• Steven Marsh

Worshipping The Triune God of Unconditional Love–God’s Love Demands Love: a Reflection o

God loves us unconditionally. And that kind of love, my friends, demands our love in return. Think about it for a minute, the power of being loved unconditionally. That kind of love demands a response, don’t you think? We see that unconditional love at Jesus’ baptism and every baptism we experience…those of others and our own. The world becomes a better place through Christians living in the grasp of their baptism. Prior to baptism life is one way. But following one’s baptism, things change.

Change is happening for the people of God in Isaiah’s day. Citing Isaiah 43:1, “…Do not fear, for I [God] have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” Thomas G. Long writes, “What used to be was Judah’s captivity in Babylon, and what has changed is that God has ended their captivity, brought the exiles home, and restored the community.”[1]Prior to your baptism your world was one way. You didn’t know you had already been redeemed. But at your baptism and following it, you knew. You knew that life was going to be different. You belong to God. That’s why it is important for us to remind one another of the truth of our baptisms, whether as an infant or an adult. Listen carefully to this story that Leonard Sweet, former Dean of the Theological School at Drew University, conveys:

One of our students received an appointment from a bishop, and the student did not feel the placement exactly suited his abilities. I overheard him complaining about it to another student, and then the other student said, “You know, you sound like my mother’s housekeeper who says, ‘I don’t do windows.’” That student continued, “You know, the world’s a better place because Michelangelo did not say, ‘I don’t do ceilings.’” Her comment stopped me dead in my tracks. I had to admit she was right. If you and I are going to be faithful to the ministry God is calling us to, then we had better understand that. I reflected on the attitudes of key people throughout the Scriptures and the history of the church. The world’s a better place because a German monk named Martin Luther did not say, “I don’t do doors.” The world’s a better place because an Oxford don named John Wesley didn’t say, “I don’t do preaching in fields.” The world’s a better place because Moses didn’t say, “I don’t do Pharaohs or mass migrations.” The world’s a better place because Noah didn’t say, “I don’t do arks and animals.” The world’s a better place because Rahab didn’t say, “I don’t do enemy spies.” The world’s a better place because Ruth didn’t say, “I don’t do mothers-in-law.” The world’s a better place because Samuel didn’t say, “I don’t do mornings.” The world’s a better place because David didn’t say, “I don’t do giants.” The world’s a better place because Peter didn’t say, “I don’t do Gentiles.” The world’s a better place because John didn’t say, “I don’t do deserts.” The world’s a better place because Mary didn’t say, “I don’t do virgin births.” The world’s a better place because Paul didn’t say, “I don’t do correspondence.” The world’s a better place because Mary Magdalene didn’t say, “I don’t do feet.” The world’s a better place because Jesus didn’t say, “I don’t do crosses.” And the world will be a better place only if you and I don’t say, “I don’t do …”[2]

Martin Luther loved God back. And so did John Wesley, Moses, Noah, Rahab, Ruth, Samuel, David, Peter, John, Mary, Paul, Mary Magdalene and Jesus.

Every Sunday, I have one chance to tell you something. A ruling elder in a previous church I served once remarked that every Sunday is the “Sermon of My Life.” Baptism matters. Jesus was baptized for you and for me that day in the Jordan River twenty centuries ago. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God; the Savior. We have been chosen by God from the foundation of the earth. Baptism is the sign and seal of God’s salvation

Every human being is wired to be loved unconditionally. That unconditional love is only found in and through Jesus Christ. That is the good news of the Gospel. We are commissioned by Jesus Christ to introduce others to him. Check out this pattern in Isaiah 43:1-7: God’s Self-identification: “Now says the LORD, he who created you” (43:1a). Command: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you” (43:1b). Promise: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you” (43:2). God’s Self-indentification: “I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel” (43:3–4). Command: “Do not fear, for I am with you” (43:5a). Promise: “I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you” (43:5b–7).[3]

I have one chance to tell you something. Baptism matters. We are called by God to participate with God in God’s mission. Sometimes, we act like we are not God’s people. But God continually comes to us; to re-create us and remind us that we belong to him. You are a child of God, claimed by God, loved by God and saved by Jesus Christ, the Son of God for service in God’s world. You show others in word and deed the unconditional love of the Triune God. Live, “do” your baptism.

[1]Thomas G. Long in Joel B. Green, Thomas G. Long, Luke A. Powery and Cynthia L. Rigby, editors, Connections, Year C, Volume 1 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2018), 160.

[2]Leonard Sweet, United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio. Leadership, vol. 15, no. 2.

[3]This pattern of God’s self-identification, command and promise is attributed to Thomas G. Long in Joel B. Green, Thomas G. Long, Luke A. Powery and Cynthia L. Rigby, editors, Connections, Year C, Volume 1, 161.

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