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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.” Mark 1:10—11

Dearly Beloved.  I use that word a lot—beloved. And I know I use that word a lot. But I am not apologizing. It is such a great word. I use it to say how dear you are to me. I use it to express the import you hold in my heart. I use it so that you will know that I cherish you. As I typed it just now in the title, thinking about writing this reflection, I choked-up for how dearly beloved you are. Heck, I chocked-up for how dearly beloved I am.

You probably already know this, but a pastor’s relationship boundaries must be crystal clear and one of the ways I manage that is to philia-love but stay slightly detached in my relationships with parishioners. The truth is, even though you know more about me than you probably want to and you experience me as warm, and loving and wearing my heart on my sleeve—when it comes to ‘love’ I am pretty careful, reserved even. Yet, you are beloved—to me.

But more importantly, you are beloved to the One who knows you more intimately that you have ever been know. This God who slipped in beside us at Christmas; this God who is love and named love and called for love and came down as love; with this God there is no detachment, no self imposed boundaries—just beloved-ness, agape-love.

I am so glad that the lectionary brings us here each year and I am glad it happens at this time of year. We are all so exhausted and overwhelmed by the past six weeks. The weather of winter looms ahead while the extra darkness has invaded our spirits. Most of us have already faltered on our annual resolution to do it differently this year with food, exercise, relationships, self care, or insert-your-issue-here. Routines are calling to be re-instilled and yet we struggle to settle in, to get organized, to clean up after the holidays.

And God comes into our mess and makes us new—literally washing us with the water of baptism and descending as a symbol of peace—and claiming us as Love claimed Jesus. ‘This is my child, my Beloved, in who I am well pleased. You are my beloved. “

Dearly beloved, in you God is well pleased. As we head into this new year washed by the Light of the World—let us continue to pleased our Creator by sharing that love with others.

With blessing and prayer,

Rev. Wendy Miller Olapade

The image above is entitled:  “Blessing the Baptism” © Jan Richardson.  We have purchased the digital image to use.

Please check out this beautiful poem/prayer from Jan Richardson entitled Baptism of Jesus: Beginning with Beloved:

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Dearly Beloved