Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Come Share the Lord

The following comes from our church newsletter as we seek to live more faithfully the Sacramental Life

After many years of theological ambiguity, The United Methodist Church has offered significant, defining statements about the essential tie between the Divine and the Church expressed through the Holy Sacraments.

The reasons for s
uch ambiguity are complex, and part of parcel of what happens to a religious movement whose numeric growth is more valuable than the theological compass headings driving it. There's plenty written on the whys of rebaptism or the profound lack of zeal for the Eucharist. The long and the short of it is, however, that we didn't count understanding the nature of our relationship with God through Jesus as continual and necessary to our own spiritual health, and, that God, who provides all things, has also provided manifest expressions of Self-giving to nurture and sustain that relationship.

The ship began to turn several years ago with the denomination's study on baptism, called By Water and the Spirit - A United Methodist Understanding of Baptism. As a landmark document, the church stated that baptism is that claiming of the individual as God's son or daughter. It is God who initiates this claim. It is dependent on how you feel about it, or, that you are cognitively aware of it. So, if you are 9 days old or 90 years old, the issue is what God has done and is doing in naming you one of God's own. And, it is a one time thing. You don't redo what God has already done. However, we are now understanding that while God claims us once, we need to remember that promise, and our own promises to God, perpetually. So, the service celebrating the renewal of the baptismal covenant has become an essential part of United Methodist liturgy.

At the General Conference in 2004, the denomination approached Holy Communion, the Eucharist - and adopted a position called This Holy Mystery - A United Methodist Understanding of Holy Communion, taken from the Eucharistic prayer we share every time we commune. As a comprehensive statement for this time in the Church's life, this document gives long overdue instruction and interpretation for how we have understood The Lord's Supper, and why we have been so inconsistent in it's observance. The call for the Church, even the mandate of the Church, is to call all United Methodists into a more constant observance of the sacrament, for in our celebration of it, we are drawn closer to Christ, to each other, and to the call of God through Christ upon the Church to heal a broken world.

For now, what I would want you to know is simply this - this document is not some new rebellious attempt to sway us from the way we've always done things and turn us into Catholic wannabees (as if that's a bad thing). In fact, this new position of the Church is really trying to get us back to the way we always did it. Mr. Wesley believed strongly in the command of God to commune "constantly." The first Methodists in America were under orders to observe The Lord's Supper on every Lord's day.

As it was with baptism getting steered by the prevailing winds of other agendas, so, too, did the observance of the Church with Holy Communion. It is a complex story, but one that it is time to redeem.

And so, with this, and under the instruction of the general Church, we will launch into a more frequent observance of Holy Sacrament. This Sunday is World Communion Sunday, and there's hardly a better time to think of what is at the core of this holy meal than this. There following, we will observe Eucharist on the first and third Sundays of the month, as well as the high days of the church as they occur in the Christian calendar.

Over the next year, I will be teaching, in many different contexts, the United Methodist understanding of both Baptism and Eucharist. I hope you will engage in study with me and with one another to discover that it is through these acts of God's self giving that our mission as disciples of Jesus becomes clearer, thus, equipping us to fulfill that to which we've been called.

The newfound claim of a Sacramental ethos, is, I believe, at the core of our renewal as disciples and as a Church to claim the world as our parish.

For further study, I recommend the following resources linked below:

This Holy Mystery: A United Methodist Understanding of Holy Communion
The Duty of Constant Communion," Sermon 101, John Wesley
By Water and the Spirit: A United Methodist Understanding of Baptism

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