So many different takes.

Baptism by ModernDayGilliganCommunion bread and wine by getfed

There are SO MANY versions of the Christian faith floating around these days.

What strikes me is that when the Sacraments are missing, or when they are misunderstood as to their direction (from us to God instead of the other way around), then the whole thing goes South.

Lot’s of Christians speak of the grace of God. “He is our all in all”.” He has done it all”. “There is nothing we can add”. That is a good thing.  But there is nothing for many of these Christians to grab hold of. Their beliefs inhabit the nebulous territories of heart and mind. Yes, we believe them. But now what? How can we be SURE that they are true, and real, IN OUR LIVES, at this moment?  

It seems that because of the kind of creature that we are, a tactile, tangible, experiential being, our faith must land somewhere. The rubber must meet the road,  somewhere, somehow.

If there’s nothing to grab a hold of that is tangible, that comes to us from outside of ourselves, then we will internalize this desire for solid proof. We will rely on our emotions, our deeds, our thoughts, our knowledge, even our own faith. Welcome to ‘religion’ in the 21st century. Look familiar? It ought to. It’s no different than the religion that humans have practiced for as long as they have been around. It hides behind the pious words and works of those who have no assurance of their salvation, other than what they are able to muster up of their own volition. Then you end up with holiness churches where people are movin’ on up.

 But the external Word, which includes the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion, are different. They do not eminate from inside of ourselves and are not dependent on anything that comes from our side of the equation. They are real events that happen in real places with real earthly elements in real time. And the action in these events is not our action, but God’s. His Word is attached to them. Otherwise they just remain earthly elements. And these actions of God are apprehended by the very gift of faith that God also gives to us, in these Sacraments and in the hearing of His Word.

Now we have something that we can HOLD onto. Something that has been given to us with NO strings attached. Something that is REAL…and NOT subject to the winds that blow in and out of our often weak frames, hearts and minds.

We can look at our Baptism and KNOW that the Lord promised to be our God there. He gave us His name, there. He gave us all that Christ is, right there. He rightly judged us guilty and put us to death, there. And He raises us with Christ, right there. Not once, or twice…but day, after day, after day, after day.

 We can look at the Lord’s Supper in the same way. In that meal, Christ Jesus gives us ALL that is necessary. Himself.  His body,  His blood. Broken and shed for the forgiveness of your sins… and in this is your new life, and your salvation.

Now we can give up the religiosity that often characterizes the lives of so many who are looking for proof.

If you want proof, listen to what God has done, is doing, and will yet do…for you. And bathe in the truth of your Baptism… and eat and drink of that proof. And hold onto it. And when you can’t hold onto it, know that He is holding onto you. And that His promises are FOR YOU…no matter how you may happen to feel about the whole thing at the time.

This view of the external Word and Sacraments is not being religious, but it is being a truster, a faither of God’s promises.

Does this make any sense to you? (not that it has to)


Thanks to flickr and ModernDayGilligan, and get fed, for the photos.

17 Responses

  1. One of my biggest frustrations with non-denominational world is abandonment of the sacraments. Keep spreading the news.

  2. Yes, this makes lots of sense! The sacraments nurture and sustain personal assurance in God’s promises.

    Considering the state of “‘religion’ in the 21st century”, where do we now find the sacraments? Who administers them to us? To whom are the sacraments given? Who may receive them?

    • John B,

      Thanks for your comments. They are much appreciated.

      You can still find the Sacraments out there in many places, albeit with different understandings.

      We believe that Baptism is for ALL. God wants to give everyone His promises in water and Word. Jesus commanded us to go and baptize “ponta ethnae” (the whole world). He didn’t mention age restrictions. No wonder, since He is the One doing the baptizing and giving the promises.

      We believe that the Supper is for ALL baptized Christians who believe that Christ is actually present in it. We announce that before hand and read from Martin Luther’s explanation of what the Sacrament of the Altar is. If they come up, they receive it. We don’t run after them and pull the bread out of their hands as did the Catholic priest at my Father’s funeral mass.

      Many go beyond our undestanding for a more in depth examination of the person’s belief about doctrine. But we believe that Christ can handle whatever else the person may be lacking. After all, we are all up and down with our level of belief and understanding and trust and appreciation for this meal.

