Holistic Stewardship is rooted in Baptismal theology and Baptismal theology oozes from each of the readings on the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord this week (see texts here). The problem I see is that we don’t have a very deep understanding of Baptismal theology so we often miss the implications of it in our lives after baptism. And therefore, deep meaning of these texts for our faith and congregational communities.
Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan by John proclaims the beginning of his public ministry and marks his solidarity with us and us with him through our baptisms. Others had been baptized before by John there in the wilderness, but Jesus’ baptism changed this rite forever. Jesus’ baptism now is the archetype of baptisms and just as his is a proclamation of his public ministry, so it is of our public ministry, too. Likewise, at our baptism God proclaims us as God’s beloved children, with whom God is well pleased. We do a pretty good job of teaching and preaching about our belovedness and being God’s children. And most of us Episcopalians do a good job of teaching God’s pleasure with us in our churches. Where we fall short in our baptismal theology teaching, and preaching is in the idea that baptism is the beginning of our public ministry. And therefore, we so often fail to seek to explore and empower the baptized in a public ministry fitting with their gifts in our congregations.
We don’t know much about Jesus’ life before his baptism, but we know a lot about him after he emerged from the waters of the Jordan through his life lived in public ministry of the Gospel we hear Peter describe in our reading from Acts. This is the boldness of the implications of our baptism on our life as baptized persons and our life as fellow baptized person encouraging others in their public ministry as baptized. Think of the soul nourishing effect ministry has on those who take their baptismal ministry seriously. And think of the implications being involved integrally in congregational ministry has on the stewardship of those individuals.
In Peter’s proclamation in our Acts reading we usually hear this proclamation of the Gospel as something done to us or merely, for us. But this Gospel Peter proclaims here is to be done with us. Removed 2000 years from Peter’s proclamation of the Gospel, we often miss what this message meant to his first audience and therefore, what it should mean to us. Peter’s words here preached in his public ministry are a proclamation that the inauguration of what Isaiah proclaims in our reading from ch. 42 this week has begun in Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection; and it has begun in us as baptized persons in Christ. What Peter’s 1st century audience hears that we often miss is that the kingdom of God has broken forth into the world. And those who are, or become, baptized disciples of Christ are compelled to proclaim and enact this reality through word and deed as Isaiah describes unveiling this truth in the world. So often it is through this public ministry that we each discover for ourselves that we are all God’s children, we are all beloved and God is well-pleased with us. And we are transformed. Wouldn’t we want that for ourselves and for all people?
No one who is baptized emerges from the water without getting a “job.” So how actively do you seek your baptismal ministry? And how do you encourage and seek the public ministry of other baptized persons? The implications are huge!
If we really are good stewards of our own baptismal ministry and the baptismal ministry of others, then why are there so many in our congregational “unemployment lines?” And how do you think this affects our congregations “economies?”
Shall we gather at the river?
posted by the Rev. Canon Lance Ousley
Canon for Stewardship and Development