How will you lead this year? One way to keep in mind and practice is to lead by reminding people of who they are and what is expected of them. Leadership is recognizing the potential in people and then developing that potential for the good of others.
Think about it for a moment. As a spiritual leader, at every baptism you are reminding people of who they are, “A beloved child of God.” You are reminding them of their “call” to ministry. As much as we might want to make baptism a personal and individualistic event, it is more of a claim upon your life and a call to be about God’s business in the community and the world.
What does it mean to “remember your baptism”?
Use the pattern of Read, Reflect, Respond, Return as a tool to assist you in remembering your baptism and in becoming the leader needed for the time in which we are living.
Read Matthew 3:13-17
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him, and he saw God’s Spirit descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from the heavens said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
There is much to be said about the story of Jesus’s baptism and the meaning of baptism for you and for me. But, for this reflection let’s focus on “And a voice from the heavens said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’”
At Jesus’s baptism, a voice from heaven said, “This is my son.” Those words are from Psalm 2. They were spoken on the occasion of the crowning of the king of Israel. At Jesus’ baptism, Jesus is claimed by God to be king or ruler. As you know, his kingdom is not a geographic location but the hearts, minds, and actions of people. So, baptism is the acknowledgement of trust and obedience to the “ruler” of your life.
Then the words, “My Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased,” comes from Isaiah 42. It is a line from the description of the suffering servant of God, the one who gives his life. It means touching, loving, going, doing, caring for people. In other words, here is my son, the servant. So, baptism is a commissioning to ministry. It is a commissioning to be about God’s business in the community and the world.
What is God’s Business?
Jesus wet from baptism, left the Jordan River and went about God’s business. What is God’s business? God’s business is feeding, healing, caring for, and serving people. In each of the four gospels there are stories of Jesus being about God’s business. He even knelt and washed people’s feet.
As a leader, you remind people they are God’s children, and they are about doing God’s business. Feeding, healing, caring, serving others in the love in which they are loved. When you say the words, “Remember your baptism,” you are reminding followers of Jesus to remember they are beloved children of God, and they are to be about God’s business of loving and serving other people.
Fred Craddock told a story that is helpful at this point. He was pastor of a church in Custer City, Oklahoma. The population was about 450. There were four churches in town: a Methodist church, a Baptist church, a Nazarene church, and a Christin church. Each had its share of the population and attendance rose and fell according to the weather and whether it was harvest time.
He said that the most consistent attendance in town was at the little café where all the pickup trucks were parked. All the men gathered there while their wives and children attended one of those four churches. The attendance at the churches would fluctuate, but the attendance at the café was consistently good. The men were always there discussing the weather, cattle, wheat bugs, and crops.
The patron saint of the group was a man named Frank. He was a good, strong, rancher, farmer, and cattleman about seventy-seven years old. He was born into poverty but had prospered over the years. He had his credentials, and all the men there at the café considered him to be their leader. They would laugh and say, “Old Frank will never go to church.”
Craddock said that he first met Frank on the street. After some small talk, Frank spoke up and said, “I work hard, and I take care of my family, and I mind my own business.” He said that as far as he was concerned, everything else is fluff. Craddock interpreted the words to mean, “Leave me alone; I’m not a prospect.”
He said that is why he was surprised, the whole town was surprised, and the men at the café were bumfuzzled when Frank, at seventy-seven years old, presented himself one Sunday morning for baptism. Craddock said he baptized Frank. Some in the community said that Frank must be sick, They said he must be scared to meet his maker. Some said “He’s got heart trouble, going up to be baptized. I never thought old Frank would do that, but I guess when you get scared…”
There were all kinds of stories. But this is what he said to Craddock while they were talking after the baptism. Craddock asked, “Frank, do you remember that little saying you used to give me so much? ‘I work hard, I take care of my family, and I mind my own business’?”
Frank said, “Yeah, I remember. I said that a lot.”
“Do you still say that?”
He said, “Yes.”
“Then what is the difference?”
Frank said, “I didn’t know then what my business was.”
Frank discovered what his business was. It was to love, care for, and serve people. Craddock baptized Frank. He said, “I raised my hand and said in the presence of those who gathered,” ‘Upon your confession of faith in Jesus Christ and in obedience to the command, I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.’”
So, remember your baptism. You are a beloved Child of God who is about the business of God. And what is that business? To love, care for, and serve the people you encounter each day.
As a leader, part of your work is to remind people of their potential and to help them live it out. As a spiritual leader, one of the ways of reminding people is baptism. At every baptism you are challenged to remember who you are. As personal as baptism might be understood, baptism is a communal event. The community of faith takes a vow to help you and all the baptized community to “Do all in your power to increase their faith, confirm their hope, and perfect them in love.” Think about it, part of a pathway to discipleship in which the whole community of faith participates.
You have been claimed by God for something bigger than yourself, bigger than a denomination, even bigger than your congregation. To remember your baptism is to remember, “The old life is gone; a new life has begun.” It is a reminder to be about God’s business of love, care, and acceptance.
Baptism is even a reminder of who you are is how you lead.
Give God thanks for the people you met today. How were you reminded that you are a beloved child of God? Who did you remind that they are a beloved child of God? In what situations were you about God’s business? Give God thanks for the opportunities you had to love others as you have been loved.
O God, I am grateful for your reminders that I am your beloved child and that you have something for me to do as one of your children. Help me be aware of your presence in every situation and circumstance and in every relationship and acquaintance of this day. Give me eyes to see and ears to hear you. Give me a heart to discern and a mind to recognize what you are doing. Make me a blessing to someone somewhere today as you embrace me and the people around me with your love that makes me more who you want me to be. I offer my life to be a home for you and for the people you send my way. Amen