Jesus lived with a clear purpose, choosing to be baptized by his cousin John. “And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased’” (Luke 3:22).

All four Gospels describe the Spirit leading Jesus from the affirming waters of baptism to the demanding temptations found in the wilderness. He emerges from those transformative events with piercing clarity and vision.

The term “20/20 vision” means clarity and sharpness of sight. As we begin the year 2020, how might we get 20/20 vision to follow God?

Consider using the Affirmation of Baptism as a template for your discernment (see below). Many of us used a version of this at the conclusion of confirmation studies. It’s also regularly used when new members join the church.

The question begins simply enough: “Do you intend to continue in the covenant God made with you in holy baptism?” Of course!

But the question continues with five additional invitations to mobilize our faith into action. None is a requirement to earn God’s love; rather, these invitations can be understood as gifts from God given to the baptized. Each gift flows into another and into faithful living. Each can teach us about Christ and what it means to follow him as a disciple.

In baptism we are sealed with the Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever. That is God’s gift to us, and it’s only the beginning. We have the opportunity to put our faith into action on a daily basis.

“Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

In this newness of life, as disciples of Jesus, we gain a piercing clarity—that 20/20 vision—all by the grace of God.

Inward and outward

The five actions listed in the Affirmation of Baptism can be divided into two categories: inward and outward gifts (see graphic above).

The first two actions are inward gifts that help us grow in faith. Living among God’s faithful people allows us to learn about God at work in our world. We witness how others deal with the joys and sorrows of life. We have opportunities to forgive, show mercy and share hospitality among God’s faithful people. We hear the word of God as proclaimed through music, worship, education and fellowship. We receive the gift of bread and wine with a community shaped by the love of Christ.

The outward gifts shift the focus from ourselves to others. We are sent to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, to serve all people following the example of Jesus, and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth. We are sent into our neighborhoods and communities but also into our families and churches.

These five actions may not always feel like gifts. Living among God’s people isn’t always easy. Sometimes there are conflicts within the church. The Bible isn’t always easy to understand. Not all of us have the skills or interest to proclaim good news. Serving others can be exhausting. Striving for justice and peace is a never-ending process.

Yet each of the five actions has the capacity to draw us closer to the one who claims us in baptism. Some of these gifts nudge us out of our comfort zone and invite us into an expanded view of the reign of God.

When we affirm our baptism, we respond, “We do, and ask God to help and guide us.”

This is critical. For it’s by the grace of God that we unwrap these gifts and explore the Spirit at work in our lives in Christ.

Take a moment to review each of the five gifts of discipleship:

What draws you to this particular gift?

What prevents you from receiving this gift?

How might you further unwrap each gift in the coming year?

Throughout Epiphany, the lectionary readings describe individuals who gain 20/20 vision. From the magi, who left the familiar to seek Christ under a distant star, to those who witnessed Jesus’ baptism, we hear the stories of those who unwrap the gifts of discipleship.

In following the teachings of Jesus, we become his disciples—lifetime students of a unique way of being in the world.

Find related resources, including a personal inventory of the gifts of discipleship.

Affirmation of Baptism

“Do you intend to continue in the covenant God made with you in holy baptism:

to live among God’s faithful people;

to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s Supper;

to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed;

to serve all people following the example of Jesus;

and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth?”

“We do, and ask God to help and guide us.”

Source: Evangelical Lutheran Worship, page 236

Robin McCullough-Bade
Robin McCullough-Bade is an ELCA pastor and executive director of the Interfaith Federation of Greater Baton Rouge (La). She writes ELCA Faith Practices resources.

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