Like many of you, I can’t remember my own baptism. Yet, I’m reminded of it often in the act of public worship, and in the invitation to touch the water of the font. In today’s post, pastor Taryn Montgomery shares a powerful story of how these baptismal practices connect beyond our minds and souls, to our wallets as well. Indeed, Taryn suggests God’s powerful promise in the water and the cross makes a mark on all our life, even and especially on our wallets. We'll be taking a short summer break next week, but we’ll be back on July 10.
Adam Copeland, Center for Stewardship Leaders
The Baptismal Call of Stewardship
Rev. Taryn Montgomery
People who know me know just how important the baptismal marking of the cross is to me. Upon arrival in my current call, I quickly moved the font to the middle of the sanctuary: front and center, where the water is easily accessible and people are invited to play in it. And we do!
Every Sunday, congregants are encouraged to dip their finger in the font and place the invisible, yet ever-present cross on their forehead. From the new parent and their fresh-faced baby to the elder for whom this is a new and foreign practice, they do it.
We mark our foreheads. We bring our children to baptism. We see the connection between our faith and the story of Jesus Christ. We know that our baptismal call is deeply connected to God’s invitation to discipleship, outreach, and sharing the Good News beyond church walls.
Yet, I wonder -- how often do we consider our baptismal call to Christian stewardship?
At a recent church council meeting, I invited congregational leaders to ponder this. Studying the story of Pentecost, we explored how the earliest Christians understood generosity and its connection to their newly formed faith. In Acts 2, Peter invites those early followers to repent and be baptized, and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Over 3,000 people heed his invitation and are washed in the water. Luke tells us, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (vs. 42).
He goes on in verses 44-45, “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.”
Those first leaders took seriously their baptismal call to Christian stewardship. It was an expression of the faith they received in the water. Generosity flowed from the font of their every blessing.
As we wrapped up our devotion that night, I asked everyone to pass around a bowl of water and mark themselves with the cross. I then invited them to place their wallets in the middle of the table before us. I reminded them that everything we have is God’s -- our time and talents, and, here before us, our treasures. We are not our money, but our ability to share our resources with others is a very real part of who we are. Like the apostles in Acts, we too have an invitation to distribute and share what we have with those in need.
Taking a bowl of water and a sprig of pine branch, I sprinkled the wallets before us. It was a visual reminder for us, that as you and I are marked with the cross of Christ in baptism, so are ALL of us -- all that we are and all that we have.
Later in the meeting, we discussed a request from one of our local camps. They were asking for additional funding to help offset costs for campers in need. We give regularly to this particular camp and another one nearby. We are also in the middle of a capital campaign ourselves and just broke ground for an addition onto our own building. The reality of our need and the importance of others’ generosity is not lost on us right now.
That’s when Ryan spoke up, “Look at the table before us,” pointing to the still damp wallets. “We have the ability to give. I think it’s a no brainer.”
Others agreed, and they decided on an amount to share with the camp who requested and an equal amount to the one who did not.
The cross’ damp residue on my forehead reminds me daily of my baptismal call to love others, care for God’s creation, and steward my gifts for the benefit of my neighbor. Our baptismal call invites us into a deeper understanding of Christian stewardship. All that we have, all that we are belongs to God -- damp wallets included.
For More Information
Pastor Taryn Montgomery is the Lead Pastor at Bread of Life Lutheran Church in Minot, North Dakota. She and her husband Christoph are the proud parents of three delightful children.
Rethinking Stewardship: Join us on July 25-27 for three days of conversation and exploration at Luther Seminary's Rethinking Stewardship: From Solemn Obligation to Inspired Choice. More information here.