Friday, July 06, 2012
For Calvin, three great “comforts” emerge here.Ceremonial, liturgical is not staid and devoid of meaning - save that we fail to teach the deep and abiding meaning.
First in baptism, we are “received into the society of the church.” Baptism is the entrance to the church and sets an ecclesial identity that tells us who we are—always. We are those who have been baptized into Jesus Christ! No deeper or stronger sense of our true self can come to us. We are members of the people of God, the body of Christ, the fellowship of the Spirit. Our bond is with the triune God; and with those with whom we are sisters and brothers in faith through our common baptism.
Second, in baptism, we are “engrafted in Christ.” Being in “union with Christ” is a key term for Calvin (as it was for Paul). It embraces all salvation means. The sacrament of baptism testifies or witnesses to the reality of our union with Christ by faith through which we receive all Christ’s benefits for us. As we receive the blessings of Christ, we experience baptism as “the firmest bond of the union and fellowship which he has deigned to form with us” (Institutes 4.15.6).
Third, in baptism, we are “reckoned among God’s children.” We are the “adopted” children of God, on the basis of our election and salvation by grace in Jesus Christ (Romans 8). As members of God’s covenant community, the church, we are baptized into the community as part of the household of God—including “children” (which we all are!). Baptism witnesses to the strongest, deepest bonds we know in life—our belonging to God, as God’s children, in Jesus Christ. This is the love with which God enfolds us (1 John 5:1) In baptism, the Spirit is “bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16, 17).
What came first in the spiral ever downward from high liturgical worship to concerts with a talk? Was it that people failed to respond to the liturgy or was it that we failed to explain to them how important it was?
So now we have to go to pretty serious extents to defend the last two sacraments standing. This stuff matters, and certainly the sacramental matters because Christ commanded us to do it.
I guess the question is really this - how can we expect faith to pull people up out of the muck and mire, if we keep altering to appeal to the lowest common denominator?
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