Fueled by Father’s Love

Fr. Tom Simmons, 1 Epiphany, Jan. 7, 2018, Mark 1:4-11

NT Wright tells the story of a famous movie-maker who had a huge falling-out with his long-time mentor and guide.

     The younger man simply could not handle criticism, and ended up rejecting the person who had helped him so much.

     A close friend summed up the situation: ‘It was all about an ungenerous father and a son looking for affirmation and love.’

You know that kind of story?  It happens all the time.

     People grow up without hearing clearly their parent’s love.

     Lacking that love, people grow up anxious to perform, to EARN that love.

     They often end up brittle, defensive, only giving love to those who earn it, and unforgiving to those who hurt them.

     Is that an issue for you?  Or someone you love?

è Jesus’ baptism points us to a better way.

Mark brings us up-close into Jesus’ relationship with HIS father.

… hip-deep in the water of the Jordan River.

     Jesus is dripping wet. 

     John had poured the water on him and suddenly,

He saw the heavenly realm revealed, torn open like curtains before him, with the Holy Spirit falling on him. 

Then he heard God declare "You are my Beloved Son; with you I am well pleased." 

The same voice that stripped the forests bare in our Psalm, is declaring deep affection to his Son. 

Jesus desperately needs to hear this because he’s got a really hard job. 

     He walked INTO the water a carpenter from Nazareth. 

     He walked OUT with a new job: Savior of the World. 

     With that promotion he gets to fast in the desert for 40 days,

     then embark on a backbreaking ministry that will fill his life 24/7 for the next three years,

     ending in persecution, betrayal, torture, abandonment and death. 

     And you think you’ve got a hard job…. 

How’s he going to be able to do all that?

     People say, “Of course…cause he’s God!”

But that’s not the way it worked. 

He was also man.  He chose to live moment by moment fully human, with all our human limitations.

Jesus could do what he did because he is fueled by the Father’s love. 

    They can take away his wealth, his reputation and friends, his health and safety, his control of his environment…his very LIFE! 

But they can’t take away his Father’s affection and THAT’S what’s most important. 

So Jesus can face anything. 

He can love his enemies.  He can be patient with the duh-ciplies. 

He can handle rejection and failure because he has the Father’s voice resonating in his heart:

“You are my beloved Son.  I am well pleased with you.”

     How about you?

è This morning I want you to walk away knowing that you CAN have that.  That you already DO! 

    And next week I’d like to show you HOW. 

Today I want to convince you that God loves you like that. 

NT Wright said it best.  Referring to Jesus’ baptism, he said,

     “The whole Christian gospel could be summed up in this point: that when the living God looks at us, at every baptized and believing Christian, he says to us what he said to Jesus on that day.  He sees us, not as we are in ourselves [which often ain’t a pretty picture], but as we are in Jesus Christ.  God is looking at you and saying, ‘You are my dear, dear child; I’m delighted with you.’” 

     Impossible?  Yeah. But true: We can be fueled by Father’s love like Jesus.

Jesus gives us his status and standing with the Father.

     And the Holy Spirit helps it penetrate the heart. 

     Paul tells us in Romans 8:15 that that the Spirit of Jesus is inside us.

     “You have not received a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption, by which we cry out Papa.”

     Then in v 16, the money quote: “it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” 

That’s what the Spirit is saying inside of you today.  Right now.  Hear it? 

     He declared it first at your baptism. 

“YOU are sealed with the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.”

That’s what little Smith will hear this morning.

We meet Jesus in the water and we get what he’s got. 

The Father assures you of his delight.  IN YOU!

He means for us to live like Jesus: fueled by Father’s love.

So you’ve got it!

But now that we’ve got it… we’ve just got to “get it”

We’ve got to learn to listen for it. 

     Do you hear it every day?

     Does it make a difference for you?

Maybe it’s drowned out by The Noise generated by what Paul calls “the spirit of slavery”

     The Noise is blaring all around us in our world’s conventional wisdom. 

Our world says God is far away and you’ve got to earn his love. 

And no Jew in Jesus’ day would dream address Yahweh as “father.”

     The Noise is blaring in our own restless, angry, insecure hearts, leading us backward in fear. 

See where Paul says that in v15: “You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption…bearing witness in our spirit that we are children of God.”

     We’ve got to hear the Spirit of Sonship speaking!

It’s a matter of learning to see and hear this new reality.

    That’s what happened to Jesus when he saw “the heavens torn open”

We imagine this as a split in the sky through which the Spirit descends from on high.

But the Bible images heaven as God’s dimension behind ordinary reality. 

     Picture an invisible curtain right in front of us.  It’s the furniture and building and people in this room.

Suddenly the curtain is torn open to reveal the hidden reality all around us. 

That’s what Jesus experiences. 

And we must too. 

     Much of our life as Christians is learning to see and hear and participate in this larger reality, the spiritual world active all around us. 

     We walk by faith, not by sight. 

     We learn to hear the Father’s voice speaking quietly inside us. 

We’ll pick this up next week to talk more about HOW to hear that voice and respond to it.  


     Open, Lord, my eyes that I may see.

     Open, Lord, my ears that I may hear.

     Open, Lord, my heart and my mind that I may understand.

     So shall I turn to you and be healed.


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