Mailbox Irises

Mailbox Irises

Monday, March 3, 2014

God Fills in the Blank

Cathedral of the Plains, Victoria, KS (St. Fidelis Catholic Church)
I've heard and read the account of Jesus' baptism dozens of times. I've been going to church since my parents carried me through the doors of our tiny rural church as an infant, so I've had plenty of opportunities to hear preachers' take on this familiar passage.
Trinity United Methodist Church, Hutchinson, KS
Beautiful stained glass windows depict the scene as John the Baptist baptizes Jesus and a dove comes down from heaven:
And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased."
Matthew 3: 16
But I "heard" it differently a few weeks ago. Pastor Ben shared it as the Gospel lesson, focusing on Jesus baptism in Matthew 3: 13-17.

You know it's a good sermon when you're still thinking about the message two months later. Then, I read the Scripture for this week's service, Transfiguration Sunday. The Gospel lesson was Matthew 17:1-9. And, again, we hear the Word of God:
“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!
Matthew 17: 5b
As Pastor Ben shared, many of us have an internal monologue, telling ourselves, "I feel like I am accepted as long as I am __________ enough."

The blank is different for everyone. The blank may be different for me today than it was yesterday.

I feel like I am accepted as long as I am smart enough.
I feel like I am accepted as long as I am thin enough.
I feel like I'm accepted as long as I work hard enough.
I feel like I'm accepted as long as I am rich enough. 
I feel like I'm accepted as long as I make everyone happy enough.

But, as Pastor Ben shared, God didn't put conditions on His love for Christ. In the passage in Matthew, He simply says: "I love Him. I am pleased with Him."
God sent us Jesus. Through baptism, we are initiated into Christ's holy church. We are given new life through water and the Spirit. All this is God's gift, offered to us without price. That's worth repeating: Without price. We don't have to look a certain way. We don't have to work for it. Through baptism, we are incorporated by the Holy Spirit into God's new creation. We are members of the family of Christ.

And, as Pastor Ben told us, we can begin subtracting that soundtrack that plays in our very human brains.

I feel like I am accepted as long as I am _________ enough.

Instead, we hear:
You are mine.
You are loved.
I am pleased.
Remember, as a kid, throwing a rock into a pond? The circles radiate from that center, reaching further and further until the banks of the pond stop the flow. Even then, the leaves and plants dance around the edge of the pond as the water reaches them.

Because of the Rock of Ages, we can be that pebble, radiating out from God's love in the center. It can be in a smile .. in a helping hand ... in turning the other cheek ... in an encouraging note ... in serving a funeral dinner ... in picking up some extra supplies for the local food bank. The options are endless. It's another reminder to be like ripples on a pond, where we radiate outward and carry the love of Christ into the lives of others.
One of the songs we sang on that baptism Sunday was "Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy." It's not a hymn that I was as familiar with, but I loved the words, including:

Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry 'til you're better,
You will never come at all.

Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requireth
Is to feel your need of Him.

I don't have to wait to come to Jesus until I have everything figured out. That's not going to happen this side of heaven.  I liked this version, sung by Fernando Ortega along with Amy Grant.

I love old hymns, but I also like contemporary Christian music. On K-LOVE one day, I heard a song by Jonny Diaz called, "A More Beautiful You." And it made me think back to Pastor Ben's message of God's love for us, through Christ.

You are loved.
You are mine.
I am pleased.

His love isn't dependent upon how the outside world views us. God crosses out those words that often rattle through our brains: "I feel like I am accepted as long as I am _____________ enough."

He's enough. That's the Good News.

This is my March post at Lovely Branches Ministries. I am also linked to Jennifer Dukes Lee's Tell His Story and to Nebraska blogger Michelle DeRusha's Hear It On Sunday, Use It On Monday. 


  1. Beautiful, Kim. {and thank you for linking up to #HearItUseIt, friend!}.

  2. Thanks for the opportunity, Michelle!

  3. Kim, you spoke my heart. I have recently returned from 3 wk visit to Uganda.. to share ideas for teaching. I took Bible Stories for that reason, and was blessed to be welcomed warmly. I'm thinking of starting a page or blog, and ran across your words and photo of ripples in a pond... may I use it, if this happens, and give credit to you for the inspiration. Thank you UGANDA PEBBLE