Growing up in the Catholic tradition, you would assume that I had always had a rich view of baptism and communion.
Well, I didn’t.
I would later have a strong disdain for most of Christianity. All the knowledge I had of it was based on practices I didn’t understand. Piled on top of my lack of fondness for Christian truth, I was embittered by the people I knew who said they experienced the mercy of God but acted otherwise. By God’s kindness, my soul was changed. I, an otherwise rebellious, young sinner finally understood what it meant to be in spiritual poverty. I needed to be nourished. I needed refreshment.
The Wonder of the Water and the Table
The way of salvation is vertical. It never travels from the bottom-up. It always begins from the top-down by God’s persisting grace. When it comes to baptism and communion, we tend to forget that the table and the baptismal connect to that very same chain of God’s love. More often than not, we tend to think of the sacraments (the Lord’s Supper and baptism) as things that we do rather than gospel-pictures to be received. They aren’t more than practices that are a means of God’s grace, but they are more than just memorials. My buddies John Calvin, N.T. Wright, and Sinclair Ferguson helped me see a great deal of the mysterious beauty of these practices that Christ has given to us. The Westminster Confession of Faith, in it’s twenty-eighth chapter, provides some helpful language in describing baptism:
“Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church; but also, to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life. Which sacrament is, by Christ's own appointment, to be continued in His Church until the end of the world.”
Baptism is a sign of God’s covenant. It’s a sketch of God’s commitment to us and how he was dedicated to us before we could ever be dedicated to him. When we eat of the bread and partake of the cup, we are participating in the renewing of that very same covenant of grace that God our Father initiated (Matthew 26:28) It’s a spirit-filled drama spilling out of the cup of God’s kindness. An invitation of rest, if you will, of Christ’s exhortation for all who “labor and are heavy laden” (Matthew 11:28).
Peace to Us
Rich Mullins wrote a song called, “Peace (A Communion Blessing).” I think that one of the best parts of the song is towards the end:
“Falling on these souls the drought has dried
In His Blood and in His Body
In the Bread and in this Wine
Peace to you
Peace of Christ to you
Peace to you
Peace of Christ to you”
The sacraments are a benediction to us. They follow us as we go out into our world and into our cities to declare the good news that God is present with us in all things. His water and his feast warmly fill us as we struggle as pilgrims to feel at home in a world that thinks little of the next one. God’s table and his fount aren’t about what you have committed to––they are about God’s pledge to you as you sojourn through the Christian life.