Scripture: Matthew 3:13-17
Back in December, someone I know wrote a post on Facebook cautioning people against using the term “adopt-a-family” for the holiday season. As the mother of adopted children, she explained that adoption isn’t something you do for a brief time, such as buying gifts for a family who may have less than you, and that hearing these terms can be confusing for kids who are adopted. Adoption, she stated, is something that is for life. Adoption is a relationship, one in which you bind yourself to another being. In adoption you are claimed. Although she is not a human, this would describe how I feel about my own puppy, Penny. In adopting her, Annie and I have claimed her as our dog, and I think by now she knows that, and while she may test our patience, also wants to be close to us. When we first got her, she hadn’t been wearing a collar, and didn’t like having one on. But now, she does not like not having her collar on, which she may or may not be aware has the tags that identify her as ours. Her collar is like the permanent marker that writes “Andy” on the feet of the toys in Toy Story, and the toys know to whom they belong because they have been claimed. If they forget, they only need to look at their foot.
This year, we have been looking at a fast-paced arc of the Bible, and some of it’s major themes, as we fill in the blank. One of the major themes we find throughout the Bible is culminated in tonight’s Scripture, and in each of our own baptisms. God claims us, just as God has always claimed God’s children. That’s what we see so much of in the Old Testament. We see that God has claimed God’s people, and loves them no matter what they do. And trust me, they test God’s patience more than a little bit, screwing up big time again and again, straying for the goodness that God offers, chasing shiny idols and running after their own foolish ideas. But God is faithful, and when the people remember to look at the foot, metaphorically speaking, or when the remember to look to God in prayer, or whatever it is that reminds them of their creator, they remember they have been claimed, and repent, and turn back to God. Did you know that’s literally what repent means, to turn 180 degrees. They turned from wherever they had strayed off to, and God is there waiting.
The beginning of Jesus’ public ministry is God announcing that Jesus is claimed by God in a pretty undeniable fashion. Jesus goes to his cousin, John the Baptist, in order to be baptized. And for those of you who are from traditions like my own that practice infant baptism, we aren’t talking about putting a handful of water on his head, we are talking about dunking Jesus down into the Jordan River. As he comes out of the water, a dove descends, and a voice says, “this is my son, the beloved.”
We too are claimed by God, and this is one of the reasons we are baptized, as a sign and seal of this identity as God’s child. Paul talks about us being adopted as children of God, and that is something that lasts forever. One of the major themes of the Bible, one we see from Abraham though the early Christian disciples, is God saying, Remember Who and Whose You Are. Although it may not literally be written on our skin, we bear the image of God within ourselves. You are God’s sons and daughters, beloved Children of the most high God. Amen.
I invite you to write God's name somewhen on yourself, as a reminder that God has claimed you as God's own.