Luke 3:15-17; 21-22 Listen
being the beloved
January 13, 2013 Baptism of the Lord
We have much to do this morning and my time is short, so let me focus on one aspect of Jesus baptism and our own. The divine voice pronounces upon the sopping wet Jesus, “you are my Son, the Beloved in whom I am well pleased.” From the beginning of our movement, Christians have understood our baptism in Christ in the same way: you are the Beloved. Not because of our merit but because of God’s love embracing us and declaring our real identity: the Beloved.
Now I’ve got a couple of stories, one silly and the other more serious, both an attempt to point our attention to our essential identity as the Beloved of God. The silly one first.
Our dog Patrick – a 70 pound all muscle baby – greets me every day as though I am the most wonderful person in the world. It matters not what is going on with me, Patrick unfailing greets me with his own benediction of my wonderfulness. I try to convince him that I’m really not that wonderful and he doesn’t change. Here’s the thing: it dawned on me the other day walking in the woods with Patrick that his benediction compels me to act as wonderful as he persistently declares me to be.
In like manner, God persistently declares: You are the beloved. Unable to convince God otherwise, we are compelled to live into our essential identity.
Now the more serious one, that actually begins with a spoiler alert. If you haven’t completed season 2 of Downton Abby you are free to close your ears.
In Downton Abby, Daisy is the lovable, clumsy, simple-minded servant girl, and William Mason, the kind, boyish footman who clearly held a candle for her. At first, Daisy doesn’t give him the time of day, but ever so slowly, his sweet demeanor wears her down and she warms toward him. Not to the point where she reciprocates his feelings per se, but certainly to the point where she is no longer avoiding his bright-eyed advances. When William enlists in the British Army (World War I is on) and asks Daisy to marry him, she can’t bring herself to say no. She knows that she’s not quite “there” romantically, but the last thing she wants is for him to go to the front with a broken heart. So with a conflicted conscience, she consents to the engagement.
William suffers a fatal injury and is brought back to Downton, where the house rallies to fulfill his dying wish; he and Daisy marry a few hours before he succumbs to his wounds. Daisy, again, is deeply reluctant about the whole affair (esp in regard to the widow’s pension she’ll receive from the state) but cannot summon the callousness to assert herself.
In the wake of William’s death, his father, the lonely, grieving Mr. Mason, reaches out to his late son’s bride, in the understandable hopes of establishing some kind of a relationship. The indefatigably honest Daisy, feeling that she married William under false pretenses, runs away. She is plagued with guilt and regret, enough so that she breaks into tears when she is on her own (which the Dowager, in one of the finale’s most touching moments, compassionately addresses). Daisy cannot avoid Mr. Mason forever, however, and eventually accepts an invitation to tea at his humble dwelling. The following scene ensues:
Daisy: You shouldn’t have gone to all this trouble. Not for me. I don’t deserve it. Not when I was only married to William for a few hours.
Mr. Mason: You may not know this Daisy, but William had three brothers and a sister. All dead at birth, or not long after. I think that’s one reason why William married you. So that I wouldn’t be alone. Without you, I’d have no one to pray for. I think William knew that. So will you be my daughter? Let me take you into my heart? Make you special? You’ll have parents of your own of course…
Daisy: I haven’t got any parents. Not like that. I’ve never been special to anyone.
Mr. Mason: Except William.
Daisy: That’s right. I was only ever special to William. Never thought of it like that before.
Mr. Mason: Well, now you’re special to me.
Daisy has done everything she can to stiff-arm Mr. Mason. She has clung with all her strength to an understanding of love as quid pro quo, that you can’t receive love from someone who you don’t love equally first.
Mr. Mason is not relating to Daisy on the basis of her feelings of affection but on the basis of his son’s. And on that basis he wants to adopt her!
This is about as uncanny an illustration of God’s grace as we could hope to find on television. That God relates to you and me not according to feelings or attributes that we bring to the table, but those that his son brought. As a result we are adopted as children, receiving the same benefit, the same care, the same inheritance, the same love as the Son. It’s profoundly Good News – and no coincidence that Daisy’s final scene of the season finds her standing up for herself in a way that we could have never imagined beforehand. In fact, her change in status from orphan to daughter leads to another change in status, as she becomes a cook’s assistant. In other words, the imputed belovedness bears fruit almost immediately. (This synopsis is found here:
Remember your baptism and rejoice: you are the beloved.