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Showing posts with the label #Sacraments

Holy communion: Regularly eating and drinking Jesus.

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An introduction to Christianity’s most frequent ritual. Holy communion, or “communion” for short, refers to the Christian ritual where we repeat what Jesus did during his last Passover with his students:Mark 14.22-25 KWL22 As they ate, Jesus took bread; blessed, broke, and gave it to the students,and said, “Take it. This is my body.”23 Taking a cup, giving a blessing, Jesus gave it to the students, and all drank from it.24Jesus told them, “This is the blood of my relationship, poured out for many.25Amen! I promise you I might never drink the product of the vineyard again—till that day I drink it new in God’s kingdom.”Roughly we do the same thing. There’s bread, wafers, matzo, saltines, oyster crackers, or those little Chiclet-size pills of flour you can buy by the case; there’s wine, non-alcoholic wine, grape juice, grape-flavored juice (made with 10 percent juice, which I like to call “10 percent Jesus”), or grape drink; Christians ritually eat it ’cause it represents Jesus’s self-sa…

Getting baptized.

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Then getting baptized again.My nieces got baptized last month. Part of their church’s vacation bible school (if you’re not familiar with the phenomenon, it’s a weeklong church program meant to evangelize kids) to of course to get kids to choose Jesus. And of course after such decisions naturally comes baptism.The girls had chosen to follow Jesus some time before. But one of the things about the Evangelical subculture—kind of a peeve of mine—is how it can sometimes takes years before new Christians finally bother to get baptized. We’re meant to do one right after the other, ’cause we’re supposed to make a solid mental connection between the two. Get saved, get baptized, ’cause baptism represents salvation. But many Evangelicals turn the sinner’s prayer into that thing we’re meant to mentally connect to salvation: “Did you ask Jesus into your heart? Okay, you’re saved.” Hence baptism becomes way less of a priority. Once you’ve confessed Christ, evangelists tell you to get plugged into a…

Confession: Breaking the chains of our secret sins.

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Granting God’s forgiveness to those who need it.Confess /kən'fɛs/ v. Admit or state one’s sins or failings to another (trustworthy) Christian.2. Admit or state what one believes.[Confession /kən'fɛs.ʃən/ n., confessor /kən'fɛs.sər/ n.]The practice of confession—heck, the very idea of confession—is controversial to a lot of Christians. ’Cause we don’t wanna.Partly it’s because we don’t find it all that easy to find a trustworthy Christian with whom we can talk about these things. Partly because those trustworthy Christians we do know… we’re entirely ashamed to tell them such things. We worry they’ll lecture us, condemn us, shun us, try to punish us, or we imagine some other worst-case scenario.So we pretend the scriptures never instruct us to confess our sins to one another—James 5.16 KWLSo confess these sins to one another:Make requests for one another, so you can be cured.A moral, energetic petition is very mighty.—that it’s just a Catholic thing, and that Christians in t…

Do we perform sacraments or ordinances?

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Many Protestants are weirded out by, and water down, this “sacrament” language.Ordinance /'ɔr.dɪ.nəns, 'ɔrd.nəns/ n. Authoritative order or decree.2. Religious ritual; particularly one ordained by Christ.3. What Evangelical Christians call sacraments.I refer to certain Christian rituals as sacraments. But you’re gonna find many Evangelicalsreally don’t like that word. To them, we don’t call these practices “sacraments.” We call them “ordinances.”Why? Officially, lots of reasons. Unofficially it’s anti-Catholicism.See, a lot of Evangelicals come from churches and traditions which are historically anti-Catholic. True, all the original Protestants originated from various spats with Catholicism. But these folks were raised to be particularly leery of Roman Catholic beliefs. To them, “sacrament” has a lot of bothersome theological baggage attached. So they refuse to use it.But we gotta call our rituals something, and for some reason “ritual” is out. So what these folks have chosen …

Baptism: Get saved, get wet.

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Christianity’s initial ritual.Baptism /'bæp.tɪz.əm/ n. Religious ritual of sprinkling water on a person’s forehead, or immersing them in water, symbolizing purification, regeneration, and admission to the church.[Baptist /'bæp.təst/ n., baptizand /'bæp.tɪ.zænd/ n., baptismal /bæp'tɪz.məl/ adj.]Whenever the ancient Hebrews did something ritually unclean, before they went to temple they had to make themselves ritually clean. How they did that was to simply wash themselves with water and wait till sundown. After which point they could go to temple.Since you only had to go to temple three times a year, this didn’t require a whole lot of ritual washing. That is, till the Pharisees showed up. To them, any form of worship required people to be ritually clean. So if you went to synagogue, whether daily or just for Sabbath, you needed to be ritually clean. Gotta wash.How the Pharisees (and today’s Orthodox Jews) did so was to create a mikvéh/“collection [of water].” Basically a…

Three typical forms of church services.

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Is church a struggle? Maybe you’re not at the church best suited to your personality.Not all churches are alike. Obviously. But when you ask Christians what they like best about their church, they’ll emphasize a few things which they particularly like. The preaching. The music. The solemnity—or the informality. The friendliness. The kids’ program. The decor. The way they do our rituals. The amiability of the preacher. The ministries and programs. The coffee—for once it’s not Folger’s! (’Cause Folger’s is rubbish. But it’s cheap, so it’s what people serve whenever the person in charge of the coffee, doesn’t personally drink coffee.)Practices vary from church to church. Even within the same denomination; you can have one church which focuses a whole lot on one area, and a sister church—even in the same town!—which focuses on another.But the main focus of your church’s Sunday morning service (or Sunday or Saturday evening service; what have you) sets the tone for the sort of church you a…

Sacraments: Our Christian rituals. Gotta do ’em.

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Though there’s more than a little debate as to what they mean.Sacrament /'søk.rə.mənt/ n. Religious ritual which represents a spiritual reality, or represents an act of God’s grace.2. [“the sacrament”] Holy communion.[Sacramental /søk.rə'mɛn(t).əl/ adj., sacramentalist /søk.rə'mɛn(t).əl.ist/ n.]God does many things in our lives. Some we see. Some we don’t.When God cures me of an illness, it’s nice and obvious: Everybody, even skeptics, can see I’m well. They’ll totally disagree about how I got well. If they don’t believe in God (or don’t believe he still does miracles) they’ll doubt God was involved in the cure. Might even doubt I was truly ill to begin with. But they otherwise agree I’m well. That part’s visible enough.Now, when God forgives me of sin… what’s visible?I mean I know I’m forgiven; Jesus told us we’re given most everything. Mk 3.28 I put my faith in Jesus, so I trust when he says I’m forgiven, I am. But was there anything visible? Anything we could’ve experie…