Baptism, Business, and Servant Leadership
As Lectors head to Church this weekend, they will have to prepare for two different sets of readings. The Church offers two different selections from Isaiah for our first reading. And then, two different second readings, one from Paul’s Letter to Titus and the other from the Acts of the Apostles.
If I had a couple of nickels to put in a slot machine to place my bet as to which passages that we’d be hearing read in most of our churches for our First Reading, I would suspect they will be the reading from Isaiah 40. If time allows, treat yourself to reading the entire chapter. It is simply lovely! “Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.” Be sure to read the whole thing – the last line is beautiful and makes such wonderful sense of the entire reading as you listen to it at Mass: (31) “They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on eagles’ wings; They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.”
So if my guess of this weekend’s readings is correct, that leaves perhaps Isaiah 42 that we never hear next week – or at all unless you take a mere 3 – 4 minutes of your time right now to find a Bible and read this wonderful chapter. It reads like silk before your eyes. It’s frequently given the header: The Servant of the Lord. I can relate to that. Especially toward the end of my career, I came to the idea of “servant leadership”. Perhaps it was my own maturity, insight, or realization of what hadn’t been working well needed “fixing”, but leading by example and collaboratively did work very well! Encouraging career pathing and being an empathic listener – committing to growing and developing a team, truly asking for feedback, being caring in the workplace. It made a difference. So I challenge you to read this chapter in Isaiah. (1, 3) “Here is my servant. . . A bruised reed he shall not break, and smoldering wick he shall not quench . . .” What a challenge I see in this! To be kind, to be gentle and yet still go forth! See what speaks to you.
I would also suspect that most of our Pastors will opt for our Lectors to use the Letter to Titus for our Second Reading, and why not? It is truly beautiful, and we should all hear it, and at least for me, it is critical to my faith. “The grace of God has appeared, saving all . . . not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy. . .”
And so alas, my nickel is inclined to bet that most of us will not hear the well-known reading from the Acts of the Apostles (10:34) “God shows no partiality.” Goes rather well with the thoughts that we take away from Isaiah 42 when you consider that Peter is considering a Roman Centurion, clearly a Gentile, at the time that he states this. As Peter decided to proceed to visit this Centurion, Cornelius, so we interact with all sorts of people in this day and age. I feel a strong message here to accept all people I meet in life as they come to me and set aside any partiality that I may have inherited by upbringing or cultural inclination as we are truly all children of God.
May peace be with all of us as we anticipate how we will stand with the strength of our Lord as we discover what this New Year has in store to challenge our baptismal vows.