Tell us about: Sacraments in Ministry

¶324.9.p:  Explain the role and significance of the sacraments in the ministry to which you have been called.

A sacrament is “an outward sign of inward grace, and a means whereby we receive the same.”[1] As we grow from baby to adults, we learn to question and doubt whether there is a place in the world for us, whether we are loved, or even lovable. We make decisions that bring harm to others, ourselves, and the world, out of fear and shame, out of a deep conviction that we are not enough. But God is always reaching toward us, offering the gift of Grace, loving us, accepting us without us have to earn it. The Sacraments are one vehicle by which God reaches out to us, “God uses tangible, material things as vehicles or instruments of grace.” God reaches towards us in normal, everyday items, bread, juice, and water, reminding us of a love beyond understanding, a love we do not have to earn; bringing nourishment to our souls, a love that is in the normal everyday things of life.[2] The Sacraments give us the nourishment we need to grow in our faith and in our love for God, neighbor, and ourselves.

Sacraments are more than an individual activity; they are communal. They are God reaching into our midst as a community, calling us to love one another, like God loves us. As a community, God calls us to practice forgiveness, and then gives us plenty of opportunities to practice. Because we have open doors, any person can come and sojourn with us. Welcoming people that are not like us guarantees that we will journey with strangers, people we do not like, people we do not understand, and people we feel comfortable around. The Sacraments shape us into forgiving people because it is an opportunity to look the other, the stranger or even an enemy, in the eye, and in a tangible, material, embodied way, tell them that they are enough. The Sacraments give us an opportunity to offer grace to one another and grow in faith as a community of faith.

The sacrament of baptism is the initiation of new persons into the covenant that connects God, the community of faith, and the person being baptized.  In a few drops of water there is the promise that God’s love will reach out to them, throughout their lives. Baptism is an outward, tangible sign of God’s prevenient grace already at work in the one being baptized. It is a promise that God will always be at work, bringing loving and healing into the life of the baptized, always. It is also a vow that the community makes. In baptism, a faith community vows to raise a baby, child, or adult, with the knowledge that they are loved and that they have a community to which they belong. Although the baptized may forget that they are loved and wander away from a community that promised to nurture them, when they return, they will find the love of God never left. Therefore, the act of baptism is unrepeatable because of God’s steadfast faithfulness. We may stray by misusing our God-given freedom, but we cannot destroy God’s love for us. When we return to God, we find that the covenant still remains.[3]

When writing of Holy Communion, Wesley wrote that, “This is the food of our souls: This gives strength to perform our duty, and leads us on to perfection.”[4] Communion is a reminder of God’s love for us and a tangible sign of God’s continued work in our lives. We so often return to the conviction that we are unloved or unlovable, especially in an age of intense marketing. The job of the advertising manager is to convince the potential customer that they lack something, and then they offer a product that will complete them. We take communion often because we need the reminder that we are loved, and as importantly, that the people that join us at the table are loved. We need the sustenance that nurtures us while we grow in holiness.[5] As individuals, we grow in faith and holiness when we take communion; we also grow as a community. Like Baptism, we participate in Holy Communion within the community of faith because “the sharing and bonding experienced at the Table exemplify the nature of the church and model the world as God would have it be.”[6] Communion gives us the strength we need to go out into the world bringing the Kingdom of God with us wherever we go. When we sit across the table from someone that we may not like, we learn about God’s love, forgiveness, and grace. Only through trials do we learn what life God can bring out of the challenges. With this experience, we can go out into the world, with faith that God’s love walks with us and everyone we meet.

[1] Means of Grace, II.1

[2] This Holy Mystery, p7

[3] By Water and the Spirit, 18

[4] The Duty of Constant Communion, I.3

[5] This Holy Mystery, 10

[6] This Holy Mystery, 8

You will find and introduction to my BOM theological paperwork here: Doctrinal Exam

One thought on “Tell us about: Sacraments in Ministry”

  1. Thanks for this. You don’t how many certified candidates ask questions about how to formulate our BOOM Questions. This was definitely a blessing.

Leave a Reply