Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.
If you’ve hung out at church pretty much, well, ever, you’re familiar with these two rituals we traditionally call Sacraments. If your church experience is limited to the Protestant denominations, you’ve probably known these as being the only Sacraments. And if you’ve paid close attention, you’ve perhaps heard them described as outward signs of God’s inward grace.
Many, and I would dare say most, Christians don’t pay such close attention to these matters. Nor, for that matter, to the Creeds that also become ritualized into traditional church worship. (And don’t expect to find mention of these Sacraments within the Creeds.)
Personally, in all candor, I consider myself a Jesus-follower but am somewhere out of the mainstream when it comes to my own Creedal faith especially; but also to my Sacramental faith. Frankly, I cringe at certain points within both rituals. As if to say inside my own mind, “but that’s not what I really believe.”
So what do I really believe?
As regards the Sacraments, my take is really quite different; as if coloring WAY outside the lines. Inside the lines of Baptism, I’m cringeless and comfortable affirming my vow to reject the evil powers of this world. I accept the freedom and power God gives me to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. I confess Jesus Christ as my Savior, put my whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as my Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races. In remembrance of my Baptism, I acknowledge my own dying and rising with Christ.
But more broadly speaking, in remembrance of Christ’s own Baptism as my Lord, I’m not dying to my sins as I enter the water nor having my sins washed away by means of such elements. I am identifying with Christ in his own Baptism where what was washed away was not his own sin, but rather the world’s dream for his life. Make that dreams. Master carpenter? Perhaps. Master prophet? Rabbi? Messianic King in the Davidic “nationalist” tradition? Perhaps. No such dreams came out of the waters of his Baptism. Instead, if I understand correctly, those dreams died and were washed away in the water so God’s dream could instead rise. Jesus went from belonging to the world to belonging to God, nurtured by the Holy Spirit empowering him with inner grace in the outward sign of a dove.
I remember my own Baptism as the point at which the world’s dreams for my life lost their claim for my identity. Instead, I identified with Christ as God’s child empowered by the Holy Spirit within to fulfill God’s dreams for my life. Still broadly speaking, I’m now born again by the marriage of Christ and Church into a new family belonging to God’s heavenly Kindom, not the world’s earthly kingdom(s).
That is what I mean by coloring outside the lines, even though I may start on the inside. So far as Baptism is concerned.
And then comes the Sacrament of Communion.
Starting on the inside, the symbolic elements of bread and wine representing Christ’s body and blood offer my mind a vast mystery where such churchly ideas as transubstance and consubstance are concerned. I’m as mystical as can be where accepting the elements as being either physically or spiritually Christ’s presence. But in my remembrance, I veer outside those lines of definition.
My remembrance of Christ is that just as I identify with him in my Baptism, he identifies with me in his Communion. He identifies with me in my own brokenness and pain, my own suffering and death. In Baptism, I die and rise with him. In Communion, Christ dies and rises with me.
Christ was neither baptized nor crucified for me. I am baptized with him and he is crucified with me. I identify with him in washing away the world’s dreams for my life that I may belong to the family of God and God’s dreams through the marriage of Christ and Church. Christ identifies with me in my own flesh and blood sorrows and hurts, my own physical suffering and death. We go to him in Baptism and are born again. He comes to us in Communion and is risen again. Baptism is for us our second going. Communion is for Christ his second coming. In the Sacrament of Communion Christ dies, rises, and comes again. All by means of God’s internal grace acting within us and confirmed by external ritual.
So why blog about such a topic? Using such churchly gobble-deguke terminology?
What’s it to you or anyone else what I believe? Or how I color my Sacramental beliefs as a follower of Jesus? Or whether I stay within the lines or not as I do my coloring?
My hope for anyone still reading this far down the page is simply this: if there really is any such thing as a marriage between Christ and the Church, then all the children of such a union need not display the same interests or abilities, think the same thoughts, remember the same memories, or believe the same beliefs. A marriage born of love is liberating, not binding. It is covenantal, not contractual. Expanding, not contracting. Unconditional, not conditional. Influencing, not controlling.
Inclusive, not exclusive.
Different Scriptures, different Sacraments, different Creeds. Different interpretations of all. Such differentness is not dangerous. Rather, perhaps it is what best defines the comings and goings of God’s divinity and our own humanity in marriage between each other.
Marriage is what happens when we create new unity out of old diversity without destroying that diversity. It is a combining of bodies and minds with the very Soul (Holy Spirit) of the God who breathes love into new life.
And it is why I, for one, still find grace within the Sacraments of Baptism and Communion.