Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church

God's Servant

Matthew 3:13-17

Do you feel special? Is there anyone in your life who knows the real you... and truly appreciates you? I can remember back to my younger days... for many year I longed for someone to call me their "little one." How I wished that I could be someone's very special... much beloved... and cherished child! I think it had to do with someone really knowing who I am... and loving me... just because I am me... with no expectations... and no strings attached!

Well... that's a pretty big demand, isn't it? How many of you have really known someone else... and loved them unconditionally. Now be honest... haven't you always had at least one or two strings attached? I'll love you if... you behave yourself... you make good grades... you do what I say... you live up to my expectations! Well, you get the point... the list goes on and on, doesn't it? It's just something that we seem to do naturally to one another... even to our spouse... and most especially... to our children... and grandchildren. Is it any wonder that each of us still feels this huge need to be loved... to be known for who we are... and appreciated just because we are who we are?

Perhaps... in this regard... your parents... or your spouse... or your children are a big disappointment to you. Sometimes you may feel angry because they are not what you expected... or needed. Sometimes you may feel lost and alone because they don't really know you... or appreciate you as much as you need to be appreciated. And sometimes it's pretty difficult to get on with our lives without that love and appreciation.

Oh, I expect that we all know we were loved... at some level... but uncertainty crept in when we failed to meet expectations... when we discovered our weaknesses and shortcomings... when we noticed that we weren't as attractive as we might be. Each of us has our doubts about whether we are lovable and acceptable.

Well, even Jesus needed to know that he was loved... and accepted right where he was. Listen once again to what God said to Jesus that day at the River Jordan...

As soon as Jesus was baptized... a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."

... and remember... Jesus hadn't even started his ministry yet... he heard these words before he had done what God had called him to do... before he had done what God expected of him! He received what we all so desperately need... the acknowledgment that someone loves us just because we are who we are... the assurance that we are their child... and that we are loved for no other reason.

That's pretty difficult... if not impossible... for us to do for our children... and it should be no surprise that our own parents had difficulty doing it for us. I'm reminded of the old hymn... Where can I go... but to the Lord... ... and isn't it true? Only God can really know us... only God can acknowledge us as his children... accept us right where we are... and give us the unconditional love that we so desperately need.

You might hasten to remind me that Jesus had no sin... of course... he was acceptable to God! On the other hand... we... in spite of our many forms of denial... know deep in our hearts... that we are not acceptable to God! And that is so true... except for one thing. May I remind you that you have been baptized in Jesus Christ! When he waded into the Jordan River... and knelt down in the water before John... it was an act of repentance... done for us... not for himself. And now God sees us through Jesus Christ... and claims us as his beloved children.

You know... this was intended to be a sermon about being good servants of God. At the end of this service we are going to receive and install our new elders... and I want them... and all of you... to think about your call to ministry. And yet... when I sat down to write... this is what came out! I never cease to be surprised at what God has to say to us!

He has laid it on my heart to help you understand that you are called to ministry... not because of what you have done... not because of your reputation... not because of your good works... not even because you are appreciated and loved... but because of who you are... children of God.

This morning I invite you to remember your baptism... that claim of God on your life. I'd like to remind you that your baptism is not God's blessing on your previous life... but God's reordering of your life according to his ways.

It began when you were baptized... and you acknowledged it when you confirmed your faith in young adulthood. You acknowledge it every Sunday when you come here to worship... and I hope you acknowledge it every day upon awakening. Baptism acknowledges the claim of God on your life... and that claim throws everything into question... it challenges all our assumptions.

When Jesus walked out of the river... and into ministry... he became God's servant... and he was on his way to being crucified. That's what happens in this world when we challenge it's assumption...when we refuse to accept it's conclusions... when we refuse to act accordingly.

When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior... when we chose to following him... we too are choosing to be God's servant... and our life will be different as a result. In Isaiah 42:1-9 we learn what God's servant will be like. I invite you to read that passage several times this week... and consider what it means for you. We are followers of Jesus. And, yes... we are called to continue doing what he was called to do in this world. And , yes... we are expected to be God's ambassadors in this world until Jesus comes again. And, yes... we are expected to leave a mark... to have shed some of God's light abroad in this dark world... to care... to do justice... to be gentle... and loving.

Baptism is about ongoing transformation... God is at work in our lives... and... knowing that we are fully accepted and deeply loved... we are ready for that transformation. It doesn't happen over night... there will be a step backward now and then... it may at times be painful... it appear to others to be foolish... by the worlds standards... but it's not the worlds standards that shape and define us... it is God's call to ministry... just as it was for Jesus.

In 1728 William Law said,

"If we are to follow Christ, it must be in our common way of spending every day. If we are to live unto God at any time or in any place, we are to live unto him in all times and in all places. If we are to use anything as the gift of God, we are to use everything as his gift."
This is what it means for all of us to be God's children... to be God's servants... live every day... in every place... and use every gift in God's service. Amen.

A Sermon Preached on January 10, 1999
The Rev. Shirley R. Frazier
Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church, Arabi, LA

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