I was at the Planet Fitness on Saturday and there were a lot of people there.
I am assuming that some of that is the New Year’s crowd.
You know people who have made a resolution to get in better shape, exercise more.
There is nothing wrong with this.
There is nothing wrong with making a resolution and trying to change a behavior that will make you healthier.
Except I wonder if this is what is making us crazy.
We believe too much in the myth of self improvement.
We believe too much in the idea that if we only could change this thing about ourselves then we would be really happy, or satisfied.
It is dangerous because what happens when we fail?
When we can’t change, or won’t change, or don’t change what happens to how we see ourselves?
What happens if we do change some behavior but still feel horrible about our lives and ourselves?
We feel like failures.
We feel shame.
We are unable to accept ourselves as we are, as God made us to be.
Again this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t exercise, or that we shouldn’t be healthy.
As we start this New Year I want us to ask ourselves some deeper spiritual questions.
I want us not to change our lives, but to live our lives more fully.
I want us to think about not what we have to do, but about what God can do.
I think that subtle shift in us is means everything.
It will help us to get away from the false idea of self-improvement.
It will help us to get off the cycle of shame.
It will get us to see God in our lives.
The place to start is in our baptisms.
Today we hear the story of Jesus’ baptism.
And our baptism is not the same as Jesus’ baptism, but it shares some similarities.
In our baptisms God claims us as God’s children.
God says to us, “This is my son/daughter, my beloved, in whom I am well pleased.”
God is pleased in us.
God is pleased that we are his children.
God loves us as we are.
Not as some better part of ourselves but as us.
That is something worth thinking about this New Year.
That God is pleased to dwell with us, in us.
That we are part of God’s plan; God has a purpose for us.
This year we let us remember that we can walk each day, not alone, but with God.
I really believe that in some way we are all on this earth trying to do the same thing.
We are trying to figure out what makes a good life.
This is why the idea of self-improvement is so seductive.
It says to us that if we only do this thing then we will discover the secret to a good life, a happy life.
That if we become more of something.
If we become more beautiful, skinny, toned, rich, good, kind, loving, generous then we will have it all together.
Here is what I found so far in this life I never have it all together.
If there is some part of my life that is going well it usually means that something else is out of whack.
If I can do something well for a while then it is only a matter of time before I sin and something else gets screwed up.
We are trying to solve a spiritual problem with a practical solution.
The real issue is not what is wrong with us.
The real issue is that we can’t accept that something is wrong with us.
We feel a need to fix it.
Why can’t we let God fix it?
What would it look like if we didn’t fix it?
What if we just said this is who I am?
This is as good as it gets.
This is life right here and now.
Life is messed up, I am messed up.
And to hear God in that place say to us, “Here is my child, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
That is the gift of our Baptism.
That is the Epiphany that we can have this year.
We can see God in our lives.
We can see God’s grace given to us so that we don’t have to fix us, but live in our imperfection.
The second thing that we share with Jesus baptism is that it leads us into the wilderness.
That is where we are.
Not in Eden.
Not in some idyllic place that is wonderful and perfect.
We are in the wilderness.
We are in a place without water, a barren place.
And we might be there but we go there with the blessing.
We can with stand that wilderness, because we go drenched in the waters of our baptism.
Our baptism gives us the blessing of knowing that we are beloved.
New things burst into sight because of the blessing.
Because we have heard God call us beloved.
We have heard from God in the waters of baptism that even though it is barren God is still there.
I went this week to visit someone who is dying.
He is not a member of our congregation, but he asked to see a Lutheran pastor.
He wants me to do his funeral.
I asked him what I should say.
He said, “For those I have wronged I hope you forgive me, and for those that have wronged me I forgive you.”
I thought that sums up our lives.
We can’t always do the right thing.
We won’t always do or say the right thing.
But we can ask for forgiveness.
We can forgive others.
We can remember that God forgives us.
And that might be the only way to get through life.
Because there is no state of that we can reach of perfection.
I don’t care how many New Year’s resolution we make.
I don’t care how many self-improvement books we read.
We will always be just short of the glory of God.
What we hear from God in our baptisms is that it is ok.
There is no reason to feel shame or regret.
There is only the acknowledgement of our sin, and God’s magnificent grace.
That is the spiritual truth of our lives.
I offer it to you this morning.
I offer it to you so that you can get away from the cycle of shame.
You can stop feeling horrible that you didn’t lose those 15 pounds, or you continue to get angry at your kids, or you didn’t give more money to the homeless shelter.
You can stop trying to be more, and just be who God made you to be.
That is good enough.
Let me also say that it is hard enough just being us.
God’s blessing to us, given at our baptisms, when we were babies, before we knew about all of life’s complications, is enough.
To know that we are beloved.
To know that in the wilderness there is water.
To know that there is forgiveness.
To just be us.
That is enough.
I hope for you this year not a resolution, but an epiphany about your worth and how much God loves you.