31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,[a] you did it to me.’
I have a niece who is a photographer. She’s incredibly talented, and I’m very proud of her. I’d post a link to her Instagram page but I haven’t asked her permission so you’ll just have to imagine her work. Its lovely and I hope at some point I get permission to use some of her photographs.
She does a lot of different types of photography and one of the things she bills herself as doing is “personal branding”. Well, now this is a whole new thing for me and I actually had to look up what personal branding was. Turns out its not a new riff on tattooing involving heating up metal and applying it to your skin. Its defined by a website called 36creative.com as “Self branding, or personal branding, is a form of marketing that an individual uses to create a uniform public image that demonstrates his or her values and overall reputation. This branding form is a growing trend among celebrities and represents a successful Marketing Strategy.” (In my opinion: self-branding sounds even more like a hot metal meets flesh thing than personal branding).
“A uniform public image that demonstrates my values and reputation.” What an interesting comment. So all week I’ve had to ponder what my “personal branding” would actually look like.
What exactly are my values and my overall reputation, and how would I capture that in a series of pictures? Today in Bible Study we wrestled with issues of our values as people of faith and the social values of rugged independence, of being responsible for your own salvation (the pulling yourself up by the boot straps model) and what it means to live in love and respect for all of God’s creation. I spoke about thinking that I wanted things to be ‘grand’; to do programs and activities that were big enough to get noticed and garner some limelight. One of the Bible Study attendees gently reminded me that that was actually not living with respect of people; respect of those who are quiet, who ‘do’ without grandeur and who just consistently live a life of service. (Yes, Marian, your words were quite poignant).
I heard a story recently about Mother Teresa. You all know about her, right? Well, apparently after her death one of the Sisters in her Order was asked by a reporter about Mother Teresa’s leadership style. The sister was kind of perplexed, and simply responded that she cared for people like she was caring for Jesus. The reporter persisted, I think expecting the Sister to respond that Mother Teresa was somehow charismatic, a skilled motivational speaker and a leader that could garner loyalty out of the most reluctant of people. The Sister responded for a second time that she cared for people like she was caring for Jesus.
It turns out that Mother Teresa, the woman who is known to have inspired all sorts of people into service was very humble, participated in the community as equal to both the other workers, and the people they served and simply did what God had asked her to do.
And that has become her personal brand.
And so, my dear Bethel peeps, lets see what we can do to be God’s sheep, sitting on the right-hand side – you know, the ones that just did because it needed to be done. If you noticed from the reading, they didn’t even know that what they were doing for the ‘least of these’ was doing it for God, they just did what needed to be done.
So, I’m going to ask you to help me be content to not have grandeur and accolades, to let go of my need to market myself and move myself ‘ahead’ with ‘personal branding’, and allow myself to simply be. Be one of God’s sheep, part of a flock, who just does for the least of these because that’s what God has asked me to do.
And maybe you’ll join me?
Blessings today and remember you are Loved,