2 Lent

The Rev. Noel Bordador

[Jesus said] “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit (John 3:6) In Nomine, etc.

            In the Gospel today, Jesus speaks of spiritual rebirth, of being “born again” into a new life. We, Episcopalian-Christians believe that our spiritual rebirth is marked solemnly by Holy Baptism whereby we are “born of water and Spirit.” (John 3:6). The rite itself is marked by the outward and visible sign of water being poured on us, yet we also hold true that there is an invisible sign of the Holy Spirit being “poured” into our lives so that we are strengthened by God’s grace to live our lives in accordance with the will of God. We hold it also true that Baptism also marked the beginning of our life in the kingdom of God. Here and now, we begin to participate in the life of God’s Kingdom. It is in this sense that we affirm that the Kingdom of God is at hand, that the Kingdom of heaven is among us while yet awaiting for that day when we shall enetr fully in the life of heaven. We are at the gate of heaven, waiting to enter it; we are at the cusp of eternity, we are at the threshold of our heavenly life.

            Because of this, we are expected to live our lives worthy of our calling to be citizens of God’s Kingdom. We are expected to reflect in our lives- both as individuals and together as Church- the virtues and behavior expected of us as sons and daughters of God- virtues and behaviors such as mercy, generosity, kindness, patience, compassion, magnanimity, peacemaking, forgiveness and reconciliation, to name a few. And at same time, we are expected to banish from ourselves behaviors and attitudes that are considered unloving and unjust; we are to banish hypocrisy, backstabbing, cruelty, indifference, pettiness, false accusations, inhospitality to the stranger and poor, and every form of unkindness.

            Despite the fact that the early Christians had many critics, even among its so called enemies, Chrstianity earned a positive reputation as well because Christians were observed to manifest lovingkindness especially towards those who have been ignored, despised and forgotten by society. However, we do know that is not the case all the time. If we read the New Testament, we see an ambivalent picture of the Church. On one hand, the disciples were sometimes portrayed in positive light. They follow Jesus. They take care of the poor and the vulnerable. At other times Christians were shown in a negative light. They were not always faithful to Christ. They misunderstood him. They forsook him. They had conflicts and division among themselves. They did not always show mercy towards others and one another. They were sometimes mean and unkind towards one another. Sometimes they killed each other.  In short, the early Church, too, sometimes failed to live in accordance to the virtues, attitudes and behaviors expected of them as heirs of the Kingdom and sons and daughters of God. In fact, that has been the history and story of the Church throughout the two thousand years of its existence.

            In the Gospel today, Jesus reminds of our eternal inheritance, that we our heirs to God’s Kingdom made possible by being born again by water and Spirit through the great Sacrament of Holy Baptism. This is God’s supreme gift to us in Christ. Yet, with this reminder come a solemn warning that we are expected, through the aid of God’s grace, to attempt to live our lives- as individuals and as a Church- that befits our calling as citizens of heaven. It is, therefore, most appropriate for us this season of Lent to examine our lives not only as we lived our lives individually, but also corporately, as Church of the living God. How do we interact with one another in this Church? How do we relate to each other in this Church? Do our attitudes and behaviors toward one another marked with generosity, magnanimity, mercy, charity, respect, truth seeking and hospitality? Or, do our attitudes and behavior reflect the opposite of these? Are we mean and cruel? Are we petty? Are we engage in backbiting? Do we say false things about one another? Are we sometimes uncharitable towards one another?  The Gospel today says “God did not send his Son to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” The Church is a witness to this truth that God so loved the world enough to save it. The Church is called to participate in the redemptive work of God, yet, if we fight among ourselves, if we are riddled with conflicts and divisions, we might not have much energy to do those good things what God intends us to do. If what the world sees in us is hypocrisy and fighting, then the world might now want to have anything to do with us, and we fail to do those good works God intends to accomplish through us. And for that, we shall be judged.

            The Sacred meal we share at the Lord’s Table is a sign of charity and unity we have. Here is the foretaste of the heavenly banquet we shall share in God’s Kingdom. In fact, this is already a participation in that heavenly feast. We are to approach the Table with the intention to live in unity and charity. To do otherwise would bring us judgment.  I now end with these words from the Exhortation for Holy Communion from the Book of Common Prayer:

If we are to share rightly in the celebration of [these] holy Mysteries, and be nourished by that spiritual Food, we must remember the dignity of that holy Sacrament. I therefore call upon you to consider how Saint Paul exhorts all persons to prepare themselves carefully before eating of that Bread and drinking of that Cup.

For , as the benfit is great, if with penitent hearts and living faith we receive the holy Sacrament, so is the danger great, if we receive it improperly, not recognizing the Lord’s Bdy. Judge yourselves, therefore, lest you be judged by the Lord.

Examine your lives and conduct by the rule of God’s commandments, that you may perceive wherein you have offended in what you have done or left undone, whether in though, word or deed. And acknowledge your sins before Almighty God, with full purpose of amendment of life, being ready to make restitution for all injuries and wrongs done by you to others; and also being eady to forgive those who have offended you, in order that you yourselves may be forgiven. And then, being reconciled with one another, come to the banquet of that most heavenly Food. [Amen.]