Note to My Readers: from mid-June to mid-August (6/18 - 8/20), I will be taking a summer break from posting new articles for my Thursday and Friday slots. This will only affect my Thursday series on the global growth of Christianity, and my Friday series, the "Theological Bestiary" of birds, both of which will resume in late August. During the summer, I'll be dusting off some of my best essays from the first few years of this blog (a decade ago), as well as my verse play "Thus Ends the World," and re-posting them in the Thursday and Friday slots. All other weekdays will continue to feature new material throughout the summer.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

95 Theses, #86-87: Sacraments and Ordinances

To see the introduction and disclaimers for my 95 Theses, first go to: 95-Theses-Introduction

(Painting: "The Last Supper," by Tintoretto, c.1570)

86.) Sacraments/Ordinances - Traditionally, the Christian-life-in-community has been structured around the sacraments/ordinances (even more than around the individual “spiritual disciplines”). These are the identity-forming rites of the Christian faith, the symbolic ways in which we say Yes to God and receive his eternal Yes to us. They are special because they are the rites ordained by Christ and the apostles as meaning-bearing rituals that define in active form the fundamental movements of our faith. These practices (like Eucharist and baptism) are not the only “sacraments,” though—merely the ones picked out for special and regular observance. Because of the immanence of God, and even more so because of the Son’s union with material creation in the resurrected and glorified person ofJesus Christ, we can enter into all of reality in a “sacramental” way. We have access to God in all places, through all of creation, and by encountering God in spirit and in truth, we open ourselves up to the deeper experiences of his grace.

87.) Eucharist and Baptism - Two sacraments have been seen as supreme even within the Christian traditions that speak of seven (or more) sacraments: the Eucharist and baptism. The Eucharist has already been touched on in points above (#52-56, #57)—it symbolizes the way we continually receive God’s Yes to us in Christ Jesus. The second of the primary sacraments is baptism, which symbolizes and instantiates our Yes to God. It is not baptism itself that saves us; however, baptism has always been seen as part of our saving-faith "Yes" to God. We, as embodied beings, say Yes not only in our spirits, but with our whole beings, our whole lives. Baptism is the “embodied prayer” of our Yes, corresponding to our spiritual prayer in which we cry out to God in faith. It is the embodied action of turning to God and of entering into the Christ-event. It symbolizes our willingness to die to the old nature, and it also symbolizes God’s action in raising us up in Christ, now enabled to live into the new nature of restored humanity. Further, it symbolizes the cleansing from sin that we now have through Christ.

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