Who am I?
Discovering our identity is a lifelong query in which we keep discerning answers. Names often reveal much about us, especially for the things out of our control. We carry with us our families’ surname, and even if we change it or marry into another one, we carry it with us our whole lives. Before my grandfather entered World War II, he almost changed Sinibaldo to Sinclair. He was the son of Italian immigrants. His mother was illiterate. She only spoke Italian. He wanted to speak English and become an American family now. In those days the ideal was the American melting pot; you could come from anywhere, but there was still the myth of a monolithic American culture; not the subsets of diversity we have come to understand and embrace today. I am quite glad that he kept the name Sinibaldo because I think it’s great. It is unique. Our name used to end with an “i” (Sinibaldi). The name was changed by the neighbor kid who misspelled it when filling out my grandfather’s paperwork to go to public school in Chicago as a boy.
Our parents give us first names; they pick them for a variety of reasons. Maybe they just liked it. Maybe your name was popular at the time. Maybe it is because of a family connection. I was named Jeff because my parents like the name but it was popular then so they decided to spell it in the English way with a “G”. When I was a young child I was picked on because of it. As I got older I came to embrace it. By the time I started working at camp and my good friend (also named Jeff) and I became inseparable, my name became a real source of pride. G-Geoff and J-Jeff were on the loose! We still are 🙂
When we named our children, Tammie and I took this task of naming very seriously. We wanted family names. We wanted to claim some of our heritage. So we named Joe – Giuseppe Waldemar, and we named Mia – Amelia Louisa. They have short functional names for everyday use, but also deeply meaningful ones. My grandfather was Armando Giuseppe. He always went by AJ. He was almost Sinclair. Instead, his friends called him “Sini.” Joe was born on my grandfather’s birthday. Armando Giuseppe Sinibaldo now had a great-grandson named after him. At Tammie’s grandmothers’ funeral, we learned her middle name – Amelia. We turned and looked at each other with a single gaze, knowing if we ever had a daughter, Amelia would be her name. Later discovering that Mia is often an Italian nickname for Amelia sealed the deal. My sister and her husband have done the same thing, but in a different way. Scotland means something to them even though neither of them have that heritage. They travelled there, and it became a part of who they are. So their two kids – Liam and Isla (Pronounced “Eye La” like Island – born Monday, April 29!) have Scottish first names to root them in that identity and their parents’ story. Their middle names are named after grandparents. So their names are – Liam Henry, and Isla Norma Jeannette. Throughout their lives (just as all of us) they will come to understand their names and I hope they find meaning in them. I hope all of us do. Our names are an important part of who we are and who we are called to be.
Have you ever discovered why you have the name that you do?
Have you ever looked in a baby book to see what your name means?
How do you see the world having the name that you do?
If you ever named something or someone, why did you pick that name?
We also have another name and another identity. In the mystery that is baptism we are washed in the water and claimed by God’s Word. We are joined to the name of the Holy Trinity. In our tradition when a person is baptized the pastor will say their name followed by, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” In the dance that is one in three and three in one we enter the movement of God naming us, and claiming us as his own, “I have called you by name and you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).
People have long debated the partnership of baptism and faith, what the relationship is between those who are baptized and those who are not, and whether baptism is the beginning of faith or an expression of it. Two things we should bear in mind are that Jesus commands us to baptize (Matthew 28:16-20) and welcomes us to baptism to receive his grace and the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5-8). Faith trusts what God promises, at whatever age we enter it, to share the gift of what is promised with others. The most important part is the relationship that binds us to God and to one another, “There is one body and one Spirit , just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one faith, one Lord, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote,
“Baptism makes us members of the body of Christ. We are ‘baptized into’ Christ (Galatians 3:27; Romans 6:3); we are ‘brought into one body by baptism’ (1 Corinthians 12:13). In our death in baptism, the Holy Spirit thus appropriates to us personally what Christ in his body has gained for the whole of humanity. We receive the community of the body of Christ in the same way the disciples and followers of Jesus received it in the early days, and this means we are now ‘with Christ’ and ‘in Christ,’ and that ‘Christ is in us.'” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship. [Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001], p. 216.)
In baptism we are brought into the body of Christ to live as the body of Christ. This new identity becomes who we are as Jesus sends us as/with/in his body into the world. Just as we discern the name given to us at birth, we discover our new identity at this new birth, born of water and spirit (John 3:5). Leaving our old life behind, we walk anew into a new day.
Who are we?
We keep asking. There are many particulars of our past and present that form our identity that continue to be revealed. Yet, we are called into the future. For that future we are given the identity of Christ, who so loves the world. We are called into the life of the risen Christ, to believe, to follow, to bear the cross, to emerge from death, to bear witness, to bring good news, to forgive and be forgiven, to love as we are loved, even when we get it wrong, misspell, or forget who we are. Even so, God welcomes us into the Triune dance as we tread into the wilderness; still discovering for ourselves and discerning together what this promise means as we meet others along the way. Baptized in Christ we are set free and on the loose!
“When you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:12)
What is baptism?
Baptism is not simply plain water. Instead it is water according to God’s command and connected to God’s Word.
What then is the word of God?
Where our Lord Jesus Christ says in Matthew 28:19, ‘Go therefore and baptize all nations, baptizing them in Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ (Martin Luther, “Small Catechism,” Evangelical Lutheran Worship. [Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2005], p. 1164.)