God's Gifts to the Church
The Lord’s Supper
Sometimes referred to as Communion or The Eucharist, meaning ‘Thanksgiving’) is Christ’s gift to the church. On the evening before his death, the gospels teach us, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, gave it to his disciples and said, “This is my body, given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” He then took the cup, gave thanks over it, and said, “Drink this, all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many of the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
Through this act Jesus gave his disciples the means through which his followers would identify themselves, recalling his death and resurrection, and experiencing his grace anew.
John Wesley, though, the founder of Methodism, understood the Lord’s Supper to be more than an occasion by which we simply recollect the passion and death of Jesus.
The bread and wine of the sacrament instead conveys, through the Holy Spirit, his real presence. Under the guise of bread and wine Christ is truly with us, in a mysterious but no less real and actual way, uniting us in fellowship, strengthening us in holiness, and empowering us for service in the world. Before the altar we, as did the disciples, sit at table with Jesus, becoming his guests, recalling his sacrifice for the world’s salvation, as we anticipate the day when God’s kingdom shall come in full.
“This is the food for our souls,” preached Wesley. “If we desire the pardon of our sins, if we wish strength to believe, to love and obey God, then we should neglect no opportunity of receiving the Lord’s Supper.”
For two thousand years the Church has baptized people, infants, children, adolescents, adults, in every language, in every place, immersing them in massive pools, or sprinkling their heads. With joyful simplicity, we do as Jesus told us to do.
Jesus was baptized, “and the heavens opened, and the Spirit descended on him like a dove – and a voice said ‘You are my beloved son’ (Mark 1:9-11).
Ask a child, “What is water for?” The answers are “To drink when I’m thirsty,” and “to bathe in when I’m dirty.” Baptism quenches our thirst for God, Baptism cleanses us, and reminds us all of the power of God to fulfill and to forgive.
We baptize people of all ages. But why baptize infants if they don’t know what’s going on? They have done nothing to achieve status as God’s children – which is the point. Baptism is about the free, unearnable grace of God. Infants don’t even believe yet – but all of us are touched by God’s grace long before we respond to God.
Water brings life; water softens what is hard and crusty. Martin Luther repeatedly said “Remember your baptism and be thankful!” Remember who you are – and whose you are. Your worth is defined by God’s grace. Nothing can erase the image of God in you. St. Augustine said Baptism is a visible word – and that word is “love.” You are loved, and you are called and empowered by God to love, and for us to love together as the Baptized people of God, the Church.