Personal and Communal
HEIDELBERG CATECHISM, LORD’S DAY 25
It is by faith alone that we share in Christ and all his blessings: where then does that faith come from?
The Holy Spirit produces it in our hearts by the preaching of the holy gospel, and confirms it through our use of the holy sacraments.
What are sacraments?
Sacraments are holy signs and seals for us to see. They were instituted by God so that by our use of them he might make us understand more clearly the promise of the gospel, and might put his seal on that promise. And this is God’s gospel promise: to forgive our sins and give us eternal life by grace alone because of Christ’s sacrifice finished on the cross.
Are both the word and the sacraments then intended to focus our faith on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as the only ground of our salvation?
Right! In the gospel the Holy Spirit teaches us and through the holy sacraments he assures us that our entire salvation rests on Christ’s one sacrifice for us on the cross.
How many sacraments did Christ institute in the New Testament?
Two: baptism and the Lord’s Supper
Personal and Communal
Monday, June 12: Acts 2:42-47
One of the most glorious parts of worshipping together as a community is when we are able to together celebrate Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These sacraments are not only an important and foundational part of living Christ-centered, Gospel-oriented lives, they are also rituals God invites us to participate in, both as individuals and as a community. Our culture is one which puts uniqueness, individualism, and personal pleasure above all else. We are trained to seek bigger and better things, and this mindset seeps into our Christian culture. We look for churches which have the best programs, even when gospel-bound preaching is shoved to the wayside. We seek pastors who have a personality bigger than life and create a unique experience, but who don’t enter into the messy parts of our lives. We look for a gospel that makes us feel good and happy, rather than the Gospel which calls us to confront our sin and strive in the difficult task of faithful living. Amidst this cultural tension, the Sacraments call us to engage in ritual acts that are both deeply personal and profoundly communal. Next time we participate in the sacraments, I invite you to wonder at the images around you. There is something so beautiful about the young child standing on the pew, craning her neck to see an infant being baptized. She may ask her parents about her own baptism, and the Holy Spirit stirs something in her heart, even at a young age. Likewise, there is something incredibly humbling about the entirety of the church community being asked to participate in the Covenant promise to “train up a child in the way he or she should go…” (Proverbs 22:6a). Or think of what a rich experience it is to stand alongside brothers and sisters of faith to partake in the broken bread and the poured-out cup, even while in our hearts the Holy Spirit prompts us to examine our own secret sins. When we celebrate the Sacraments, we are each reminded that while we were still sinners, Christ laid down his life for all of us. We are reminded that we are not our own, but belong to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ. We are reminded that we are not alone, but stand with others – just as broken and sinful and relishing the grace outpoured– as we seek to proclaim the name of the resurrected Christ to the ends of the earth. As we continue to both study and celebrate the Sacraments, I hope you will take a moment to recognize the personal and communal experience God is inviting each of us to enter.
Chaplain Sarah Hoogendoorn