“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” ~Colossians 3:1-4
Our youngest daughter, Carley, was baptized into Christ Jesus on Sunday. She publicly renounced the ways of the world and confessed the ultimate lordship of Jesus and her commitment to him. She was buried with him — symbolically, sacramentally; she was raised with Christ — symbolically, sacramentally — to walk in newness of eternal life with our King. She has been forgiven by God of every sin she’s ever committed and will ever commit against his great holiness. She is now indwelled by God himself in the form of his Spirit — symbolized by the first huge breath she took after coming up out of the watery grave. And she belongs exclusively to our heavenly Father. She is his and he is hers. Forever. Amen.
As we talked and prayed with Carley this past week, she asked me almost every night, “Who’s going to do the ‘Since then…?'”
The “Since then…” is the congregational reading of Colossians 3:1-4. It’s a baptismal tradition/liturgy at the Legacy church we initiated with the opening of the new worship center there in 2008. As soon as the newly baptized follower came up out of the water, the congregation would recite those words of blessing and challenge, of affirmation and commission. It was — and still is — a powerful way for the church to participate in the baptism and for the wet Christian to feel the strength of belonging now to a baptized community.
Yes, we clap and cheer and sometimes even stand and shout when someone is baptized. Several people are usually waiting backstage to pray with the newly baptized brother or sister afterward . For teenagers, as many as thirty or forty people will crowd back there to offer congratulations and prayers. But our worship center is built and our baptistry positioned in such a way that congregational participation in a baptism event itself is all but impossible. Our baptistry is some 25-feet up in the air, far removed from the church itself. People on the very front pews are still 75-feet away from the water and are forced to watch the baptisms on the giant screens. Folks scattered around the giant room are even farther away and have no choice but to watch it on the screens. I was dismayed Sunday to walk out into the water in front of our church with my wife and our youngest daughter, and look out into our loving congregation to see 99-percent of them not looking at us, but watching on the screens. And we’re in the same room! Our building has turned baptisms into a spectator event.
But I asked our brothers and sisters to read the “Since then…” to Carley when she came up out of the water. We put the words on the screen. And they did it. It was beautiful. It was powerful. It honored us as a family. And it meant the world to Carley.
Thank you, Central Church of Christ, for loving our daughter and our whole family the way you do. Not a day goes by that we don’t recognize how blessed we are to be with you. Thank you to our small group and Carley’s middle school Muddle families who blessed us so wonderfully at our home Sunday night. You poured truth into our daughter. You affirmed her; you challenged her; you read God’s Holy Word to her and promised to always love her. Thank you. Thank you to the Popes and the Marshalls who drove thirteen hours round trip from Legacy to rejoice with us this weekend. Your friendship is a testament to the faithfulness of our God. And thank you to Carrie-Anne’s mom and my parents who sacrificed a lot to be here this past weekend. You received the Christian faith from your parents, you passed it on to your children, and you are blessing us as we pass it on together to your grandchildren. Thank you.
Carley, you now belong to our God. Paul told the Christians in Galatia that you are a daughter of God by faith when you clothe yourself with Christ by baptism (Galatians 3:26-27). When you were baptized Sunday, you put to death the old Carley. You killed that girl; you buried her. And when you came up out of the water, you were a brand new creature. God has created something brand new inside you Carley, so that by his Spirit you will experience all of life in a brand new way. Death has nothing on you now, precious daughter. And neither does sin.
Our prayer for you, Carley, is that our God will bless you richly with his grace and peace, his protection and provision. Our great desire is to see you become more and more like our Lord. Our eternal hope is that you walk with him faithfully, all the way to the end.
We love you. And we are so proud of you. And we know your life in Christ is going to result in praise and glory to God. May his holy will be done in you and through you, Carley, just as it is in heaven.
Love, like you just can’t believe,