Every week in the church newsletter, Fr. Rob shares a small theological musing to help form our faith and remind us of what we believe as Episcopalians. This is a compilation of those reflections.
The Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, Holy Communion, is the Sacrament by which Jesus Christ continues to be present with us. We believe that the consecrated bread and wine truly are the Body and Blood of Christ- but we Anglicans are not so concerned about how that happens. We are content to celebrate the mystery of this work of the Holy Spirit.
The ancient Church taught that Holy Communion is the Medicine of Immortality: as we feed on Christ, we receive the forgiveness of sins, find peace and healing, and are made more and more to be the Body of Christ in the world.
The Sacrament of Holy Communion assumes a person is baptized (that is that they have already been joined to Christ in the sacrament of new birth), but we celebrate an open table at St. Martin’s- which means that anyone who feels drawn to the love and grace offered by God in this Sacrament, are welcomed to receive it.
In the Episcopal Church, the foundational sacrament is Baptism- the sacrament of new birth. The outward sign of baptism is water, which is blessed and poured over our heads (unless we are immersed in it) with the words commanded by Jesus to use: “I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The inward grace is cleansing and the forgiveness of sins. In this sacrament, we die to sin and are raised to new life in the resurrected life of Jesus Christ.
Both the Scriptures and the Book of Common Prayer presuppose that the normative candidate for baptism is an adult. In the Scriptures, most people were baptized after having heard the Good News of God’s saving grace in Jesus Christ, and after having decided to join the Way of Love, although entire families were baptized together in the earliest days of the Church when the head of the house had been converted. After Christianity became the dominant religion in the West, the church continued to baptize babies of Christian parents, and the need to baptize adults diminished. Parents and godparents were given the responsibility of nurturing the grace given to their children at baptism and teaching them to live the Christian life.
In our post-Christian society, it is increasingly common for adults who were not raised in the Church to desire baptism as a way of making a covenant with God, and as a sign of the faith in Christ that they have discovered in adulthood. Regardless of when one is baptized, baptism is a sign of God’s love for us and a reminder that it is only through God’s compassion and mercy that we are able to receive the forgiveness of sins and to follow Jesus in the Way of Love.