Baptism and Your (Job) Vocation
- Author: Dennis Anderson was formerly president of Trinity Lutheran Seminary and bishop of the Nebraska synod of the Lutheran Church in America. In his retirement he is writing, teaching and speaking.
- Updated: 06/04/2008
- Copyright: Dennis A. Anderson
A great illustration of how stewardship and baptism work together. Here, Dennis Anderson tells a story of how the two helped a man he met on an airplane. It comes from his forthcoming book, Let's Begin With Chocolate.
Baptism and Your (Job) Vocation
On a Saturday evening, I boarded an airplane in Tampa, Florida, for return to Columbus, Ohio, where I was to preach the next morning. I seldom leave sermon preparation to the last minute; however, this had been a very heavily scheduled workweek. As I sat in my aisle seat preparing my sermon for the next morning, I felt a nudge on my arm. I looked up and saw the man standing in the aisle. "Sorry to disturb you but I need to get to the other seat," he said. I knew by the look on his face that I would be "winging it" on the sermon in the morning. I stood up and allowed him to get to the window seat.
As he was seated, I noticed he had no arms. He struggled with his coat. I placed it in the storage compartment for him, then asked if I could assist him getting his seatbelt buckled. As I assisted him, he said, "I do not know why I am going to Columbus. I do not know why I am." He proceeded to pour out his life story. He lost both arms in a high voltage electrical accident, "I will never have to work another day in my life. I got a fantastic insurance settlement. That makes no difference. My wife divorced me just before she delivered our first child. She said she could not live with and love someone who has no arms to hold her."
"I have been in Florida setting up a new business commuting back and forth. In the past year, I have fallen in love and we were to be married this weekend. But she broke it off for the same reason my wife left me. She said she could not be married to someone with no arms to hold her. I know I am not perfect. I know I was not always the best husband or fiancé. But," He then repeated his mantra, "I do not know why I am going to Columbus. I do not know why I am." He told me he was going to make one last attempt to reach out to her. However, he had little hope. Again, he said, "I do not know why I am going to Columbus. I do not know why I am."
We talked more. He did most of the talking. I listened. He did not know who I was. I did not tell him I am a Lutheran pastor. I then asked him, "Are you baptized?"
"Yeah, I think I was baptized as a kid in a Methodist church. But I do not know what it means," he said. It is obvious he was not living in his baptism.
"I do not want to impose my beliefs on you," I said. "But, let me tell you what I believe your baptism means." He was listening intently. "Baptism means you have a reason to be. It means you have a holy reason to be. In baptism God says, 'You are my child. I have a purpose for your life. You are to live as a child of God. You are my partner in loving and serving, in living in such a way that people experience my love through you. You have a purpose to be. You are a child of God.'"
We talked more about what that means. Then I said, "Once you are baptized it means the rest of your life is a stewardship struggle. You struggle in prayer and conversation to discern how you can best be a steward for God, a servant of God to your neighbor through your job, your relationships. In fact, you no longer have just a job or a business. You have a vocation, which means your work is more than a way to make a living; it is a way to serve as you make a living. It means you are accountable to God for your work. It means work is holy. It means life is holy."
The plane landed and I assisted him in unbuckling the seatbelt. As I handed him his coat, walking down the aisle to the exit he turned and said, "Mister, it is a good thing we met."
I have no idea what his life is like now. I pray that he knows what a wonderful gift he has in his baptism -- life as a steward for God, serving our neighbors. We have a holy purpose. At the end of the baptism service (Lutheran Book of Worship, pg. 124), the baptized is declared a member of the family of faith, members of "the priesthood we all share in Christ Jesus, that we may proclaim the praise of god and bear his creative and redeeming Word to all the world."
Dr. Menninger, the founder of the Menninger Clinic is said to have counseled those who were depressed about their lives, "Go find someone who is in need and do something to help them." That is what life is about. You who lose life for my sake will find it, Jesus said. We are baptized, blessed as children of God. We are blessed to be a blessing.
You can reach the author at:
9752 South 175th Circle
Omaha, NE 68136