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The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, 'See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,"' John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And 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. Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He 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. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.' In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And 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. And a voice came from heaven, 'You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.' And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God's own people, to the praise of his glory.
John the Baptist came preaching to folks who had been exploiting the poor, going the crooked way, telling them to straighten up--because the Way himself ,was coming.
This would be a man unlike any other man, because no other person had ever been so fiercely grounded in the truth of his own identity. No other man before had been so fully convinced of who he was, of who God said he was. When he came bobbing up out of the water, slick brown skin in the Galilee sun, his father announced "this is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased." And Jesus believed what his father said about him. And unlike anyone who lived before or since him, Jesus never forgot who he was. He seemed to live every moment always remembering, the thing we are always forgetting.
Then later came folks like the Apostle Paul, who were punch drunk on the love of God; captivated by the possibility of living life with the same kind of power, purpose, and deep-seated sense of identity that Jesus did. So in the text from Ephesians, Paul says we are adopted as children through Jesus Christ. He says this was our destiny all along, what we were created for. He says God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ. He says we have an inheritance in him, and that we've been sealed with the Holy Spirit. As some translations render it, we now "sit together in heavenly places with Christ."
Now, that's a different, aerial perspective, a different point of view than the one you or I woke up with this morning. So the task now, before we attempt to stand for this or that, walk here or run there--is to sit. To sit, to be still, and to remember who we are, and who we belong to. We have to come apart, and come up higher. Because already there's been a bad dream, a tense conversation, a news show or a tweet that made you forget who you are again--since yesterday, or perhaps long before yesterday.
So can I remind you just for a second, of who God says you are? Can I remind you that you are God's beloved son...God's beloved daughter, more so than you are anything else, to anyone else? That you are beloved, beloved, beloved, all the way down to the bone? You are the source of God's pleasure, and the object of God's delight. Love dances over you, and calls you by your true name again.
Let everything else pass away, for a moment. Sit above it, in the heavenly places.
Know that you are not a disappointment or a failure, that nothing you have said or done has caused your Father to stop taking pleasure in you. This coat of many colors cannot be taken from you. No other label assigned by anyone else can negate his name for you, can negate the sweet truth of your belovedness.
Remember who you are.
Remember, remember, remember.
Whatever else you need to do or be this day, for Christ's sake, remember your identity.
Live from this place. Love from this place.