17b - XVII -- The Sacraments
XVII. The Sacraments: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper
During World War II, when the Nazi armies were in almost every country of Europe, King Christian of Denmark stubbornly resisted the Nazis. His country was quite small compared to powerful Germany, and the king knew he could not win on the battlefield, but he put up a valiant moral struggle. One day he observed a Nazi flag flying above one of his public buildings. He reminded the German commander that this was contrary to the treaty between the two nations, and he said, 'The flag must be removed before 12 o'clock; otherwise I will send a soldier to remove it. At five minutes before 12:00, the flag was flying, and the king announced that he was sending a soldier to take it down. 'The soldier will be shot,' the Nazi officer replied. Then King Christian calmly said, 'I think I should tell you that I will be that soldier
There are many things that we need to stand up for in our lives. When we stand up for them we are showing those around us that we are dedicated, and willing to do anything for our cause. The same is true in the church. We take a stand every time we walk through the doors of the church, or at least that is the way it used to be. Now a days, it seems that many people who attend church may not necessarily be Christians and may only be attending because their parents did, or a loved one does. There are other stands that we take in the church – we take a stand when we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior and publicly profess Him as such. We take a stand when we are baptized – we show those around us that we are willing to be counted as a child of God’s. We also take a stand when we take communion. In taking communion, we are actively remembering what Jesus did for us on the cross. Again, we are saying that we want to be counted as one of God’s children. Communion should never be taken lightly – I’ve known some parents who tell children that communion is a snack – making light of what really happened and the command that Jesus gave us concerning communion.
This morning we are going to go back and look at the rest of Article 17 which is the article on the Sacraments. Just to remind you, there are two sacraments that we believe Jesus commanded us to keep. Those being the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. So let’s look at article 17 again:
We believe that water baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the sacraments of the church commanded by Christ and ordained as a means of grace when received through faith. They are tokens of our profession of Christian faith and signs of God’s gracious ministry toward us. By them, He works within us to quicken, strengthen and confirm our faith.
The rest of Article 17 about the Lord’s Supper is:
We believe that the Lord’s Supper is a sacrament of our redemption by Christ’s death and of our hope in His victorious return, as well as a sign of the love that Christians have for each other. To such as receive it humbly, with a proper spirit and by faith, the Lord’s Supper is made a means through which God communicates grace to the heart. (Discipline)
Communion should always be a special time, a time of reflection and a time of rejoicing. We reflect on what Jesus did for us, by taking our sins upon Himself and dying on the cross. It is also a time of celebration, for the same reasons and also knowing that our Savior could not be held by the grips of death and defeated that curse for us.
Let’s look at what the Bible tells us about this special time. The first three gospels tell us of a time during the Passover holiday when Jesus and His disciples were gathered together for the Passover meal. This was the same night when Jesus would be betrayed and turned over to the chief priests, by Judas Iscariot. In the book of Matthew we are told that Jesus and the disciples sat down to eat and
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for the many for the forgiveness of sins. . .” Some things that we need to think about here, first, when we take of the bread and juice – we are following the pattern that Jesus set up. We do not believe that the bread becomes the body of our Lord, nor do we believe that the juice becomes His blood. There are religions that tell you that – but that is not what we believe. We believe that the bread is bread and the juice is juice – they represent His body and His blood. Notice, it says, that He broke the bread. In like manner, His body will be broken by beatings He will receive, by the nails that pierced His hands and feet, by the sword that was cast into His side. The cup – or the contents of the cup – was red. Easy to see the connection here, the red wine compared with the red blood that flowed from that broken body.
Second, we use grape juice, not wine as some religions do. The reason is very simple. Much of the Holiness movement, which we are a part of, was centered around the poor and the outcast – and many of these were alcoholics. We would get them into the church, tell them that drinking is wrong and then offer them wine with the Lord’s Supper – that didn’t make much sense – and where does grape wine come from? The same place that grape juice does – grapes. So we are not doing anything wrong by using grape juice.
Third, I want to point out what Jesus said about this covenant which His blood was being poured out for – it was being poured out for the MANY for the forgiveness of sins. This was not just for those of Jesus’ day, it is for the many, many that have come since then also.
We are to remember this covenant that Jesus set up for us. Luke records for us in the 22 chapter these words: And he (Jesus) took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”
Did you catch it? Jesus said to do this in remembrance of Him. Sometimes we get a little confused as to why we take communion. Some people say we do it because the church requires us to do it – some say we do it because the pastor doesn’t want to preach that Sunday so we take communion – some think we do it out of habit or ritual, but the fact remains, Jesus said to do it in remembrance of Him and what He was about to do.
Christine Oscar, pastor of St. Mary's Church in Greensboro, North Carolina, tells this story of her four-year-old niece, Alisha: One day while babysitting, I fixed them their favorite lunch of burritos and apple juice. As I left the room, I heard four-year-old Alisha begin to celebrate communion with her lunch items. She seemed to have memorized the words of institution quite well, except when it came to the cup. She was heard to say, And Jesus took the cup, and he blessed it, and he gave God thanks for it, and he said, 'Fill it with Folgers and wake 'em up!’
Communion should never become a habit – it should be new and fresh each and ever time it is taken. Communion brings us together as brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul reminds us in 1 Cor. 10: Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
We need to remind ourselves that a covenant is a contract, a guarantee that something is going to take place, and in this case the guarantee is that Jesus is coming back to claim His own. But, as with any contract we need to know how to fulfill it. Jesus says that by partaking of the communion, we are taking a stand, we are proclaiming that Jesus died and rose again, until he come back for us – that coming back for us is Jesus’ part of the contract. Our part is this, first, we must call upon the name of the Lord for the forgiveness of our sins. Second, we must live our lives according to His way and reflect Jesus in all we do. Third, we must be baptized – an outward sign of our commitment to Jesus and His church. Fourth, we are to partake in the sacrament of communion. We must do it in a worthy manner. Again, the Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Cor. : Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.
Communion should be a time of healing and a time of renewal, a time of celebration and a time of remembrance. We are to take it humbly, knowing that we are not worthy of what Jesus did for us and this is what we are going to do at this time. I ask that you search your hearts, recommit yourselves to our heavenly Father, acknowledge God’s saving grace and love which He gives to each and everyone that calls upon His name. Let’s come before Him with humble hearts.