Last time we were together, Paul told us that the time had changed. God's people used to be guarded and guided by the Law, but not anymore. Something is different now. People used to follow Moses's laws to come close to God, but now God has acted. Now God has brought people close, all the way into a new creation — a new way of living and loving together. Paul has very, very good news for us today: can we get ready to listen to his words together?
Today's reading is Galatians chapter 3 verses 26 through 29.
26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God by believing in Christ. 27 This is because all of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. You have put him on as if he were your clothes. 28 There is no Jew or Gentile. There is no slave or free person. There is no male or female. That's because you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 You who belong to Christ are Abraham's seed. So you will receive what God has promised.
Did you get dressed this morning? I hope you did! How did you choose what you would wear? Maybe you knew that you would have a game, or some time outside, so you chose clothes you could run around in. Or maybe something special was happening, like a band concert or a meal at a nice restaurant, so you dressed up a little more than usual? Or maybe it was just an ordinary day, so you picked clothes that make you feel good and comfortable.
Clothes are funny: we have to wear them to be warm and modest, but sometimes we also wear them to tell a story about ourselves. We pick out clothes to show other people something about who we are. Sometimes our clothes say what our job is: a doctor's lab coat, or a pastor's special collar. Some of us like to wear clothes that stand out or make people notice us; some of us are more comfortable if we blend in and look the same as everyone else. Some people choose clothes that show off how much money they have. And some people don't have a choice, or even enough clothes to stay warm at all.
Did you know that in the early church — in churches like the one Paul is writing to in this letter — people took off their clothes when they got baptized? That's right! When it was time to be baptized, people took off their fancy clothes, or their hand-me-downs, or the clothes they had sewn themselves. Rich people, poor people, slaves, Jews, Gentiles: they all took off the things that set them apart, and went under the water naked, just the way God had made them.
And when they came up again, everyone got a brand new white robe. Do you know why? Paul tells us in this letter: now they belonged to Jesus. When they went under the water, it was like they were dying with him. When they came up out of the water, it was like being raised again. Now they were a part of Jesus's new creation. All the old things people used to separate themselves, or mark themselves as different, weren't important anymore. All of them wore Jesus now. Now they all shared the same family resemblance.
Most churches don't do baptisms this way anymore. Now we stay dressed, and usually we just get a sprinkle of water — though some people still go all the way under! But Paul's words are still true for us today. If we are in Christ, we are part of his new creation. We aren't separated from God or divided from one another. And we get to wear the clothing of Christ's love every day — that's what we should see when we look at each other. Thanks be to God!
Let's get ready to wonder about God's good words together.
Loving God: make our minds curious, our hearts open, and our bodies at peace. Thank you for inviting us to wonder about your words. Amen.
I wonder what baptisms were like in the very first churches? I wonder what it was like to see rich people, poor people, powerful people, enslaved people and differently-abled people, all take off their clothes and enter the same water?
I wonder what it was like to go down into the water and come back up again? Can I imagine slipping my arms, still wet, into the clean white robe? How does it feel to know that putting on that robe is like putting on the life, love, and faithfulness of Jesus?
Can I imagine going through my day wearing Christ? What does that look like in my mind?
I wonder if knowing that I am in Christ, that I am covered in Christ, changes anything about how I act, or speak, or treat other people?
In Paul's time, Jewish people thought they were better than Gentiles. Men were more important than women. And free people were more important than slaves. I wonder why joining God's family in Jesus changes all of that? I wonder why those things don't matter any more?
I wonder if we still act like some people are better, or more important, than others? Even in our churches? I wonder if we still like to come close to people who are more important, or seem smarter, or have more money? I wonder what Jesus has to say to us about that?
Loving God, thank you for Paul's words to the Galatians, and thank you that somehow by your Spirit, they are also your words to us. Give us the wisdom and understanding that come from your Holy Spirit so that we can know you better. Show us the faithfulness of Jesus, and help us to put our trust and hope in him alone. In his beautiful name, Amen.