Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Reflections for Youth - Affirmations

My friend wrote a book that was sold on Amazon.  After the book was out for a little while she decided to read all the reviews people that read her book had posted on the site.  There were many, many positive reviews from readers who loved the book. But there was one negative review from a person that didn't like her work. Just one. 

Guess what? That's the review that my friend talked about. It didn't matter that a least 20 other people had terrific things to say. She let that one negative review be the loudest thing she heard and felt bad about it for weeks. 

The scripture from Matthew's Gospel describing the baptism of Jesus has got me thinking about how we hear and receive messages of affirmation.

Think about this: 

What are the strongest positive messages that shape what you think and believe about yourself? 

What are the strongest negative messages that shape what you think and believe about yourself? 

Why do you think it's easier to believe the negative message than the positive? 

Okay - this shows my age - but there used to be a character on Saturday Night Live played by Al Franken named Stuart Smalley.  His sketches were called "Daily Affirmations" and featured Smalley looking into a mirror and saying to himself: 

"I am good enough. I am smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!" It was way over the top, but that's made it so funny.   There is a great skit that you can find on YouTube from the show featuring Stuart teaching Michael Jordan, probably the greatest basketball player of all time, how to affirm his talent. 

The passage from Matthew is short, so I will share it below. 
Matthew 3:13-17 
(New Revised Standard Version)
The Baptism of Jesus13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved,[a] with whom I am well pleased.”
There are a lot of things to talk about in this scripture. We know the importance of the story of Jesus' baptism because the other three Gospels include a version of the story as well.  Matthew's version tells that Jesus comes to the river where John the Baptist was baptizing people. Jesus he got in line with everyone else.  Despite John's disagreement - Jesus tells John that it's important for God's plan for him to be baptized.  So John baptized Jesus just like everyone else. He dipped Jesus down into the river until the water covered him. 

 But here's the part that I want to focus on. Jesus’ baptism wasn’t like the baptism of everyone else. As Jesus came up out of the water we read that this magical thing happens where a dove appears and God's voice affirms God's love for Jesus. 

God loved Jesus simply for who he was. His baptism was the public affirmation of God's love and Jesus' identity as his beloved son.  

This is true for us, too. Our identities as beloved children of God are grounded in love. 
We all belong to and are loved by God, no matter what.  And this is the message that God wants us to hear louder than anything else. 

This affirmation of love is what we hear again and again through stories in the Bible.  God wants us to  - like Stuart Smalley - look into the mirror and be reminded that we are children of God. And because of that, we are good enough, smart enough, and doggone-it God loves us. 

No matter what. 

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