John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
A lot has been said about how we can communicate love since Gary Chapman published his book, “The Five Love Languages”
In case you haven’t come across them here is a summary of Chapman’s Five Emotional Love Languages:
Words of Affirmation
This is when you say how nice your spouse looks, or how great the dinner tasted. These words will also build your mate’s self image and confidence.
Some spouses believe that being together, doing things together and focusing in on one another is the best way to show love. If this is your partner’s love language, turn off the TV now and then and give one another some undivided attention.
It is universal in human cultures to give gifts. They don’t have to be expensive to send a powerful message of love. Spouses who forget a birthday or anniversary or who never give gifts to someone who truly enjoys gift giving will find themselves with a spouse who feels neglected and unloved.
Acts of Service
Discovering how you can best do something for your spouse will require time and creativity. These acts of service like vacuuming, hanging a bird feeder, planting a garden, etc., need to be done with joy in order to be perceived as a gift of love.
Sometimes just stroking your spouse’s back, holding hands, or a peck on the cheek will fulfill this need.
The invitation is then to go on to “Determining Your Own Love Language”
Since you may be speaking what you need, you can discover your own love language by asking yourself these questions:
- How do I express love to others?
- What do I complain about the most?
- What do I request most often?
It would seem from the success of Chapman’s book and the subsequent spin-offs that inevitably come from a pivotal production as his was, that he touched a sensitive spot in our collective emotional psyche.
As a divorced person and also as a pastoral minister, I know the difficulties of relationships at first and second hand.
Psychologists are continually telling us that we are undernourished with regard to our emotional needs
William E. Harley who runs Marriage Builders determines the most important emotional needs of couples to be:
- Sexual Fulfillment
- Recreational Companionship
- Honesty and Openness
- Physical Attractiveness
- Financial Support
- Domestic Support
- Family Commitment
What I miss in these very important and helpful studies is an answer to the question, “Why are we so needy in the first place?”
Do we arrive needy, or is there something missing in our emotional diets early on, that creates this deficiency, in much the same way some of us need more magnesium or calcium than others?
If the development psychologists are to be believed then the cause of our love hunger, and by inference of much of our neurosis, is the deficiency of knowing at an early age that we are “The Beloved”
To know that one is deeply loved is one of the greatest of human experiences.
I am going to suggest a very subversive truth to you now.
It is subversive because it has the potential to put every self-help guru out of business.
It is subversive because it also has the potential to put that great grace dispensary, the church, out of business too.
The truth is a simple one that Jesus experiences at the pivotal moment he begins his public ministry.
The truth is that you and I and every single living being on the planet are the agapeitoi of God.
The agapeitoi….WHAT? of God?
O sorry I need to translate for you.
We are all, with Jesus, the Beloved of God.
Now this may not seem subversive at first, but the more we realise and live from that place of being beloved, we see the absolute security and grounding it can give to our lives.
It is for this very reason, the church has for centuries tried to keep this reality from us. The church knew that if people were secure in their relationship as the agapeitoi of God; if they knew that there was indeed “nothing that could separate them from the Love (agapeis) of God” Rom 8:39, then they would not fall pray to the guilt riddled shame blame game that the church has used so effectively to extort money and allegiance from fearful people.
So what about us who weren’t told this early on in our lives?
Well, the good news is that it can happen at any time.
- Jesus was thirty at his baptism.
- Augustine of Hippo came to this life changing understanding late in his life at the age of thirty two.
Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.
This subversive truth is the ultimate form of human liberation.
- I am the agapetos-the beloved of God.
- God’s very nature is agape-selfless love.
- By realising that I am the agapetos of the agape. The beloved of Love, I begin a participation in the very life and nature of God.
This is transformative to the deepest fibres of our being.
Jesus knew this.
It was imprinted from the moment he stepped out of the Jordan.
“You are my child the beloved.”
It is already true for you and me.
We simply have to realise that it is.
Nan C Merrill published a wonderful paraphrase of the Psalms in 1996. She titled the Book, “Psalms for Praying- an invitation to wholeness”
The psalm for this Sunday is Psalm 29.
Nan has it read like this:
Give praise to the Beloved,
O heavenly hosts,
Sing of Love’s glory and strength,
Exalt the glory of Love’s name;
Adore the Beloved in holy splendour.
The voice of the Beloved is upon the waters;
Love’s voice echoes over the oceans and seas.
The voice of Love is powerful,
majestic is the heart of Love.
The voice of the Beloved breaks the bonds of oppression,
shatters the chains of injustice.
Love invites all to the dance of freedom,
to sing the Beloved’s song of truth.
The voice of Love strikes with fire upon hearts of stone.
The voice of Love uproots the thorns of fear,
Love uproots fear in every open heart.
The voice of Love is heard in every storm,
and strips the ego bare;
And in their hearts all cry
The Beloved lives in our hearts;
Love dwells with us forever
May Love give strength to all people!
May Love bless all nations with peace!