Sacraments: Practicing Salvation

I. Sacraments: Instituted by Christ, Used By God, Practiced in Church
Sacraments narrate and continue "salvation-history" (cf. Deut. 26:1-11)
Augustine: Outward signs (Calvin: instruments/seals) of inward grace
Baptism, communion (plus confirmation, reconciliation, orders, marriage, unction?)
Sacraments show salvation is visible, physical, social, and ecclesial
How do sacraments work?
Catholics/Orthodox: Sacraments are necessary means of salvation
Lutherans: Sacraments gain real power from the Word in them
Calvinists: Sacraments are the signs of the new covenant
Zwinglians: Sacraments are mere symbols of God's work elsewhere
Are sacraments magical? No (Acts 8:18-24), but God has promised to work through them
 
II. Word versus Sacrament?
No! Both are physical means for God to act
Protestants and Catholics are polarized in the context of the Reformation
Causes of sacramental abuse: Missionary success, lay participation declines
Reformation: Full reform is frustrated
Zwingli: Not "sacraments," but "ordinances" (mere commands/memorials)
Twentieth century renewal
 
III. Baptism: Sign of Salvation
Jesus transforms John's baptism for remission of sins
Our baptisms participate in Jesus' baptism (Acts 2, after Luke 3; Mark 10:38)
Baptism begins Christian life, in the Church (Rom. 6:1-11, 1 Pet. 3:18-21)
We are accepted by the Father, buried/raised with Christ, empowered by the Spirit
(Acts 2:38, Gal. 3:23-4:7, Matt. 28:20)
Issue: Why do (or don't) Christians baptize infants?
Catholics: God uses it to allow children into God's community
Lutherans: It proclaims God's justification (and children have faith)
Calvinists: It's the circumcision of the new covenant
Radicals: Baptism belongs with repentance
Issue: Does baptism bring salvation, or commemorate it?
A guiding analogy: Marriage (cf. Eph. 5:21-33)
 
IV. Communion: Life Together
Jesus transforms the Passover (1 Cor. 5:7, Luke 22:15, John 6)
Communion celebrates the past
1. We participate in the exodus (Ex. 12:1-36, Luke 9:31, John 6)
2. We participate in the Last Supper (1 Cor. 11:23)
3. We proclaim the good news of Jesus' death for us (1 Cor. 11:26)
Communion anticipates the future
1. It's a foretaste of the wedding banquet (Mark 14:25, Luke 22:16, Rev. 19:7)
2. It builds up the eschatological Church (John 6, 1 Cor. 12:12-13)
Communion members the present-day Church
1. Worship climaxes (Acts 2:42, 1 Cor. 11:20)
2. It symbolizes Christ (1 Cor. 11:29-30, John 6:53-56; cf. flag, ring, Bible)
Issue: Is Christ present, absent, or both?
Catholics: The elements become Christ's body (transubstantiation)
Lutherans: Christ is "in, with, under" the elements (consubstantiation)
Calvinists: Christ is present through the Holy Spirit
Zwinglians: Christ is absent; communion is simply a memorial
Radicals: Christ is in the food shared (1 Cor. 10:16-18)
3. The saints enjoy fellowship (1 Cor. 10:16-18, 1 Cor. 12:12-13)
4. The Holy Spirit comes (epiclesis)
V. Conclusion: Life in the Trinity
Word and sacraments are versatile and adapt to the Church's changing needs
They confer/reflect the Church's unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity
They mediate "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit" (2 Cor. 13:14)
They bring the Triune God into the center of our Christian life
Are Jesus' priorities our priorities?