Condemned or
free?

Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God and receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And his commandment is this: we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us.

Today we witness the baptism of Finley Edward. It is the first step of the sacrament of Baptism-Confirmation by which we enter and grow in the regenerated life. While the two parts of this sacrament, both baptism and confirmation, seem like bookends, they are not. Rather they are steps in a journey, a journey from condemnation to freedom.

What is best and most amazing in the process of Baptism-Confirmation is that by our actions of faith, our proclamation of belief in Jesus and trust in His salvation, and rejection of all sin we are saved and are completely freed. We are changed in the most essential of ways. Theologians call it an ontological change. Really old folks like me were taught that our soul receives an indelible mark – something that can never be undone. This is why we call it what Jesus called it in speaking with Nicodemus – regeneration or rebirth: Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again… Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”

Today, St. John reminds us of what we received. We have new hearts and sprits that will not condemn us. They have been freed and that should give us great confidence. At the same time, St. John knew that we know somewhat differently.

While we are able to have confidence, while we have been essentially changed and regenerated, we fall. We fail to keep the commandments of God – the two key ones – to love God enabled by our belief in Jesus because in Jesus we know God, and to love each other. When we fall short in those regards we loose confidence.

When we forget the commandments, are away from the vine, apart from the love of Jesus’ community, we lose confidence. That’s when our hearts condemn us. Yet if we remain on the path of transformation we are freed, and in freedom bear much good fruit.

regeneration

And they will be
amazed.

Then the righteous man will stand with great confidence in the presence of those who have afflicted him, and those who make light of his labors. When they see him, they will be shaken with dreadful fear, and they will be amazed at his unexpected salvation. They will speak to one another in repentance, and in anguish of spirit they will groan, and say, “This is the man whom we once held in derision and made a byword of reproach — we fools! We thought that his life was madness and that his end was without honor. Why has he been numbered among the sons of God? And why is his lot among the saints?

The Scripture above from the Book of Wisdom obviously points to Jesus, a man mocked and spurned by His people, thought to be just another mad prophet, and eventually killed in the most horrible of ways even though innocent. He emerges victorious in the end and is recognized to be what He always was, the Holy One of God, the only Son of God, God made man Who now sits at the Father’s right hand.

Beyond this obvious reference to the life of Jesus we should be able to see in ourselves the same experience. As Jesus was mocked and derided by the leaders of the time, so too are we. As Jesus was thought mad, so too are we. As Jesus was mocked, so too are we. As people said: ‘how can this be possible’ of Jesus, so too they say it of us. Yet, in the end, we know we, like Jesus, will emerge victorious.

Is emerging victorious a foregone conclusion for us?

Victory is solely dependent on our likeness to Jesus. The prerequisite for our victory is the same as that exhibited in the earthly life of Jesus Christ. It is by our faith that we will be victorious. That is both the starting point and the reality that must underpin all we do. In approaching our work, joys, struggles, and interactions – in both our interior life and social interactions – we must define ourselves by our life in Jesus.

A life fully lived in faith and likened to Him will result in others being amazed by us. That faith life makes us changed people with the potential of being amazing. That is what regeneration in Jesus is. Because of essential change we become a confusing lot of people in the face of the world. We get up early, worship by faith, work hard, and have a totally different attitude than that of the majority of people. We believe that we can change individual hearts and the wider world. We think that by all this effort will make God’s kingdom a reality. We may face derision, be assessed fools, and might be mocked. Yet we know that by living regenerated lives we will be numbered among the saints and victorious. Be ready to be amazing.

God bless you Marianna!

On Saturday, May 25th, we welcomed Marianna Josephine Zemken, daughter of Donovan Zemken and Rebecca Ann (Clas) Martineau into the family of faith through the waters of regeneration in baptism. The godparents were Mitchell Zemken and Rebecca Delisa. May our Lord and Savior watch over and protect Marianna and continually fill her life with knowledge of Him and His joy.