Saturday, November 22, 2008

Faith & the Sacraments

The evangelical world is filled with those who have little regard for the sacraments. The attitude of many within my own denomination is often disheartening. Actually, it can become a bit strange.

There are many who look upon the Lord's Supper as a memorial, only. (Of course it is a memorial meal! But that is not all!). And yet, they are concerned to keep the "specialness" of this remembrance by means of infrequent celebrations. (And celebrations is the wrong word, here. It should simply be observance.)

Many of these same sisters and brothers in Christ, have an odd way of viewing the "power" of the sacrament/ordinance, as well. You see, many of them would deny it as a means of grace (except in the sense that one may experience the grace of God as one contemplates what Christ did for us on the cross). On the other hand, these same people who strongly emphasize that it may be a "means of curse." - That's right! They, of course, refer to St. Paul's admonition not to partake of the sacrament unworthily. So, while we cannot count on the Lord's Supper to be a means of grace, we must be careful that it not be for us a means of curse. - That we ought to take the holy apostle's admonition seriously is not in doubt, but it seems to me that my "non-sacramentalist" sisters and brothers make a strange argument, indeed.

Aside from the issues above, many wonder why the sacraments (or, simply ordinances, for them) are needed at all. Is not personal faith, enough? If I have a personal relationship with God through Christ by faith, why do I need dead, empty rituals?

Indeed, if we are talking about dead, empty rituals, we ought to be done with all of them! But . . . if we are talking about something that is life-giving and full of grace, by the power of God; if there the living Christ has promised to meet us, then why wouldn't we run to the Table as often as possible?

The Wesley's address the argument concerning faith without the sacraments in hymn #54 in The Eucharistic Hymns of John and Charles Wesley (J. Ernest Rattenbury. OSL. 1996.):

1. Why did my dying Lord ordain
This dear memorial of His love?
Might we not all by faith obtain,
By faith the mountain sin remove,
Enjoy the sense of sins forgiven,
And holiness, the taste of heaven?

2. It seem'd to my Redeemer good
That faith should here His coming wait
Should here receive immortal food,
Grow up in Him Divinely great,
And, fill'd with holy violence, seize
The glorious crown of righteousness.

3. Saviour, Thou didst the mystery give
That I Thy nature might partake
Thou bidd'st me outward signs receive,
One with Thyself my soul to make;
My body, soul, and spirit to join
Inseparably one with Thine.

4. The prayer, the fast, the word conveys,
When mix'd with faith, Thy life to me;
In all the channels of Thy grace
I still have fellowship with Thee:
But chiefly here my soul is fed
With fulness of immortal bread.

5. Communion closer far I feel
And deeper drink the' atoning blood;
The joy is more unspeakable,
And yields me larger draughts of God,
Till nature faints beneath the power,
And faith fill'd up can hold no more.

Thanks be to God!


Anonymous said...

I generally go through the sacrament of confession before receiving the eucharist. My sacramental theology is more Catholic than Wesleyan. The sacraments are very important.

Todd Stepp said...

Thank you for your comment.