Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; 2 August 2015; Sacraments

Luke 3:21-22 NIV2010

21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Luke 22:14-20 NIV2010

14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”

17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

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These days there are adjectives that are associated with the word “Christian.”

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All these adjectives stem from the fact that our Bible is a complicated, nuanced and wonderfully complex COLLECTION of ancient scrolls that record understandings (plural) of God that have stood the test of time and that were transmitted through generations until they reached you and me.

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In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 we hear:

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Our faith is rooted in our relationship with God and we gain our understanding of God based on the stories that are gleaned from the Bible and personal experiences somewhere along our lives’ journeys. That is why all of us have complex and nuanced reasons for why we have faith and how we live our faith and devotion to God. Add to this the reality that our culture drowns our very souls in a cacophony of materialistic noise and the result is that we are no longer challenged to think about our faith and our place in God’s creation. We have faith, we just don’t think about it much. Instead, we try to fit our infinite God into our finite brains. Quite often we do that by trying to define something that is close to being undefinable: that is why different catechesis (or collections of definitions) were developed and written. Those are our feeble attempts to fit an infinite God into our finite brains.

{Illustration from the personal practice of ministry}

God’s Grace reminds us (among other things) that we are trying to fit our infinite God into our finite brains. We talked about God’s Grace last week.

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Because of all that Jesus established the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. Definitions and adjectives tend to separate us. Ignorance and misunderstandings separate us. Definitions and adjectives lead to arguments. On the other hand, Sacraments remind us that there is only one baptism, there is only one loaf and there is only one cup that all of us share. Sacraments reminds us that there is only one God.

Something is Sacramental when it helps us to evoke the sense of holy around us. When we gather for worship we acknowledge and share our experience of holy around us. Sacraments are liturgies and rituals that we engage, during which we remind ourselves of the foundational stories of our faith.

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Baptism is a sacrament that happens in our lives only once. We are baptized Christian, not Methodist, or Lutheran, or Catholic. Ideally the Sacrament of the Holy Baptism will lead to a certain life style.

{Illustration: A morning prayer from Adam Hamilton: “Loving and Gracious God! As I enter these waters to bathe I remember my baptism and I am thankful. Wash me by your grace, fill me with your spirit, renew my soul! I pray that I may live as your child today and always and honor you in all that I do. Amen.”}

Baptism initiates and/or seals our intimate relationship with God. Baptism reminds us that we are a community because during the event of Baptism God makes a commitment to the person being baptized, the person being baptized makes a commitment to God and to the community in which baptism takes place, the community makes a commitment to nurture the person being baptized in his or her Christian journey. Baptism happens in the context of the community.

{Illustration from the personal practice of ministry}

clip_image016The second sacrament that we celebrate is the Sacrament of the Holy Communion. While Baptism is a once in a life time event, the Sacrament of the Holy Communion is a repeatable event. We gather together to remember Jesus’ life and the story of our salvation; we gather together to put our differences aside and to remember that no community is self-reliant; we gather together to remember that we do not live in a vacuum – we have neighbors; we gather together to honor God and to pray for ourselves and our neighbors; we gather together to ask God to bless our lives and to make symbolic bread and juice to be the body and blood of Jesus so that we may be for the world the body of Jesus purified by his blood and sent forth to be God’s ambassadors (Matthew 28:16-20).

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I think of the Sacraments like kind of a pipeline [or a garden hose] with a faucet. Sacraments are the pipelines of the living water of God’s grace. Our faith opens the faucet. We can open it a lot, we can open it a little, or we can choose to not open it at all.

I also think of Sacraments in terms of ladders or pathways that we can take towards God. When we start our journey towards God, God comes toward us from the opposite direction. Sacred and profane meet in the middle. Contemporary Christian band STARFIELD has a song where they sing, “I want to touch the hand that holds the world.” That what sacraments help us do; they help us to connect with the holy around us, they direct us towards THE HAND that holds the world.

Sacraments remind us that we live in a world redeemed by God’s Grace and they help us to gain a deeper and deeper understanding of our God and the world that we live in. Sacraments give us a glimpse of what it is like to be in the presence of God. Sacraments bring God’s Love and Grace to us.

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In Philippians 2:5 Paul wrote: “In your relationships … have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…” Sacraments remind us about what God has done in our lives and help us to see the world through the eyes of God.

clip_image022Micah 6:8 NIV2010

And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly [some manuscripts “prudently”] with your God.

{Celebration of the Sacrament of the Holy Communion}

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