      It is His Supper. And Christ does not pinch out His grace and mercy. He invites His enemies to dine with Him at the table. That’s us. Many here will disagree with me nd that’s fine. They are free to do it their way. We are free to err, if we are, on the side of God’s grace and mercy for sinners.

      Thanks, John B.

      • Thanks Steve. I like and agree with your church’s practice of the sacraments. Hope that more churches will take your approach in this area of the liturgy.

        Does your church consider affirmation of Luther’s explanation of the sacrament necessary for participation in communion? As a Lutheran congregation, you teach Luther’s understanding of the supper, but is the affirmation of Luther’s view necessary for its worthy reception?

  3. […] Martin (not the banjo-playing comedian) published a thought-provoking blog post today, discussing how important the external Word of God is to faith, as opposed to placing our […]

  4. Great post. I quoted from this on my blog today.

  5. “We are free to err, if we are, on the side of God’s grace and mercy for sinners.” Good point! Yes, even saved people err. I know I do!

    “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” John 6:37

    I think it comes down to who saves us. We can’t save ourselves. Going to church, eating, drinking, getting wet, walking down an aisle, reciting a prayer–all those outward acts can’t save us. However, they are essential outcomes of all that God has done for, in, and through us, and is doing still!

    Blessings, my friend!

  6. Thanks, Petra.

    Yes! God saves us!

    But how does He do it? We Lutherans say that God has commanded the Sacraments, so that He is free to save in them. He can save apart from them, as well.

    In 1st Peter, the Scriptures tell us that “Baptism now saves you…”

    We don’t look at them as magic, or as a get out of jail free card that automatically gets us into Heaven. But we look at them (the Sacraments) as God actually acting FOR US….and freely giving to us Himself.

    Anywho…thank you, friend. God bless you!

    – Steve

    I think I meant to say that ‘we are free, and IF we err…we wish to err on the side of God’s grace’. I think that sounds a bit better.

  7. Listening to your posted Piper videos the other day, it has stuck in my mind that he hates the idea of the sacraments being “under management”.

    Spending some time on James Swan’s blog makes me see how much of Calvinism is a response to Roman Catholicism. We need to explain very clearly what the sacraments are and how they are a free gift of grace not control.

    On the other hand, the Calvinist neither wants them “under management” nor seems to want to give away gifts freely because some don’t believe.

  8. Hmmm…never thought about it that way, Brigitte.

    But I think there is merit in what you say.

    Thank you.

  9. Hi Steve/Brigitte,

    Thought you’d enjoy these wise wokds from Luther:

    “God has always followed this custom of giving a visible sign, a person, place, or spot, where He could certainly be found. For if we are not bound and held by a physical, external sign, every one of us will seek God wherever he pleases. For this reason the holy Prophets wrote much of the Tabernacle, the dwelling place and tent where He willed to be present. Thus God has always done. In a like manner He has built us Christians a temple where He would dwell, namely, the spoken Word, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, which also are perceptible things. But our false prophets, factious spirits, and ‘enthusiasts’ despise it and cast it aside, as though it were worthless, and say, ‘Truly, I will sit and wait until a flying Spirit and revelation comes to me from heaven. Beware of that!” (St. L. III:924f.).



  10. Yes, he has given those and then he gave himself in the flesh.

  11. Indeed He did. And where else to find God, but in His Son (Col. 2:9), and where else to find His Son, but in His Word and Sacraments (2 Cor. 3:18).

  12. Here’s another Luther quote on this subject that I like:

    “And in those things which concern the spoken, outward Word, we must firmly hold that God grants His Spirit or grace to no one, except through and with the preceding outward Word, in order that we may thus be protected against the enthusiasts, i.e., spirits who boast that they have the Spirit without and before the Word. All this is the old devil and old serpent, who also converted Adam and Eve into enthusiasts, and led them from the outward Word of God to spiritualizing and self-conceit…. In a word, enthusiasm inheres in Adam and his children from the beginning [from the first fall] to the end of the world, [its poison] having been implanted and infused into them by the old dragon, and is the origin, power, and strength of all heresy, especially that of the Papacy and Mahomet. Therefore we ought and must constantly maintain this point, that God does not wish to deal with us otherwise than through the spoken Word and the Sacraments. It is the devil himself whatsoever is extolled as Spirit without the Word and the Sacrament.” (Trigl. 495, Part III, Art. VIII, 3-10).

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