Luke 3:1-22 : Jesus' Baptism
Without even straying too much into the text, the whole idea of Baptism gives us more food for thought than we can handle. But one wee thought, which is truly huge: we tend to baptise infants far more than older children of adults in our tradition; we place vows in there which the parents or grandparents are asked to take as an infant can't; we seek ideas about membership and have a whole structure around joining the church.
If we are baptising infants do we not therefore emphasise a model of church that says we belong before we believe? The first thing we offer people is belonging. The model of church we have is that people grow into believing. We don't seek knowledge or understanding first. We don't say you have to join us first before you can belong (though you'd think we do at times). First and foremost we say "you belong". Now we you grow, we long for you to believe also.
Belonging to God is far more important than believing in God. We take a chance on people when they come to church by offering space to belong, to grow, to explore. Sometimes it happens that they come to believe too but many don't (at least not in the way we have institutionalised it) but that's the chance we take in loving people, in saying 'you belong' before we ask anything of them. We give first of all. It is our gift, our welcome. Believing comes later. Belonging comes first and perhaps that takes more grace, pain, love and effort.