What is the meaning and significance of the sacraments?
Sacraments are those means of Grace which are vital to the maturation of the Christian life which are often defined as ‘outward signs of an inward Grace.’ What this definition means to me is that the sacraments are tangible responses of an individual’s experience of God’s grace in their life and world. These are not mandates from God that are to be carried out as requirements for salvation. Rather they are expressions of love that come from God as a gift to humanity to physically express the Grace they receive. The sacraments might be better understood as “marks” or “signs” of the Christian life. As such, there are many ways to interpret the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion.
I uphold the sacrament of Baptism as a combination of at least two of the dominate traditional Christian teachings of Baptism – remission/rebirth and initiation. There is a strong emphasis in Baptism for a remission of Sin in the life of the Christian. Human beings have a tendency to act out of self preservation which can yield consequences counter to the values of the
. Baptism is that time in our life when we acknowledge our idolatry of the ego and repent of this way of living in order to take on God as our Lord and Savior. As a part of the Church that baptizes infants as well as adults, I acknowledge that the infant is unable to make this intellectual decision, but believe that the parents are making the commitment on behalf of the infant. Parents make decisions on behalf of the child for their well being in other areas of the infants’ life, such as where they will live and what they will eat. Parents can also make a decision on behalf of the infant that they will raise this child up to beware of the idolatry of self (and other Sin) and help the child move toward God as the Lord of their life. Additionally, there is an emphasis in baptism on the initiation into the community of faith and the Body of Christ. When we are baptized we are brought into the larger Body of Christ as expressed in a local community of faith. It is not in my theological understanding that one is baptized as a cultural celebration but as a deeply spiritual and serious commitment to the Way of Christ. It is important to me to be sure that those who choose to be baptized be convicted by the Spirit of God and not by cultural pressures. While I personally prefer to have a conversation before the baptism of an individual, it is not my position to delay the sacrament in order to have a conversation. I will however be sure to have conversation with the newly baptized after the worship and make sure they are aware of the level of commitment they just agreed to live. Kingdom of God
While Baptism is a sacrament that is received once in the life of the Christian, the sacrament of Holy Communion is one that ought to be received as often as possible. My understanding of Holy Communion, like Baptism, is a combination of traditional Christian teachings – Thanksgiving, Commemoration, Christ’s presence, Fellowship, Sacrifice, and Locus of the Holy Spirit. I will address each of these briefly.Each time we take Holy Communion we give thanks for the work of God in our lives and in the world. We commemorated the last meal Christ had with the disciples and remember all that Jesus taught. While I do not believe in transubstantiation, I do believe that God is present in the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup, just as God is present when two or three gather in God’s name. The celebration of Holy Communion is not only a celebration of the gathered community but also a celebration of the fellowship of the cloud of witness. When we partake of Holy Communion we join in the fellowship of the saints that have gone before us in a meal that transcends time and space. While there is a celebratory component to the Eucharist, there is also a component of great sacrifice. Holy Communion calls to mind the great sacrifice God made by entering into humanity by way of Jesus Christ and the great sacrifice Christ made by allowing his life to become the life of a victim of a brutal system in order to expose the system. Finally, it is in the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup that the Holy Spirit is made visible in our lives. Scripture reminds us that those who walked on that road to Emmaus with the risen Christ did not recognize it was Christ until the bread was broken. The Holy Spirit is found not only in the personal convictions of the Christian but in the community fellowship of the breaking of the bread. It is in this sacrament that we reconnect with our Source and the God of Life. It is for this reason that it is my belief that the life of the Christian should involve the practice of taking Holy Communion as often as possible.