Reading time: two minutes.
“Please identify yourself,” we heard time and again from the Chair of the convention. Sometimes when the speaker walked to the microphone we knew right away if they were a lay delegate or clergy. Their attire or gender made the identification easy.
Credentials are important at conventions. Some credentials needed no name badge. As an impassioned observer sitting in the advisory section, I found great joy celebrating the identity every speaker held in common, an identity that needed no introduction: “Child of God, Baptized in His Grace.”I ran into an old friend and classmate and asked right away for his business card because I had lost the one he gave me years ago, but I had not forgotten it. It reads, “Mark Barz: Child of God, Follower of Christ, Husband, Dad, Grandpa, Pastor.”
Very good, Marko. That’s Baptismal Wellbeing.
The convention overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling us to celebrate the diversity of our various callings, in particular the distinctively different callings of those ordained into the pastoral office and those not so called. I heard many conversations through the week about the clerical garb so prominent in Milwaukee that distinguishes clergy from laity.
I have friends in ministry who say that such an identification is advantageous in their ministry context. It opens doors to conversation and ministry opportunity. I know others who say it closes doors, so they rarely wear the collar. I can see both sides of that.
But my greatest joy at the convention, in spite of issues and conversations that seemed destined to divide us, was the celebration of the baptismal grace that unites.
I’m like everyone else. My heart and mind run quickly to the differences. I can easily lump people into groups of, “You’re one of those” and “I’m one of these.” I expect my own words as I expressed opinions about one matter or another threw me into this camp or that. For that, I am sorry.
But I’m so glad I came away from my days or mixing and mingling with the LCMS with so many
memorable conversations with people so different from me, but with whom I share the common bond of faith in Christ, not something of my own doing, but given to each of us as a gift of our Lord’s undeserved kindness.
We’ll continue to take a variety of paths on our journeys of faith. Those different paths, though, need not divide us.
Baptismal wellness is God’s constant reminder of who I am, a forgiven redeemed sinner, clinging to the cross of Christ.
It was pure joy to see my church huddled together at that one cross. That’s who we are. All of us. I’m glad there is room at the cross for us all.
Thanks for reading.