Baptism: Life of the Beloved

Matthew 3:13-17
St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes Chapel -1/11/11 (reworked as intergenerational sermon 1/12/14)
Life of the Beloved
The Rev. Dr. Rosemary Beales

“Come to the water!” John the Baptist cried. “Come wash away your mistakes; come get clean; come back to God.” And people did. People stepped into the water, went down into the water, and came out changed.

I don’t know why Jesus came to the water that day. I have an idea, but I want to come back to it later. First, I want to tell you about . . . a football game. Now, you might be thinking, what does a football game have to do with a story about baptism? After you hear it, I hope you’ll understand. Because this was no ordinary football game.

On a crisp November day in the city of Grapevine, Texas, two teams were facing off – the Lions against the Tornados. Both names sound pretty ferocious, don’t they? But these two teams were not evenly matched. The Lions, from Faith Christian School – a school a lot like ours – had 70 players, eleven coaches, the latest equipment, and lots of parent volunteers. The Lions had won 7 games and lost 2.

The Tornados, on the other hand, were Oh and 8 – meaning they had lost eight games and won exactly . . . none. Their 14 players wore old, beat-up pad and helmets. No parents came to their games. Instead, they were taken to the locker room by 12 security guards who took off their handcuffs before the opening whistle. They went to a high school that was also a prison, and all of the players were there because they had made serious mistakes. Most people thought they were losers.

But a few weeks before the game, the Lions’ head coach had an idea. What if, just for one night, half of the Faith Lions’ fans cheered for the players on the OTHER team? The idea caught his students’ imagination. And so, when the Gainesville Tornados took the field that November night, they crashed through a banner made by Lions fans that read, “Go Tornados!” They were surprised, as you might imagine, but even more surprised when they heard 200 people on the bleachers behind them, cheering for them by name, rooting for them as if they were the most important people on earth.

At the end of the game, the Tornados practically danced off the field, with their fingers pointing in the air, #1. They gave their coach his first Gatorade dunking ever. They climbed back onto their bus in high spirits. You might guess that the Tornados had won the game. Actually, the scoreboard showed that the victory went to the Lions. But those guys with their #1 fingers in the air actually had it right. They knew – perhaps for the very first time – that they were winners. They had been drenched, soaked, bathed, showered with love. Perhaps, for the very first time, they knew that they were Beloved.

***When Jesus went down into the water that day at the Jordan, he wasn’t washing away his mistakes. Jesus, we believe, was perfect and without sin. But he went down into that water to show that he belonged to the human family, that he was willing to be one of us. In a way, we could say that he was rooting for the other team.

So when Jesus heard the voice that called him “my son, the Beloved,” the voice was not only for him. It was also for us. We are all drenched, soaked, bathed, showered with love as children of God. And that love is too strong to keep to ourselves.

It’s that love that made the students at Faith Christian School do what they did. It’s that love that will help you, whatever faith you follow, share the love of God with others, especially with those whom most people would call losers. Because you and I know that, in the eyes of God, there are no losers. In the eyes of God, there are only winners. There are only Beloved children of God.

Amen.

About threegreatdays

The Rev. Dr. Rosemary Beales is a Godly Play Trainer in the U.S.; an Episcopal Priest; Chaplain at St. Stephen's & St. Agnes School in Alexandria, Virginia; a Godly Play Practitioner since 1996; and a mother and grandmother. Every day I get to be with 400 children at school and on weekends when I'm lucky, with my four terrific grandsons and three lively granddaughters. As a Godly Play practitioner, I want to spread the word about this life-giving, Montessori-based way of nurturing children in the Christian story and life. Godly Play, the creation of the Rev. Dr. Jerome Berryman and his wife Thea, is used in many denominations and in many countries, and has been translated into at least seven languages. This blog is not an official publication of the Godly Play Foundation (see www.godlyplayfoundation.org) but seeks to be a clearinghouse for ideas and experiences of teachers, trainers, and parents. Join the conversation!

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