The Gift of Presence
For nearly two weeks, those of us in the Saint Paul Area Synod have been blessed by the presence of ou[...]
Recently, I had the honor of presiding over the baptism of a middle-aged man named Richard. As the story goes, Rich lived all his life believing he had been baptized as a young child. When he and his wife were ready to join our congregation (during the pandemic no less!), he called his mother to get his baptismal date. “But Rich,” she said, “you were never baptized.”
He was speechless. After a few moments, he responded, “Of course, I was Mom! I remember the church, the sanctuary, all the people. It was a big day; I couldn’t forget that.” His mom gently responded, “That was your cousin’s baptism dear. Not yours.”
Rich’s mom was remorseful, while also grateful that in his adult life Rich had found a congregation that he wanted to be a part of. He was known to “have a good time” in his younger years, and this new spiritual awakening was music to his mother’s ears.
“Well, I suppose it’s time I got baptized!” he said to his mother.
Fast-forward several months (and one of the most memorable and delightful pastoral conversations I have ever had about baptism!), and Richard was washed in Christ’s love on Sunday, August 1, 2021. One year after he first stepped foot on that same hillside for outdoor worship at Chisago Lake Lutheran Church. It was a day of joy and celebration and rejoicing!
This is the same guy who said recently, “We need to take more responsibility for the well-being of our congregation. It’s we who are building the church.” The same guy who dressed in long johns and a parka and directed parking for our below-zero Christmas Eve worship. Who sits in the front row because he doesn’t want to miss a beat. And the same guy who when asked this past Sunday if he felt different having been baptized said, “You know, I do feel different. I can’t put words to it, but my baptism has changed me.”
Stewardship is more than money. It always has been. The offering plate and online giving “submit” button are critical to ministry. But it’s the thing that happens before the plate is passed that gets to the heart of Christian stewardship.
It’s that sense of belonging. Of knowing your worth and your value. Knowing that you matter to the church, the body of Christ, and to Jesus himself. It’s a kind of “knowing” that leads to something more. Something deeper. Something richer. A knowing that leads to a life steeped in one’s baptismal identity and a wild sense of abundance. A faith that can’t help but give and give again. A sense of belonging that leads to generosity.
It’s the kind of life that says, “You know, I do feel different. I can’t put words to it, but my baptism has changed me.”
May that be true for all of us. Whether we remember our baptism or not. Whether we’re even baptized or not. A faith so steeped in God’s radical abundance, that it leaves us changed and wanting to share Christ’s story with all we meet. Long johns and parka included.
Pastor Taryn Montgomery
Chisago Lake Lutheran Church, Center City