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Baptism, Undiscovered Tribes, and Why This Sunday is Who You Are

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-28)

Baptism isn’t just for the people who are going to get wet. Every summer around this time (this coming Sunday to be precise) Creekside has its baptism service at Tolt-MacDonald park, and whether you’ve ever or never been, what you need to know about that service is this: it is for YOU, whether you are getting wet or not.

There is always a temptation to see Baptism as a one-off event, a big moment in the life of a Christ follower for sure, but a moment, something that happened. Baptism is so much more than that, it’s a resource for everyday Christian living, something that anyone who follows Jesus can lean on every day.

Imagine that you discovered a previously unknown tribe of people whilst exploring the wilds of _____ (insert wilderness of your choice here.) At first the tribe was foreign and strange. The customs they had were weird, the social conventions and beliefs were absolutely counter intuitive. After a while, you began to see that this tribe lives its life together with a kind of truth, justice, and beauty that you had never seen in any other culture or civilization. In fact, after a while you became convinced that this was the most beautiful possible way to live. Imagine that you could no longer resist living as an outsider to the tribe. It is time, you are going to become one of them.

Of course there is an initiation ritual. In this initiation ritual you are symbolically killed so that you can symbolically be raised to life. The old “not part of the tribe” you is dead and the new you that comes to life is totally committed and totally part of the new tribe. Imagine that you are symbolically washed clean of all your old sin and that you enter this tribe as a person made new, with no prior transgression. Imagine that you commit publically to a life centered on and anchored in the values and ethics of the tribe. Imagine that the tribe commits to a life-long practice of helping you live out those values and ethics.

Now the crazy part, stretch your mind here: Imagine that the Deity of this tribe actually shows up at this ritual; like is literally present. This strange tribal God promises to walk by you in your new life, and during the act of your symbolic washing and dying does a not-so-symbolic, in fact a very real, spiritual washing and rebirth.

Now imagine the Deity is the God of the Bible, the tribe is the people of God who go by the name of “Christ” and the initiation ritual is Baptism.

If that happened to you, you would be marked by your new identity forever. You would be a citizen of this new kind of people. Every time you went to one of these initiation rituals you would remember your own sense of commitment, your own story of conversion to the tribe. Every time you were confronted with a choice about what to do with your money, how to raise your kids, or what activities warrant your time and energy you would probably ask yourself the question: is this consistent with the way of life of my tribe? Every time you were tempted with living another way you could say to yourself: no, that’s not who I am, I’m a person who’s identity and nationality and citizenship is in this tribe.

In fact you might say that baptism is WHO I AM. Not just something that you did, that one time.

That’s why the baptism service is for you. Because if you are one of the baptized, this service is really a celebration of who you are, or better: who WE are. It’s a reminder and a participation in the core practice of our identity. Baptism will help remind you every day of who you were meant to be: a made new citizen of a new tribe, alive in and because of Christ. Coming to Creekside’s baptism service will help you practice and participate in your citizenship in what we call “The Kingdom of God.”

When you get “married” you stay married for your whole life, it changes the state of being that you are in. It becomes part of your identity. Same thing with citizenship. Same thing with following Jesus.

So use that metaphor of the tribe, come to Tolt-MacDonald Park on Sunday and be who you are. Remember your baptism, practice your baptism, help someone else practice theirs. Then leave the service more confident than ever that you are part of a people who are living truth, beauty, and justice in a radical and exciting way. Leave confident that you baptism is part of who you are, and confident that you can every day of your life lean on baptism as resource for who you ought to be in the future.

See you there.

Noah can be reached via email here.

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