven by his desire for love and approval.

How many crazy things have we done in order to gain the affirmation of our peers or our family?

I think we all have a voice in the back of our head that told us somewhere along the way that we weren’t enough. Like, sometime when we were growing up we had a family member that told my sister and I that she was the smart one and I was the cute one. So fast forward twenty years and my sister is on some crazy no carbohydrate only vegetable cleanse thing. And I think much of my drive throughout college and graduate school and my career has been in order to prove, “But I am also one of the smart ones!”

It seems that we are often running ourselves ragged in order to prove to the world that we have what it takes. We must be the best parent, the best employee or boss. It isn’t enough to make good grades because only being in a top percentage of your class gets you into the most elite schools.

And while we may be doing all these things for really heartfelt and good reasons, I can’t help but think that part of all this madness may have to do with not only proving our worth to others but maybe even trying to prove it to ourselves.

I shared in the church email this week about my first baptisms as an ordained minister. I will always remember the wet footprints in the hallway of my church in TN. That image is the most radical confirmation of grace because I knew so much about those kids lives- I knew the struggles they faced at home and at school. I knew their deepest insecurities and fears. I had seen many of them at their absolute best and their absolute worst through church camp and mission trips and simply by the fact of living in a small town and worshiping at a small church together. I knew their stories intimately and those footsteps represented the most profound mark that would ever be placed on their lives.

It was bigger than when Dallas and Nick’s mom died of cancer. It was stronger than Calan’s sweet brother Kobe’s struggle with severe autism. It was more powerful than the addiction that was tearing apart Preston’s family. It was the most defining act of their lives because it was their day to proclaim God’s grace and commit to living into their belovedness.

In the Gospel of Mark we are told that the heavens were torn apart as Jesus was coming up out of his baptismal waters. They weren’t just opened up or separated, but it was like God had this urgent message that had to be sent to those living in flesh. “You are my Son, the Beloved, and with you I am well pleased.”

The Message paraphrase puts it this way, “You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love…”

This is God’s promise to Jesus and God’s promise to us. This is our assurance that even when we sit with darkness that we are loved and chosen. This is the source of our joy, our hope and our strength when all seems hopeless.

I read an article by “Science” magazine that says that in a study men were more likely to choose electric shock than being alone. Sitting alone with our thoughts can be terrifying. One comedian describes it as that moment when you are all of the sudden alone in your car and you start to feel it, that underneath everything there is that thing, you know that forever empty…the knowledge that it is all for nothing and you are all alone.” He says “Life is tremendously sad.”

I believe that life is often tremendously sad, but it is equal parts breathtakingly beautiful. And I think the comedian points to a really important truth which is that when all the noise around us stops, we can feel completely empty. But, we don’t have to.

I believe if we have the courage, to be alone with ourselves, and to live into what it means to be God’s beloved and God’s chosen, that things start to change. And we don’t have to be so concerned with keeping things so busy around us.

I realized that my spiritual director is truly remarkable because the last time I went to see her I got really mad at her. I go with my friend Anne and when I got back to the car, Anne was all like, “Sharon is so wonderful” and Anne said that I was not having any of it and that I was in a terrible mood the whole ride home. I was frustrated because in a series of bemoaning I explained to Sharon that I just don’t have any other choice and she said in her peaceful voice, “But you always have a choice.” And that was what got me. It took me weeks to sort through it but she was right that I had choices but I had to have the courage to make them.

I think that God’s love chooses us, but we must choose, as Henri Nouwen explains, to “become the beloved.” We are already marked by love but we spend the majority of our lives chasing after things that don’t matter, following rules that we don’t understand, and running in a rat race that leads to our own demise.

So what is the whisper that you are running from and trying your hardest to prove that you are or that you are not? When I told Sister Sharon about the labels of cute and smart that me and my sister were given she explained a similar situation in her own family and how she will say to her cousin when she starts living into that dark side, she grabs her by the shoulders and says, “Delete, delete, delete.”

I wish we could take all those collective voices if we added them up in this room I can only imagine the decibel of hurt we would hear. But I wish we could take them, tear them apart, and replace them with the reminder, “You are my child, chosen and marked by love.”

Henri Nouwen says, in one of my favorite books of all time, Life of the Beloved, he advises a friend who is much younger than him that while he may want to take some time to think about what he wants, not to take too long, because he doesn’t want him to waste his time. Nouwen explains that we don’t have to be victims to our manipulative world, because the truth is that if we understand that, we, are God’s beloved, it changes everything. It changes our sense of self, our ability to practice gratitude, and it gives us the courage to stop trying to accomplish our worth and begin accepting that who we are is defined most fully when we can be still and hear the louder voice coming from heaven that is saying, “You are my beloved.”

And that is why forcing ourselves to put down the distractions that may affirm us, but that don’t really accept us, is so important. Because magnifying the voice of Christ in our lives means turning down the volume of all the other stuff in our lives. How will we ever hear it if we don’t?

Delete, delete, delete. You are my child. Chosen, and marked by love.

 

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