To the outside observer, the Sacraments, whether in the Roman Catholic Church or the Protestant Church, are something of an enigma. In the Catholic Church, there are seven Sacraments: 1. the Eucharist or the Lord’s Supper; 2. Baptism; 3. Marriage; 4. Priestly Ordination; 5. Confirmation; 6. Penance; and 7. Last Rites.
In the Protestant Church, and in particular the Lutheran Church of which I am a member, there are two sacraments 1. Baptism and, 2. the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion.
As I said, for a want of a better word in the secular of non-Christian world, these sacraments are either misunderstood or seen as irrelevant or as the product of some sort of outmoded or antique world view. This little essay proposes to explain a bit of the meaning and nature of the two sacraments in the Protestant Church and, in particular, the Lutheran Church.
Baptism is an attempt by the church as the agent of Christ to bring a child into relationship with Christ. Baptism is the beginning point of the transformation of an individual into the image of Christ. In a sense, Baptism is an attempt to attach the human soul and the infant soul at that stage of life, to the person of Jesus who for the Christian believer resides in heaven with the other two persons of the Holy Trinity, God the Father and the Holy Spirit. The persons of the Trinity are, so to speak in Communion or relationship. The relationship is one of love. Baptism brings the infant into a beginning point of a relationship with Christ which will gradually transform him or her to the fullness and riches of what a human being is meant to be.
I would also like to comment on the Communion or Lord’s supper in the Lutheran Church. For many people outside the Church and outside the Christian belief system, the act of eating the body and blood of a god, in this case Christian, is completely primitive and out of sync with the modern world. The Communion meal involves the element of sacrifice, namely the death of Christ on the cross to atone for our sins and redeem the human race from its sinfulness and degradation.
As I said, to the outside observer who is more intent with getting an upscale car or a beautiful wife, the sacrifice of Christ or the reenactment of that sacrifice in the Communion meal is irrelevant and probably thought of as slightly ridiculous. The outside observer, or, better put, the modern person, may see participating in the consumption of a God, in this case Christ, as extremely primitive. In a sense, these individuals in this mode of thinking and expression have a point. The consumption even as a symbol or morally of a god’s body and blood is certainly greatly removed from the modern worldview. So, quite understandably, these non-Christians see this ceremony as outmoded, irrelevant, and a leftover and legacy of the ancient world in which people had no control over nature and sought by sacrifice, whether of animals or persons, as a way of guaranteeing their future in a world whose forces they could not control.
For the Christian, however, the Lord’s Supper, for instance, has a different significance. For the Christian, the death of Christ on the Cross is the final and ultimate sacrifice meant to bring a broken and twisted humanity into a fruitful and positive relationship with the Creator and his only begotten son, Jesus Christ. More important, when a Christian partakes in the Lord’s Supper, once again the Christian is attaching himself and being transformed into the image of Christ. Or, better put, the Lord’s Supper or Communion brings the Christian believer into relationship with Jesus and into transformation into the image of Jesus, and brings us to the personhood and humanity which we all have the potential to be.
In short, the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper bring the Christian into closer and closer relationship with Jesus. As a result, that person in that relationship is t transformed over his lifetime into the ultimate and perfected humanity that we all human beings were meant to be and can only be in relationship with Jesus and in the course of that relationship we become transformed into something we can hardly imagine we could possibly be. I think that this is what Jesus meant by our becoming his sons and daughters. Jesus means that in relationship with him, we grow into his image and likeness, or better put, we are raised up into the human that he represents and wishes us to become. Perhaps one might say that each one of us Christians are grafted into and onto the person of the risen Christ and grow be come to be his new creation.
At the present time, it quite obvious to any thinking person that the human race is failed and broken. Evil and sin infects the world and dominates it. Nevertheless, in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, Jesus still sees humanity as having the capacity to grow into something else and come out of this diseased world which the human race and Satan have infected and destroyed, and now in its present form exists as a result of sin and the fall of mankind into sin. I suppose that all of us must see it as something of a mystery that God would sacrifice his only begotten Son for humanity and a for a human race; that appears so entirely worthless. However, it is in fact, evidence of the extraordinary love that God possesses for the world and for all humanity that have ever lived or died, those who were yet to be born, and those who are living now, that He would trouble himself to die for us and in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, he still seeks us out seeing our potential to transformed into something worthwhile.