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Stewardship Reflections on Luther's Small Catechism: 2. Living in the Tension of a Stewards Baptism

This is part two of a series of reflections on Luther's Small Catechism.  

Kevin Bergeson's article is a reflection on Holy Baptism and its impact on being a steward called by God. He talks about living in the tension that exists in Holy Baptism. It is in that tension that we find ourselves living our lives as stewards, with 100% of our lives. As life happens around and in us, we can look to our Baptism as a comfort now and not yet.

Living in the Tension of a Stewards Baptism

Text: Matthew 3:13-17 "This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life." (MSG)

Wade in the Water
Wade in the Water, children
wade in the Water
God's gonna trouble the Water. ELW 459

Perhaps one of the most overlooked potential sports for Winter Olympics has to do with ice and water: the polar bear plunge. "Athletes" in swimsuits leap from the safety and sanity of warm enclosures into a frigid cold lake. It incorporates the grace of diving and the fearlessness of ski jumping. My own attempts at diving are typically somewhere between a swan and cannonball; yet, most of us are familiar with a more common dive: the belly flop. Why does a belly flop hurt? There's tension in the water; there's tension in the waters of baptism, too.

The music and song of the church may have changed through the generations, but the longing cry for the Triune God's presence and reaffirmation of adoption has never been stronger than today. Songs like "Wade in the Water" offer us a perspective of baptism that is two fold: naming us "child of God" and naming God's work in the world. We may wish for the innocuous deism of pop culture, but this God is active and troubling on many accounts. This is the tension in the waters of baptism.

I recently had a conversation with a friend in his 20s who asked me: I just filled out my pledge card (shocking in and of itself), and what do you think about tithing? Younger generations consistently wrestle the practice of generosity when consumerism is woven into their very core since childhood. How do we shape the imagination of our people that God is not looking for a 10% tip on blessings bestowed. God is One who will call us into the water that God will trouble but also into a lifelong relationship (covenant) denoted by being called a "child of God."

My response to my friend was, so what do you do with the other 90%? If we only frame practicing generosity as 10%, does that mean the church has nothing else to say about the 90%? Or, about being a child of God: that we are called to trouble the waters for the sake of our neighbors? Sometimes the most helpful tool I have found for working with folks in thinking about stewarding their life is reframing.  

Heifitz and Linsky, authors of the fast-becoming leadership bible Leadership on the Line, refer to this as "getting on the balcony." My congregation has a balcony and every time I go up there I am reminded of how different the world looks from this perspective. Just as we are invited into the tension, to "wade" into the baptismal waters, we are invited to see the world from a new perspective. Luther's explanation of baptism in the Small Catechism points to daily repentance so that a new self should arise--every day. Every day we are invited into the embrace of being called "child of God;" every day we are invited onto the balcony to see a new perspective on our world.

From the balcony of baptismal identity and calling, we can see the brokenness of our world and how money becomes an object of power and personal and communal oppression. It gives us shortsightedness on a global scale, on a personal scale and in our worshipping communities. What is the typical answer to this question: do we have enough money to do a new ministry? The answer is always no, but when sensing God's calling our life together--to wade in the water as children of God--"how could we not do this" becomes the question. The answer will come in mission support.

From the balcony of baptismal identity and calling, we can see also that God is troubling the waters each and everyday. That troubling is the tension between the now and not yet of our world. We know love, forgiveness and wholeness have come in Jesus Christ, yet the perspective of the world is one that turns in on itself. The tension is always God turning us towards our neighbor out of the indescribable, generosity of grace and love of God seen most clearly in Jesus Christ.
Baptism embraces the now and not yet of following Jesus. It forces us to remember we are Easter people in the midst of despair in the world, and that we wait for God's renewal of all things. A few weeks ago today, a massive earthquake hit the small island of Haiti. Pictures of devastation and broken bones and broken spirits hit us in the heart of now. The now of immediate suffering calls forth the healing and troubling waters of baptism. The suffering we see around the world engages our faith, our baptismal identity, in concrete ways.

Baptism is now: it reframes suffering in the light of Jesus' death and resurrection. In the midst of the storm, Jesus speaks a word now and calms it. Yet for the disciples those closest to Jesus, the first thing they do is ask a question about the "not yet:" who is this, that even the wind and waves obey him? Now, Jesus speaks a word to calm the storm. Now, Jesus is still speaking words that calm storms and calms fear for the people of earthquake-ravaged Haiti and beyond. Now, in baptism, we are claimed as children of God, but God is not done yet.

Baptism is not yet: it reframes the call to be engaged now to be part of God's plan to love and bless the world. Baptism points to resurrection hope; children of God are called to live out their baptism by making the entire stewardship of their life good news for their neighbor. This means engaging people around the disparity that the Spirit is showing them in the world that others--including the church--may miss. Wade in the water!

The Series - Stewardship Reflections on Luther's Small Catechism

A Steward's Confession; God's  Absolution by Cathy Malotky

Living in the Tension of a Stewards Baptism by Kevin Bergeson

Stewardship of the Lord's Prayer y Tom Struck


Kevin Bergeson is the pastor at Spirit of Community Lutheran Church and a graduate of Luther Seminary.

Author information was updated as of the article's post date. Author profiles may not reflect author's current employment or location.

Image credit: © Ignacio García Losa ( via Flickr. Used by permission.

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