Saturday, August 14, 2004

Baptism and Communion

Although the regular United Church of Christ forums have gone on vacation for a while, there's currently a liturgy topic on the seminarian site, so not surprisingly I posted some about one of the current topics.

Here's a more-or-less quote of the ideas I posted I'm wondering how many times I've written about this topic on this blog?!:

Still more about one of the theological topics I think about most persistently! Rather than being "my decision to be obedient to God," my baptism was God's free and gracious embracing action that Romans 6'ed and Galatians 3:28'ed me through the proxy of the person who administered the water and the gathered community that in the power of the Spirit received me as representative of the historical and ecumenical Church. I'll agree the eucharist is supremely Jesus' meal, but it's also the church's feast with its insistent, longing cry of, "Come, Lord Jesus!", even as we experience the presence of the Crucified and Risen One in all creation and in the gathered people of God that already has been buried into its first death and raised into its second birth. And yes, the eucharist is the messianic banquet of the promised eschatological time in which all creation will in very fact be reconciled to itself and to its Creator, as well as one of the signs the Church displays to the world of the One who freely offers himself to the world despite betrayal and desertion…in the same way the Church is called to be a people both crucified and risen, a people of the cross and of the power of God to new life. But we always need to remember despite God's bountiful gift to us of salvation and freedom, there also is a cost to us of repentance and obedience, part of the obedience being for each of us to enter the waters of baptism, the boundary uniquely separating Church and World. So no, "it don't come easy," as the song would have it!

At this particular time in my own history I'm in the process of discerning not so much the what of God's current call to me but more the where and the exact how, as I'm also struggling with the high imperfection of the trio of faith communities I've been associating with since my last call ended. But tomorrow is Sunday, our Christian sabbath, and I need to attend worship not only in obedience to God's extravagant gifts and to God's baptismal claim on my life, but also because the baptismal words are "we, us, and our," referring to the community into which each of us individuals has been baptized. However, to take a somewhat middle road regarding receiving the sacrament, I'm almost in accord with the Methodist Book of Discipline's suggestion if a person receives HC they need to be preparing for baptism, since receiving the Eucharist is identification with the way of Jesus, and baptism is the initiatory reality into that Way that marks us forever with the cross.

From what I understand the sometime practice of less-than-weekly communion is, as suggested, a remnant of anti-Roman-Catholicism on the laity's part, something neither of the magisterial Reformers wanted to have happened, though as you know, Zwingli and the Zurich community had a different view regarding frequency of celebration as well as their quite different theology of the Lord's Supper. Once again, your reference to "liberal or progressive causes" is a telling one: the HS calls the church into being and equips the church for service in the world but not to be of the world, and it seems to me all too often those well-meaning liberals ask more about current cultural and social trends than they do about biblical mandates.

On a final note for this Saturday noon, two of my current faith communities practice weekly communion, with one of them insisting on baptism somewhere at some time and current state of repentance, the other publicly issuing a *y'all come* to everyone regardless; the 3rd generally celebrates the eucharist about once a month, with the Table invitation being to self-examination coupled with an admonition if you do not intend to identify with Jesus to please not receive communion today at this service.

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