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.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Seven Baptist Sacraments

To those who may not know, "sacrament" is a theological term that denotes an object or ritual which, in and of itself, bears or symbolizes or mediates the grace of God in a special way. It's not a word Baptists use at all, so there's a certain irony here. But I've always liked the idea of sacraments, and so I decided to jot down a list of the things that Baptists might regard as sacramental in their life, if they were so inclined to that form of categorization. The poem below isn't meant to be taken as a criticism of any other denomination's theology or enumeration of sacraments. In fact, the idea framed here has as much to do with Eastern Orthodox ideas of sacramentality as it does with Baptist ideas--particularly the final stanza. I don't really consider myself a dyed-in-the-wool denominationalist (and I'll probably post some reflections on that topic in a few weeks), but the poem below does show some of the things that I truly treasure about my Baptist heritage of faith.


The Seven Baptist Sacraments

The Book--in reverent hands,
     With study guides and  pastors' words
           And lines laid down in memory
               From childhood class in Sunday School.
The Water--immersing, baptizing,
     In rivers, lakes, or backyard pools,
          Or glass-rimmed tubs as altarpieces,
               Where, born again, we pledge Him our discipleship.
The Communion--enacted and cherished, in memory of Him,
     Whose blood and body, torn for us,
          Restore what has been torn in us,
             We who too are blessed, and broken, and sent out.
The Prayer--spoken words, broken words,
     Stumblingly reaching out to Him who's never out of reach;
          To be, with him, though simple words,
               A partner in his many works. 
The Fellowship--hands clasped, smiles and laughs,
     And potluck suppers served with joy;
          Friends who listen, friends who cry--
               So we love, for He first loved us.
The Mission--bearing grace to neighbors, family, friends;
     The light of the world shines in our streets,
          And beyond: missionaries, preachers, charities,
               So that the ends of the earth may hear.
The Service--where we worship, pray, and learn;
     For weekly growth, and celebrating
          Marriage and ministry, life and death;
               There we have our family time with God.
These are the sacraments of the Baptist church,
     Seven numbered here, but many more besides,
          Because the one true Sacrament, which makes all these things sacred,
               Is Christ in us, the hope of glory.

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