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From Intern Quentin . . .

Grace and Peace from God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ,

One of my favorite shows growing up was Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005). In the series, the world is divided into four nations, each named after the natural element they stand for– water, earth, fire, and air. The four nations are the Water Tribes, the Earth Kingdom, the Fire Nation, and the Air Nomads. In the show, benders have the ability to control and manipulate the element from their nation and one bender can control and manipulate all the elements called the Avatar. The first season “Book One: Water” begins in the final year of a One-Hundred-Year War started by the Fire Nation to conquer the entire world. However, the Avatar is destined to bring balance back to the world with the ability to bend all four elements. The Avatar in the show is an airbender named Aang and we see his journey to master all four elements and save the world.


Now, while there is so much to talk about with a show like Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005), I wanted to focus on the natural element of water – standing for change in the show – and how it relates to our change in baptism. Throughout the series, the natural element of water stands for change, adaptability, and flexibility in the world. Waterbenders are trained to be adaptive and flexible in their environments, changing just as quickly as water can go from solid to liquid to gas. Throughout “Book One: Water,” we see Aang embody this element as he undergoes change across the entire first season.


In “Book One: Water,” we learn that Aang felt overburdened with his responsibilities as the Avatar, so he ran away from home to escape these responsibilities. But during his running away, Aang got caught in a rainstorm and was only able to save himself from drowning by freezing himself in an iceberg for one-hundred-years. As Aang is raised from his watery coffin in the first episode – entering into a new and unfamiliar world – Aang has to adapt to the changes of a world he no longer recognizes.


By facing people’s experience in a world without the Avatar, Aang has to confront many times how his actions – of running away and being frozen for one-hundred-years – indirectly caused the pain and suffering of countless lives. But, as the season title of water suggests, Aang also learns to adapt and be flexible when faced with new problems and situations to help the people in need. By the end of the first season, Aang experiences a transformation and change that embodies the element of water by accepting his responsibilities as the Avatar.


The symbolism of water as an element of change in Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005) embodies a great deal of what we believe God does for us in the waters of our baptism. Not only is our old self drowned in the waters, as Martin Luther was fond to describe it, but God also raises us into new life where we are changed and transformed to live freely under grace and help those in need just as Christ has helped us.


When we look at how the natural element of water symbolizes the change that Aang undergoes, Paul talks about a similar transformation in the act of our baptism. In Romans 6:4, Paul describes how “we were buried with [Jesus] by baptism into death” and were “raised from the dead” alongside Christ from the tomb in the waters. Just as Aang undergoes his own watery burial in an iceberg and emerges out in a process of growth and transformation across “Book One: Water,” our watery burial in baptism leads to a change and transformation as we seek to live out our baptismal promise to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves.


When we look back at Aang’s journey through “Book One: Water,” we can also compare it to living out these baptismal promises to love God and to love our neighbor. Part of our relationship with God is confronting our sins that separate us from God through the act of confession and forgiveness. Just as Aang confronts the pain and suffering that he indirectly caused in the show, our worship leads us to a similar confrontation when we confess to God the things we had done and left undone toward ourselves and our neighbor. And just as Aang adapts and changes to help the people around him, God leads us forward to love our neighbor as ourselves by helping people throughout our lives. Aang’s journey of transformation and change is a helpful image of what living out our baptism can look like in our own lives. That as we remember our baptism, we remember that we aren’t perfect nor will we always get it right in our confrontation with sin, but that we follow a God who gives to us grace as a gift to go forth and try again to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves.


Peace and Blessings, Fraternally Quentin Surace