Water. Bread. Wine.
These are the signs and symbols of our Christian faith.
What impact do they have on us? ...if any at all.
We find ourselves in this strange season, entering Holy Week, knowing that celebration will look different this year, and aching in our hearts for the community with which to fellowship. Will we miss our practices? Will the sacraments be something we long for?
"I fear that many Christians could skip Communion without missing very much, and perhaps without even noticing for some time"
Would you find that true for yourself?
I remember the very first days church planting in rural Africa. There was a stumbling beginning, as we learned culture and language, trying to navigate what church life would look like; both as a team and among an indigenous church. We questioned how we would incorporate the sacraments into our team life, and - in the future - of a local church.
These symbols of our beliefs needed to be a part of the faith we were living among those who did not believe. They became essential to our identity. They distinguished us from other religions around us.
Water. Bread. Wine.
Symbols that we feel. The rush of water over us as we remember the death of our old life and the rise of the new. The texture of the bread sustaining us, the vivid red color of the wine reminding us of blood. Not just symbols, but visual, tangible elements of the Gospel as we participate in the sacraments, these that we see, touch and taste.
Tim Chester writes a new book on these symbols, called "Truth We Can Touch: How Baptism and Communion Shape Our Lives." He writes to remind believers of the value we find as we participate in the sacraments of baptism and communion and to show us how the grace of God visits us every single time.
In his book, he points out how baptism and communion remind us:
Of God's Promises. Maybe especially now in the middle of a pandemic, we need to be reminded of God's promises to us. Through baptism we remember that the Gospel saves us; it is a promise - we are saved. As we participate in communion, we remember that God promises us forgiveness, adoption, and resurrection. These, and more, are the promises God has given to us, as we grow in our covenant relationship with Him. In the midst of all we face in our day-to-day.
Of God's Grace. We have done nothing to earn or achieve salvation. It is the gift of God alone. It is His work in our lives alone. We receive the water, the bread and the wine by faith and our souls are nourished and strengthened. We are assured of our position in Christ because of all that He has done and all He continues to do in us.
Of God's Presence. "Christ in his kindness, knowing how frail we are, knowing how battered by life we can be, has given us bread and wine as physical signs of his presence." God's spiritual presence is with us. He has not left us. The Spirit within us guides us, teaches us and leads us. We are not alone, even in our isolation at home; oh that these times be refreshment to our souls and deeper learning to hear His voice.
Of Our Need to Remember. The bread and wine, the baptisms we celebrate, actively engage our memory, sometimes transporting us momentarily back to our first communion, or the day of our own baptism. When we forsake the sacraments, we take a risk of forgetting, and "obedience falters when memory fails." By the symbols God has given us, we remind ourselves, and each other of the Gospel, and our covenant relationship with God. We remember what He has done, propelling us into gratitude and renewed commitment to Him.
Of A New Life. Baptism changes our status. We confirm our obedience to Christ by the symbolic act of baptism. We affirm the covenant established with God, and communion is how our covenant with Him is reaffirmed. We live in our newness of life, dying to our selves and living into Christ.
Of Our Community. The church is a baptized people. Our community is is created by the death and resurrection of Christ. We are reminded as we take communion of our sin. We are reminded that we participate in this meal together as a family. Celebrating privately may be for a short season, I pray it stirs inside us a deeper longing and joy as we hope for the day when we will celebrate it together as the covenant community of Christ.
The sacraments are distinguishing features of the Christian faith. We have many times been guilty of not treasuring them enough, by not recognizing the value of these symbols that God has given us, to remind us of the Gospel and a life centred around Christ. This strange season doesn't lend to our faith practices, but it can stir inside us this hope in Christ that we will celebrate together again in person, and also the day we will celebrate the wedding feast with Jesus in heaven.
How have baptism and communion been truth you can touch?
Thank you to Crossway for the complimentary copy of this book, and the opportunity to post an honest review!!