‘Knowing Who We Are’ Sermon

And Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, You are my Son, the Beloved. With you I am well pleased.”   Mark 1: 10-11

Download the mp3 audio of the sermon or click below to listen.

Yesterday I took Jessie and Cameron to a meeting for the upcoming Youth Ambassadors Mission Trip. They are going to Antigua, in the Caribbean, poor things.  The meeting was held at the Conference Center in White Plains and involved kids, parents and leaders from about 20 different churches.

When we walked into the meeting, the leader of the trip announced somewhat ceremoniously, Oh! Pastor K is in the house!”  And someone came up to Jessie and said, Ah, so you’re the PK!”  And Jessie said What’s that?”

Now, for some reason, for sixteen years growing up in this church it had never crossed  Jessie’s mind that she was the daughter of a minor celebrity.

Or that she was, in fact, a PK, a Preacher’s Kid.

And in telling the story later at home, Jessie said, It had just never occurred to me that that’s what I am.”

I don’t know and Mark doesn’t say whether Jesus knew before the moment of his baptism that he, too, had an illustrious parent.  In fact, it would be difficult to imagine a more illustrious parent. Except in a few churches I’ve been to where Pastor occupies a spot just slightly above God in the Pantheon.

I don’t know and Mark doesn’t say whether the Spirit of God had given any earlier promptings to Jesus about his identity.  Whether the Spirit had somehow made it clear that he was claimed and named in a particular way.

I don’t know and Mark doesn’t say whether the voice of God had spoken to Jesus sometime, somewhere, somehow in a voice he could understand, and it made it clear to Jesus how loved and chosen he was.

Just to be up front with you about what Mark does, say, the experience with the Spirit is a very personal one for Jesus.  Watching the heavens open above his head as he comes up out of the river is not some cinematic event, but something he experiences and experiences alone.

The almost tangible, visible appearance of the Spirit in the form of a dive-bombing dove is described as something Jesus sees personally, privately.

So this huge and central event, this inaugural event in Jesus’ life and ministry is not something we should understand as a public validation of whom Jesus is & whose he is, at least according to Mark’s gospel.  It’s something different and deeper.  Deeper than the river he’s rising out of.

And when this event at the river happens it changes everything for Jesus.  Because it changes the way Jesus sees himself.

You are my Son, the Beloved. With you I am well pleased.”

I don’t know whether yesterday’s experience in White Plains did anything to alter the way Jessie sees herself.  I do know that she and Cameron spent the rest of the day bowing and scraping, and asking me if the Pastor needs anything or the Pastor would like them to do anything until the Pastor felt like knocking their little heads together.

But do I know what happened for Jesus once his parental heritage became clear to him.  Once he discovered that he was named and claimed and loved by the Spirit of the God who had made him.  The spirit who once again as in the moment of creation took the time to hover over the face of the waters. The Spirit who once again as in the moment of creation took the time to pronounce something or someone very good.

You and I have a lot of people naming and defining us. We all do.

I thought of that again this week in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings.  Many of my Muslim friends began right away posting statements condemning the shooters and the very idea of doing violence in the name of Islam.

As relieved as I was to see all that, part of me was frustrated on their behalf that felt that they had to do it.  That the acts of a radical fringe of hating, hateful people could so besmirch one of the world’s great faiths that such distancing would be necessary.

And that led me to think about my own identity as a ‘straight white male middle class American Christian’ and all the times someone does something awful or says something insensitive and I too feel the need to make clear in some way, That’s not me.  That’s not us.

We all do that.  We all have to do that.  Because otherwise there are two many people all too ready to name us and define us in some other way.  Otherwise there are too many voices ready to fill in the blanks about my identity, and yours.

What if.

What if, instead of all those voices we heard instead the voice of God.

And what if that voice spoke to us in some way we could understand and said something like this:

You are my child. You are my Beloved.  I am so pleased with you.

You are my child. You are my Beloved.  I am so pleased with you.

Would that make a difference?

Would that make any difference in what you do after you leave here?

Would that make any difference in where you go after you leave here?

Would that make any difference in what you do tomorrow?

Would you speak differently to someone?

Would you call someone up you’ve been avoiding, maybe?

Would you take on a different task at work, or at home, maybe?

Would you think and speak differently about your faith & your spiritual life?

Would you think any differently about your life decisions…

If you heard the voice of God naming and claiming and loving you in that way.  If you heard the voice of God holding nothing against you and holding everything in front of you.

Stop a minute. And listen with me.

Don’t listen to me, listen to scripture.

I have called you by name, I have named you, you are mine.” Isaiah 43

When you were in your mother’s womb I knew you.”  Jeremiah 1

I have loved you with an everlasting love, and will always love you.” Jer 31

Beloved, this is love, not that we loved God but that God first loved us… We love because God first loved us.”  I John 4

For you are chosen people, you are God’s beloved… once you were no one’s, but now you are God’s.  I Peter 2

I could go on, and one, because that’s what scripture does.  Because that’s what God does.  That’s what God says about you.

That you are known.

That you are named.

That you are claimed.

That you are beloved.

That’s the witness of scripture.  That’s the witness of people who knew God better than I. That’s the witness of God’s spirit.  That’s the utterings of God’s own voice.

You are my child. You are my Beloved.  I am so pleased with you.


Let’s pray.


I’m dealing with the Spirit,

I’m healing with the Spirit

I’m feeling the Spirit of the Lord, of the Lord.


God’s Spirit seems to hover,

Wanting me to rediscover,

Longing me to be a lover of the Lord, of the Lord. 


God’s Spirit now has named us,

And released us from what shamed us,

And that Spirit longs to claim us for the Lord, for the Lord. 


May the voice of God surround me

With the power to astound me

For God’s spirit now has found me for the Lord, for the Lord. 

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