Many years ago, February 18, 2018, you were baptized into the faith of Jesus Christ. Your parents have done this for you by virtue of their commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. They have expressed their faith in Jesus Christ and promised to live in such a way that you would come to learn of that faith by their example. Not by their words, but by their example. You’ll have questions and they can address those or send you to a pastor to help with those questions. And on this day, I had the privilege of being the person that conducted your baptism.
I’ve asked your parents to save this letter and give it to you on the occasion of your Confirmation. That is a time of entering into adult maturity when you can make a profession for yourself – don’t worry, the whole maturity thing doesn’t happen all at once, it takes many, many years, and it is often times very confusing – but it begins now that you are reading this letter and getting ready to make a profession for yourself. Of course, you may choose not to make a profession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord, but I hope you do. Let me tell you why.
Your parents brought you to be baptized because they too realize that there is more to life than simply another day, and another activity. Life is more than you can touch and more than the material world that encompasses most of your daily activities. Even though the stuff of life comes at you with a relentless beat, day after day, life is more than just the sum of each day‘s events. Yes, life beats on, but there is more to life than the beat of each day’s activities. Sometimes the beat of such activities is relentless, and captures a lot of your attention, as it must. You know what I mean, things like will my friends like this, who should I try to hang out with, can I say what I really think, what should I wear. While all of this goes on, I hope that you also realize that something more important exists between the beats of this material life. The love that brought your parents together and then brought you into the world, is a love that was publicly proclaimed before God, their families and all of their friends many years ago. And it was a love made complete in their profession of the love for God. What they said is that their love for God defined and completed their love for each other. And now you are here. What a joy.
Now you get to figure out life with all of its complexities. Let me help you with one thing. A very wise writer of our time, speaking of an ageless wisdom said, begin the with end in mind. Another writer that gained popularity in the late twentieth Century, C.S. Lewis, said it better. He said, “shoot for heaven and you will get earth thrown in, shoot for earth and you will get neither.” I think he was right. So, I can say, begin with the end in mind, which is heaven. That is, focus on God. Begin with the awareness that the God that created all that you can touch and see, created you for a purpose defined by the love we come to know in Jesus Christ. Live for that love of Christ, and to share that love of Christ, and heaven grows closer in your life and character every day.
Jesus showed people many things. Most of all he showed them what life can mean when you care for others as God cares for you. That means you love the unlovable, care for those that can do nothing for you, lift up those that have been beaten down. In doing this you find that life takes on new joy. You’ll find your heart filled by being full of care. Another modern writer, Eugene Peterson said it this way when he translated the Beatitudes into modern language. He said, “you’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being full of care you find yourself cared for.” When you do this kind of thing you will be different. Trust me, most people don’t understand it, and resist it, and they may even resist you because of how you are living and who you identify with. But by being full of care you’ll come to experience ever more deeply God’s care for you.
I hope by now you’ve read much of the Bible, at least the New Testament, and portions of the Old Testament. In the Gospels you’ll see a man named Jesus that grew to understand his calling. He was the presence of God in the world. He forgave. He forgave. He forgave. Someday you’ll learn that much human suffering is from lack of genuine forgiveness among people. They seem to think they can hold a higher standard than God. You’ll know what I mean when you hear someone say, “well, I can forgive anything but that.” But God showed us forgiveness in Jesus, who loved us so completely that he went to the cross for us. He forgave even that. This radical way of living turned things upside down and inside out. One day you may realize that God loves me more than I love myself, and as I share God’s love through me God’s love begins to change me. It is really a wonderful thing. Such a love can make you stand apart. Jesus did.
You know people are funny. Some folks simply don’t want to be forgiven. They seem to love nursing a grudge so that they can stand apart from another person. In fact, I think they are afraid to accept and also offer the love of Christ. They’d rather live in their narrow sphere of hatred than change into a loving person. Don’t let them bother you. Love them anyhow. But know something, the outcome of such love can be scary.
The world did not like that Jesus overturned the money changers tables. That scared the authorities. The authorities wanted him killed. They were the guys making a profit on religion. The world didn’t like that he forgave the sinful woman. But when Jesus told them if they were without sin go ahead and cast the first stone, they went away. In their own ways they were just as immoral as the woman. I’m sure some of them were angry. They couldn’t forgive another person because they never had experienced forgiveness. The world didn’t like that his very presence challenged the authority of the rulers, and the way the people lived. You may know some people that live like that. That’s where we store up grievances against other people so that we can roundly condemn them some day. Lots of people hated Jesus because he was not self-righteous like they thought he should be. So when the people managed to collude with one another to get rid of this Jesus, they had him killed.
But then days later something happened that forever changed human history. Various of his followers began to see him again. He showed up in unbelievable ways, until his followers began to compare notes and realize that he was with them. Death did not conquer him. Now he wasn’t with them to do everything for them, rather he was with them to help them trust that if they simply lived as he did, the world was not the end of things, but heaven was coming in among us by that very way of living.
You’re young, and you have a big world in front of you, and many choices you can make about what you do with your life. But how you live your live, no matter what you do with your life, can be a testament to God. I hope that is the case. Then you will find fulfillment in anything you chose to do with your life.
Another writer of my time, Tielhard de Chardin, said something very profound that compliments what C. S. Lewis said. He said, “we are not human beings in search of a spiritual experience, rather, we are spiritual beings in search of a human experience.” I think that he’s saying that if you think everything about you, even your D.N.A. belongs to God, then you will hunger to know our God. Then, over time, in various events of life, and in moments of time, things will happen that give you clear insight into your humanity and make you ever more humane as you grow older. That humanity is made in the image of God. You actually become more Christ like. See, you are shooting for heaven, and as you do so through the beats of life, God will find a way to evidence God’s presence. Then you know that Jesus is the Lord and Savior and any other way of living simply is wasting your life. Then you learn yet one more time that by aiming for heaven you get earth thrown in. In this manner you have stayed on course, with the end in mind, and lived as fully Christ like each day that you can.
Know that your family loves you, and it is a big family that includes the Church.