Original post at http://sacredise.com/blog/?p=1672
As someone who has been essentially self-employed for the last decade, I have read a fair amount about, and done a fair amount of work around, personal branding. This has been both extremely helpful, and very draining. And, while I’m very grateful for what my brand has made possible for me, there are definitely days when I would love not to have to worry about how my brand is doing, or how it is perceived by others.
But, I’m not alone.Today, it seems that everyone is expected to be a brand. You have to “work on your brand” before a job interview. You have to dress according to “your brand.” Heck, I’ve even seen articles about how you should consider your brand before entering relationships – because making the wrong choice could, of course, impact the success of your brand (i.e. you)!
All of which makes John the Baptiser an important person to study in this Advent season. In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, the religious leaders ask John to tell them who he is. In today’s terms, they were asking him to define his brand. But he wouldn’t play the game. John simply was who and what he was – without explanation or definition – and he pointed beyond himself to a far more significant reality.
In a branded world it’s tempting to make everything, including our Christian witness and worship about branding. It’s tempting to get caught up in explaining and defining ourselves to the world, and in forcing others to do the same. And, it’s tempting to label others without taking the time to know them or to acknowledge the infinite mystery of their unique human story. But, to do this is to lose the freedom, creativity, and complexity of our humanness. It is to trade the mess, and chaos, and beauty, and despair, and grief of being mortal women and men, for an airbrushed version of life and faith.
So, perhaps this Sunday we can allow John to teach us to release our need to present a branded version of ourselves to the world. Perhaps we can learn to shift our gaze beyond ourselves to a far bigger reality – the Coming Reign of God. Here are some ideas for how we can let worship do this for us:
- Let’s engage in praise that uses new metaphors and adjectives for God. Let’s allow ourselves to be surprsied by a God that is more than what we think and say about God. And let’s try and allow oru rpaise to move us into a space where words fall away and we are left with nothing but God’s infinite Mystery.
- Let’s confess our fear of what could happen if we stopped “branding” ourselves. Let’s admit our need to place ourselves and others into neat categories so we don’t have to do the tough work of real, messy, confusing relationships. And let’s invite the Spirit to change our hearts and empower us to get real again.
- Let’s sing with passion, even if we can’t sing. Let’s pray with honesty, even if we don’t have words. Let’s read the Scriptures with a questioning and open heart, even if we don’t like what we see.
If we’re preparing worship this week, we will do well to make space for such honest, self-disclosing moments with God. And, if we’re simply worshipping, we will do well to come to worship with open hearts. Not just open to God. But open to those who will worship with us. And open to discovering some new insights about ourselves through our meeting with God and others.
Which, of course, will mean letting go of the branded self we cling to like a security blanket.
For more reflections and resources for worship this Sunday, see this Lectionary Worship Resources post, and this blog post on the Gospel reading for this Sunday.