October 1, 2021

Matthew 3:16-17
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

On our farm, we have two English Shepherd dogs. Like most working dogs, they are smart, easily trained, and at this point, extremely helpful. They keep chickens out of the garden, deer out of the orchard, and they come to my whistle even when I can’t see them deep in the woods. We have used them to herd goats to a new pasture, catch mice in the house, and when we had an ancient, deaf labrador retriever prone to wander, we would send them off into the dark to find her and bring her back to the house. I am “well pleased” with them.

But, I also remember when we first got them as puppies. I can’t count the number of times they went to the bathroom in the house. They chewed countless rolls of toilet paper, whined at night, barked relentlessly (one of them still does . . . ) and had to be taught that ducklings were not food. But honestly, I was well pleased with them as puppies, too. They were curious. They were cuddly. They were hilarious to watch and play with.

I don’t know about you, but I like to imagine myself as a mature working dog in God’s kingdom. I try to be hardworking, reliable, and attentive. But that’s actually the plot twist from this section of Jesus’s baptism. At this point in his life, Jesus hadn’t actually done anything yet. He wasn’t healing people or teaching the crowds. He didn’t have any disciples. And yet, God was already “well pleased” with him.

Thank goodness the same is true for you and I! Because, honestly, we are probably closer to spiritual puppies than fully fledged farm dogs. We have very little to offer in the grand scheme of things; yet God is well pleased with our curiosity, voraciousness, and our hilarious blunders. To accept God’s pleasure in this way means admitting our insufficiency and immaturity. It means accepting our reliance on him in almost every way. It’s humbling and a little uncomfortable. I want to be loved for my skill and competence. But Jesus was able to accept God’s love even before he had “proven” himself in ministry. My prayer for you (and myself) today is that we are able to follow Jesus’s example, embracing God’s unconditional love with the same passion we apply to our attempts to achieve.
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