The Sacraments (Baptism & Communion)
Matthew 3:13-4:2, and 28:18-19
John 4:14 and Revelation 22:1
Why do we baptize? This simple question is raised by my children each time they witness a baptism during worship. They like to hear us read the answers from the Bible, but they especially like that the sacred act involves simple water. Some Christians keep the baptismal font open as the congregation gathers for worship. Everyone is invited to dip their finger in and make the sign of the cross on the forehead to remember the grace given in baptism. The kids love this hands-on reminder. Me, too!
How do we answer the simple question, “Why do we baptize?” To get perspective, look at both the beginning and the end of Jesus’ ministry in Matthew. The confession of sin and death to living ‘my own way,’ plus the forgiveness and new life of God available through the living water of Jesus come together beautifully in baptism. Since water is everywhere — as a sustaining drink, as a cleansing bath, as life-giving rain and streams — remind yourself of your baptism often this week. Or contact a pastor so that you may be baptized.
Genesis 1:26-28 and 6:5-7, 17
Ezekiel 36:25-27 and Exodus 14:5-6, 10-14, 21-22
Romans 5:5-12 and Titus 3:4-6
Why do we remember our baptism frequently? After all, the Holy Spirit is present and working to bring us to faith from the beginning of our lives, before we receive baptism. In baptism, God gifts us a concrete moment in time to look back on and say, “I am God’s child. He has redeemed me and made me a new creation in Christ Jesus.”
The Israelites were God’s chosen people since Abraham. God planned on using their slavery in Egypt to teach them about himself and his plan for the world. From his perspective, they never ceased being his children. Yet, they considered a known slavery in Egypt better than following God! Passing through the waters of the Red Sea gave them a moment to look back on and see God’s saving provision. No longer slaves through their own doing, the Israelites had a new identity freely given by God.
Journal about your old ways of living, and your new identity. Remember frequently how the Holy Spirit is renewing you.
Exodus 20 and Hebrews 8:6-13
Matthew 26:26-28 and Exodus 12:21-27
1 Corinthians 11:23-29 and John 6:22-35
Our tradition is to receive the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper frequently — almost weekly — as we gather to worship. This is more often than Jews observe the Passover as a remembrance of God’s deliverance from death in Egypt. We remember Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection each week because we are fickle like the Israelites who were given bread from heaven each morning in the form of manna. We need to fix our gaze upon the cross and often reorient our hungers towards desiring Jesus to be our Bread of Life.
Traditionally, as soon as new converts to Christianity had learned the basics of faith and had been baptized, they began receiving the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper in communion. If you’ve been communing for a number of years, try reorienting your physical and spiritual hunger this week. Skip eating breakfast on Sunday morning. Instead, meditate on the Bible passages above. Eat your first full meal at lunch, after you’ve received the body and blood of Jesus at worship.
Each year, we celebrate and remember birthdays, anniversaries, and other events important to our lives. They help us remember who we are and how we’ve grown.
The same is true for remembering baptism and communion. Our tradition at Trinity is to celebrate new baptisms during worship. The whole congregation welcomes these new Christians into God’s family. At the same time, I
- REMEMBER my adoption as God’s child
- RENEW my vows to help brothers and sisters grow in faith
Likewise, with communion, the whole congregation confesses our sin to God. The pastor reminds us of God’s great gift of grace and forgiveness through Jesus’ death on the cross, and the new life we look forward to through his resurrection. At the same time, I
- RECONCILE my disagreements or wrong-doing towards brothers and sisters
- REMEMBER God’s reconciliation in Jesus
Reach out this week: confess and be reconciled to a brother or sister. Or, sign up to lead a small group or volunteer at KidStreet, to help others grow in faith.
Philippians 2:6-11 and 3:7-11
The sacraments of Baptism and Communion are wonderful, mysteries grace wrapped in the gift of simple, daily elements: water, bread, wine. Yet in them, God offers himself as Living Water, Living Bread, and as a sacrifice in our place that we may be reconciled to God.
Philippians 2:6-7 juxtaposes the images of clinging and giving up. It brings to mind Jesus’ outstretched hands, nailed on the cross. He gave up his rights and died for us. Meditate on two postures:
- OPEN HANDS: Jesus’ on the cross, waiting to receive communion, holding the plans of our life loosely, etc.
- CLINGING HANDS: grasping an arm as one is submerged in baptism, Jesus’ agonizing prayer in Gethsemane to let God’s Will be done, lifting up a particular prayer to God for years, etc.
Spend extended time in prayer with God. Pray for an open heart posture towards God and others, that you may serve with the attitude of Christ and demonstrate love in action. Pray for the Holy Spirit’s leading, that you may daily follow God’s plan for your life as a new, forgiven child of God. Pray for ________ to know and follow Jesus.
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