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las Pulgas
Belmont, CA 94002
(650) 593-4547
E-mail: belmontucc
@comcast.net

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United Church of Christ
Northern California Nevada   Conference of the UCC

 

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Recent Sermons

To Be Beloved

 

Rev. Kristi Denham
Congregational Church of Belmont
January 7, 2017

I love John the Baptist! I love his style ~ camel hair and leather! Very Cool! I love his diet ~ locusts and wild honey!?! A bit crunchy but still...But mostly I love his humility! He didn't feel worthy to untie the thongs of the one he prepared the way for! He knew that water was just water but the Holy Spirit was big! Did he recognize Jesus when he first came to be baptized? Were they really cousins as we hear in Luke's gospel? Or was he simply another great preacher and teacher at the time when Jesus came of age who inspired Jesus to commit his whole life to God?

But my favorite thing about this story of the baptism of Jesus is that voice of God: "You are my son, my beloved; with you I am well pleased!" I love the beauty and drama of the heavens opening up, and the Spirit descending like a dove. Was it really a dove? Did it really happen this way? Was Jesus so different from every other human being that God would single him out for a baritone-megaphone declaration?

My only problem with this story is that it sets us up for worshiping Jesus, which most Christians have been doing for 2000 years. It allows us to put him so far above us that we forget he never actually said, "Worship me!" but he said over and over again, "Follow me!"
        
But how can we really follow Jesus if we aren't also blessed by the very personal declaration: "You are my beloved!"? And if we are truly beloved of God, what gets in our way of living out our call to justice and love that Jesus taught us? What gets in the way of our call to serve? What prevents us from being served?

What gets in our way? Are we too busy? We make time for our work, our children, our family and friends. Do we make time to strengthen our relationship with God, with our inner knowing, our deepest "beloved" Self (with a capital S)?
        
Are we distracted by intellectual questions about who God is, or what to believe about God, to actually just follow God's call to justice and love?
        
Are we distracted by worry about the future or regret about the past that leaves us little energy for living faithfully into this present moment?

If you were raised in a family that loved you unconditionally, then you probably have some idea of what God's love is like. But if not, you may have to learn it from a wider family of caring.

And even if you knew love as a child, life has a way of challenging us with disappointments, tragedies, disasters that make it hard to understand what being beloved by God is all about. But God is with us in the midst of every challenge. In naming Jesus 'Beloved' God did not exempt him from suffering. We know this from the very beginning of his story and from its end.

Today we baptized two beautiful young people. You may not have heard the voice of God or seen the heavens open up as we sprinkled water on their heads, but still, it was a powerful moment. It was a powerful moment because God's love, that has surrounded and filled their lives from birth, was now declared openly in a commitment by their parents, by their godparents, and by all of us.
        
Jesus declared that we, as the Body of Christ, would do greater things         than he ever did. We now declare these children beloved, and hopefully, we now can acknowledge that we too are beloved, because this is what makes us the Beloved Community!

As Beloved Children of the Most High I challenge you to claim your birthright. Be courageous for justice. Ask God what you can do to serve our wounded world, and one day at a time, do it. Be compassionate towards others and towards yourself.
Ask God to remind you that you are enough. Reach out to strangers, or friends who can use a gentle reminder of love and caring.
        
Remember the gifts of the Spirit ~ Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness,
Gentleness, Generosity, Faithfulness and Self-Control ~ and practice them!

On this day after Epiphany, the 12th day of Christmas, when tradition tells us the Wise Men arrived after following that star, perhaps, we can ask ourselves these 12 questions as we begin this new year: Perhaps they will help us to claim God's love more fully going forward:
                  1. How have I grown in my spiritual life in 2017?
                  2. Are there ways I would like to grow spiritually in 2018?
                  3. How did I view God in 2017?
                  4. Where have I seen examples of answered prayer?
                  5. Who has most helped my spiritual development this year?
                  6. Who do I think I’ve helped most in their spiritual journey?
                  7. In which area of my spiritual life would I most like to grow?
                  8. What’s one spiritual practice I want to devote time to in 2018?       .        9. What can I do to become more aware of God’s presence?
                  10. What audacious prayer do I most want answered?
                  11. Who will I look to for spiritual support?
                  12. How will I live out my commitment to faith in a practical way?

(You can learn more by reading Elizabeth Manneh's article in 'Busted Halo' at~
http://bustedhalo.com/ministry-resources/12-questions-ask-new-year?utm_source=Busted+Halo&utm_campaign=743e14b231-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_11_29&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b41e7d93c7-743e14b231-48059189

You are beloved of God. Learning to live that truth is the work. It is the reason we come to church. It is the reason to be a part of a Spiritual Community. We work together to be a Beloved Community! If we are to grow as a community of faith,

as we have been longing to do always, it will be by living out our purpose as Beloved child of God. What we believe about God may be wildly diverse, but all of us are beloved anyway. And all of us are called to serve...Here we practice learning how to serve and be served by the love of      God within us. May it be so!