Hello Brothers & Sisters,
Summer is almost officially over at Grantham Church. I’m thankful for all that God has been doing in our congregation over the last few months.
If you missed a service in the last two weeks, I have preached on baptism and communion. In the baptism sermon, Buried & Raised with Christ, I encouraged us to see how closely tied our initial profession in Christ is to baptism, as we see it practiced in the New Testament. For example, the Ethiopian eunuch was baptized immediately upon belief in Christ (Acts 8:26-40).
In addition, the Brethren in Christ (BIC) have traditionally held confession, baptism, and church membership together. Unfortunately, many churches don’t do a great job of teaching this, often downplaying the importance of “repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38). And of course, Jesus told us to make disciples, teach them, and baptize them (Matthew 28:18-20). So, I thought it would be helpful to invite us to see baptism as “vows” (like marriage) and as a first act or step of obedience to Christ. It’s also a corporate act that connects us with the local church. We are baptized into Christian community.
Therefore, in last Sunday’s sermon, The Table of Memory & Mystery, I said that it is appropriate to view communion as a renewal of those baptismal vows, where we once again say “yes” or “I do” to Christ and the church. Both of these ordinances or sacraments are best understood as identifying us publicly with Christ and the church, instead of individual acts that are optional and nothing more than symbols. And as I said in the sermons, I’m proposing that baptism and communion are more than symbol (as we normally think of symbol) because they truly reflect an inward spiritual reality.
In other words, like a Christian marriage ceremony is a testimony to a spiritual reality in the union of husband and wife, so it is with baptism and communion. God mysteriously meets us in them as we approach them in sincerity, and he blesses us through our participation. Based on the biblical passages I shared in my messages, I think this is a healthy perspective on baptism and communion. This is why I personally believe that we should teach the proper order of these things: first baptism, then communion.
However, as I said in the sermon on Sunday, I also believe it’s the role of the parents to decide how they want to approach communion with their own children, just as it is up to the unbaptized adult who has made a profession of faith in Christ to decide what they will do for themselves. As pastor, I see that my role is to teach the Scripture as best I understand it and encourage us in that way, while always extending grace to others. But it’s also your responsibility to do that and decide what you will teach and model to the children of our congregation.
I’ll say one more thing about communion. You will find churches that view and practice the table differently, and that’s OK. Please know that Grantham Church has never and will never police the communion table. The important thing is that we’re doing our best to obey Christ’s teaching in the New Testament, and that we’re listening to the voice of the Spirit together.
Finally, remember that our fall sermon series and ministries begin on Sunday, September 10. Be looking for information on all of our upcoming fall events and ministries this Sunday in your mailbox, in the bulletin, and in various places throughout our facilities. I look forward to seeing you this Sunday in worship. I will be preaching a message entitled, Getting the Gospel Right.
May God continue to bless Grantham Church in the days ahead.
Grace & Peace,
P.S. No doubt we are all aware of the flooding that has been caused by Hurricane Harvey and the tropical storm in Texas. At the time I’m writing this, the storm has unleashed over 15 trillion gallons of water on the fourth largest city in the US. My heart is breaking as I continue to see pictures and footage of the devastation. We lived in Houston for 6 really good years and so the city is very special to us. If you’re wondering how you can respond, here is what I’m suggesting we do. First, PRAY for all those in Texas and Louisiana who have been affected. Second, please consider giving to the relief and rebuilding efforts. I recommend giving to Mennonite Disaster Service at www.mds.mennonite.net. MDS will help specifically with the rebuilding process. You can even volunteer for an upcoming work project. Also, if you’d like to give to a church on the ground in downtown Houston, and help with immediate needs, I recommend giving to Ecclesia (Elder Campus) at: http://ecclesiahouston.org/give. I know this church well and have continued to follow them over the years. They do great things for the city of Houston. Thank you for joining me in prayer and for considering how God may want you to give toward relief and recovery efforts.
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