The Rev. Rebecca S. Myers, CSW
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Corbin, KY
The Eve of the Nativity of Our Lord
December 24, 2013
Please be seated
Are you familiar with Henri Nouwen? He was a prolific writer on the spiritual life. When I read this passage from Titus, I was reminded of a book by Nouwen, Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World. When Nouwen was teaching at Yale Divinity School, he was interviewed by a young journalist. The interview was nothing to speak of, but something prompted Nouwen to build a friendship with this man. About ten years after they’d met, the friend asked Henri to write a book for he and his friends – those who have a spiritual hunger, but no real religious tradition. No religious language or symbols. The result was this book.
In the first chapter, Nouwen makes the claim that each of us is the beloved of God. Take that in. How many of us truly live our lives as if we are the beloved of God? Often we disparage ourselves. Some of us puff ourselves up and are arrogant.
In the past week, the news has been full of a controversy over some comments by Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame. In an interview for GQ magazine, when he was asked:
What, in your mind, is sinful?
His immediate response was, “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there.”
Despite all of the scientific evidence to the contrary. Despite the fact that Jesus Christ never said a word about sexual orientation, Mr. Robertson implies that some people are not the beloved of God…were not created as beloved of God.
I want to say tonight, that you are the beloved of God. I interject this with fervor, because especially young people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning attempt and commit suicide about 4 times greater than teens as a whole. Supportive environments make a difference. So I speak out, because young people are dying and often from believing that they are not beloved of God.
When Bill Moyers asked Archbishop Desmond Tutu what was the worst thing about apartheid, Archbishop Tutu responded, “Ultimately, it’s actually the way it makes you doubt that you are a child of God.” The worst thing you can do to someone…the worst thing you can do to yourself is to doubt that you are the beloved of God.
When we disparage ourselves, or are arrogant or disparage others, we deny we are the beloved of God…that God loves us…loves our authentic and true selves. How often do we believe that if people really knew who we were, they wouldn’t like us? But being the beloved of God means that our authentic and true selves are exactly what God loves. We need to stop denying we are the beloved of God.
Nouwen says that when we listen to God’s voice telling us we are Beloved, what we hear in the center of our being is:
“I have called you by name, from the very beginning.
You are mine and I am yours.
You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests.
I have molded you in the depth of the earth and knitted you together in your mother’s womb.
I have carved you in the palms of my hands and hidden you in the shadow of my embrace.
I look at you with infinite tenderness and care for you with a care more intimate than that of a mother for her child.
I have counted every hair on your head and guided you at every step.
Wherever you go, I go with you, and wherever you rest, I keep watch.
I will give you food that will satisfy all your hunger and drink that will quench all your thirst.
I will not hide my face from you.
You know me as your own as I know you as my own.
You belong to me.
I am your father, your mother, your brother, your sister, your lover, and your spouse…yes, even your child…wherever you are I will be.
Nothing will ever separate us. We are one.” (Life of the Beloved, pg 36-37)
The writer of the letter to Titus was being given instructions about his mission work on the Island of Crete. The passage we read tonight is believed to be a much older hymn of the church
God showed loving kindness to we humans. God showed mercy to us and saved us. We did not do anything to merit this love. We did not do anything to deserve being saved. It was merely the grace of God.
Tonight we celebrate God coming to us as the baby Jesus Christ…the beginning of God’s saving work among us. Think about this. When babies cry, do we ever ask whether they deserve to be fed? No, we feed them, because we know they need food to live and thrive. When babies cry, do we ever ask whether they deserve to be held? No, because we know that babies MUST be touched to live and thrive. When babies cry, do we ever ask whether they deserve to be loved? No, because we know they MUST be loved to live and thrive. Asking whether a baby deserves these things is absurd. That’s what God thinks about our questioning whether we deserve to be loved by God. To God, that is an absurd question. God loves us because we are.
This beautiful night when we are together…when we sing songs of old that are familiar…when we say ancient words and prayers…some going back 2000 years… remember YOU ARE THE BELOVED OF GOD. God who is goodness and loving kindness saved you not because of any works of righteousness that you had done, but because you are precious and beloved.