Much of the time, when I sign my name as a pastor, I do not write, "Love" or "Sincerely" but I use the words, "In Christ".
This refers to the letters of Paul, chiefly when he states, "So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!" (2 Corinthians 5:17, NRSV).
It also refers to Paul's statement, "There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1, NRSV).
As a book I recently read stated, "...participation 'in Christ' is also a sharing in the way of the cross." (p. 116).
So for me as a Christian but especially as a pastor, "in Christ" is a reference to not only my identity but our shared identity together. We are new creations without condemnation as we share in Christ.
This Sunday, we will celebrate the Baptism of the Lord Sunday in worship. This is always the Sunday following the Epiphany where we remember and celebrate the Baptism of Jesus and may recall our own baptism and respond to the grace we have received.
Some have asked me about my parking space at the far corner of the parking lot by the recycling bins. It was given to me by the church on my 10th anniversary as Piedmont's pastor. It's a tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact that this is where I always park on Sunday mornings even though I am one of the first to arrive and have my pick of spaces.
In doing so, I preserve the closer parking for those who aren't yet a part of us. As an able-bodied disciple of Jesus, I am perfectly willing to walk a little ways to worship God. As I give up a little for someone else, I am remembering my baptism - I am remembering that participating in Christ means to share in the way of the cross. I give so that others may have life - even if that is something as simple as giving visitors a closer place to park.
This doesn't diminish me - in fact, if anything, it allows me to be a stronger person. As we consider new year's resolutions, maybe one should be that we'll look for ways to share life with others. This Sunday, we'll remind ourselves of the baptism of Jesus as well as the faith commitments we have made. If you are near Piedmont or Cashion and don't have a church home, I've left a space for you to join us for worship!