As I approach another birthday, I am reminded that the 2 greatest gifts I ever received came my way around 53 years ago. The occasion was my baptism in which i was adopted as God’s beloved child and empowered by the Holy Spirit for ministry. Being adopted by God and empowered for ministry means that a lifetime of love and purpose were given to me by God.
When I reread the account of Jesus’ baptism, I am struck by something not previously noticed; God’s announcement that Jesus is God’s “beloved Son” comes before Jesus ministry starts! In fact, Jesus’ baptism with its announcement of his belovedness by God comprises the very beginning of Mark’s Gospel. Apparently, Mark found nothing significant of Jesus’ life before his baptism. The point is that Jesus does nothing to earn God’s love. It comes to Jesus as a baptismal gift.
This is liberating for all of us who are adopted through baptism as God’s beloved sons and daughters. We needn’t work our way to being accepted or loved. We are loved by God because of who God is, not because of who we are or anything that we have done.The author of the First Letter of John puts it simply, “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are,” (1 Jn. 3:1).
Jesus’ baptism, however, also reveals that God’s love is not given simply so that we can feel good. Mark’s Gospel tells us that “immediately” after Jesus’ baptism, Jesus was driven into the wilderness to meet Satan. This gift of unconditional love is intended – along with the Holy Spirit – to empower us for ministry.
As adopted children of God, therefore, we have been given not only unconditional love but also purpose. We are invited to partner with God in overcoming evil and in ushering in a new kingdom in which compassion, justice, and healing reign for all people and for the earth itself.
What more do we need than a lifetime of unconditional love and a purpose for our lives?!?