Thursday, September 08, 2005

ordination paperwork: question #7

One more today...
a) Theology
7) What is the meaning and significance of the Sacraments?

The sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion are at the heart of our expression of our identity as God’s children and members of the body of Christ. In the gospels, Jesus calls us to baptize as a sign of repentance, a sign of God’s grace, a sign of new life. He calls us to remember him, to be his body, to share in him as we partake of the bread and cup.
The sacraments are significant as expressions and vehicles of God’s grace. Through baptism, we witness God’s prevenient grace, already at work in us, before we even know what it is or how to articulate it. When adults are baptized, or reaffirm their baptismal vows in confirmation, we see God’s grace at work and received with faith. Holy Communion is also a means by which we experience God’s grace. The word Eucharist, used more commonly for Communion in some traditions, means literally “good gift,” thanksgiving,” and “good grace.” This holy meal is a good gift in which we can experience Christ’s love, shared with us in a most tangible way. Participation in baptism and communion are ways we participate in the ongoing work of salvation and the constant presence of grace in our own lives and the lives of our brothers and sister in Christ.
The sacraments are significant as practices that bind us together as a community of faith. Both baptism and communion are acts of corporate worship, celebrated in the context of community, present, or, when necessary, extended in spirit. During baptism, the gathered church is asked to do its part, to play an active role in helping the new member live into the vows taken. We take responsibility for one another, for walking the faith journey together. In communion, as we gather at the table, we share in and are part of the body of Christ. We are bound together by the meal, as we feast together, and as we go out to be the body of Christ in the world. The sacraments, celebrated by the Church universal, also bind us together by the knowledge that the ecumenical community, even when separated by specific practices and doctrines, comes together in celebration of these ordinance of Christ.
The sacraments are a living, embodied proclamation of the gospel. The good news of the gospels is that God’s kingdom has drawn near, here to earth, present and active among us. The good news is the word become flesh, dwelling among us. In baptism, we proclaim the gospel message of God’s grace, the inclusiveness of the church, the new birth that opens us to the kingdom of heaven. We proclaim a message of repentance and rebirth by water and the spirit. In communion, we proclaim a message of sacrificial love, shared with those who partake. In the bread and cup, the message of Jesus as Word made flesh, Christ as God’s love outpoured for us is proclaimed. The sacraments share the good news in a visible way, the outward expression of the inner workings of the grace of God.
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