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    This sermon was preached by Pastor Keith Cardwell at Swift Presbyterian Church.

    God Loves
    Matthew 3:13–17
    July 24, 2016

     T HE VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL curriculum for this week provided a great layout for Sunday worship. Celebrate God’s creative power through the call to worship. Affirm God’s help for us through his grace — in our case today we affirmed that through our confession of sin and assurance of his forgiveness. Then came the rejoicing that God loves us.

    That’s the focus of our sermon today. I thank Professor David Lose for many of the thoughts today. ( Later we will call on Christ through prayer to calm us in the challenges of life and world. Then God will send us — all of us, of all ages — into the world to be disciples.

    Thanks to all who made this week a reality. Parents and adult students. Crafters and cooks. Teachers and recreation leaders. Cleaner-uppers and projectionists. Musicians and crowd controllers. Adults and youth and children. Men and women.

    Our focus for this sermon is God loves. We’re using the scripture from our VBS Bible story. The three biblical accounts of Jesus’ baptism are accompanied by a voice from heaven saying Jesus is God’s beloved Son. A child with whom God is most pleased.

    Here Jesus learns who he is in relation to whose he is. At his baptism, Jesus is given the gifts of identity and affirmation.

     † † † 

    JESUS’ BAPTISM COMES before the start of his public ministry. We might say that only by having a clear sense of God’s affirmation and identity can Jesus take on the mission in front of him. This is clear in Matthew and Luke, where Satan’s first point of attack the question of identity: “If you are the Son of God.”

    These stories of Jesus’ baptism connect with our stories. We can only live into the mission that God has set for us to the degree that we hear and believe the good news that we, too, are beloved children of God. As with Jesus, we discover in baptism who we are by hearing definitively whose we are.

     † † † 

    WHEN OUR DAUGHTER, Heather, was in high school, I remember telling her over and again to remember who she was and whose she was. She was Heather, loved by parents, individual, talented, unique. But she belonged to God. She was a child of God. Never forget that. When being three states away in college presents new and questionable opportunities, remember who and whose you are. When you get confused or lost or uncertain. When you lose your bearings, remember you belong to God through Christ.

    I’m proud to say that when I went up for parents’ weekend, she had scrolling on the screen of her computer, those very words:

     Remember who you are and whose you are. 

    That is good news to all our children — and to ourselves.

     † † † 

    BAPTISM IS THE PROMISE that we are God’s beloved children. That no matter where we go, God will be with us. That no matter what we may do, God is for us and will not abandon us. In baptism we are blessed with the promise of God’s Spirit and given a name, and that name is Christian, one marked with the cross of Christ and named a beloved child of God forever.

    This is incredibly important because names are powerful. The names we are given or take, the names that arouse pride or shame, are important. Some we have chosen; others have been given to us. Some lift us up; others tear us down. Whatever the case, names are powerful.

    These words at Jesus’ baptism remind us that no matter how powerful our earthly names, they do not define us. What defines us is the name given to us by God alone: the name of beloved child.

     † † † 

    I WANT YOU TO REMEMBER a difficult name you have been called during your life. A name that sticks in your memory, dogging you and haunting you. Names like “lazy,” “stupid” or “nerd,” “fatso” or “ugly.” Names like “loser” or “prissy,” “know-it-all” or “victim.” “tomboy” or “sissy.” “Worthless” or “old” or “cripple.”

    Or offensive names that cannot be spoken in public.

    Call to mind these names for one painful moment. I want you to hear God say to you:

     “No! That is not your name. For you are my beloved child, and with you I am well pleased.” 

    — Keith Cardwell     

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    23208 Swift Church Road
    Foley, AL 36535
    Phone: (251) 943-8367


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