Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Means of Grace

Today I was at a women's Bible study on Gideon.  Priscilla Shirer made a comment about how prone we humans are to look for the tangible, to give credit to something we can see and feel and taste and touch instead of glory to the invisible God.

And what came to mind for me were the sacraments of Baptism and Communion, what Lutherans call "means of grace."  The simple water, the simple bread, the simple wine.  Water that washes, bread that nourishes, wine that invigorates.

God understands us, and God has compassion for us.  Knowing we have a weakness for the tangible, how kind He was to provide tangible ways for us to understand and receive His grace.

Some Christians understand the water, bread and wine as strictly symbolic, while others are open to a more layered understanding with room for mystery.

Regardless, I think the point of God's mercy in allowing us these tangible rituals is valid no matter where one falls on the symbolic-only to full-transubstantiation spectrum.

Reflecting this way also led me to consider the role of baptism and communion in my family's life.

My husband and I were both baptized as infants (sprinkling) and were confirmed in our faith as young teens and then eventually chose to be rebaptized  as adults (me in a swimming pool, he in the ocean)to claim our faith as our own.

We decided together to present our daughter to the church in a baby dedication ceremony rather than baptize her, expecting that when she made her own decision for Christ she could choose to be baptized to mark that occasion.

Between her birth and the birth of our son, we moved 200 miles and changed churches.  Our current church (the one my husband grew up attending) does infant baptism.  We haven't had him baptized and we haven't pursued a dedication, and now that he is 13 months old it feels a little late for that route.

I guess we could just wait until he makes his own decision to be baptized, or we could decide that both children should be baptized as soon as possible, or something in between.  It hasn't felt like a pressing issue until a few months ago.

A few months ago, my now 4 year old daughter out of the blue mentioned wanting to be baptized "like her cousin."  (We had attended the service where her 8 year old cousin had been baptized by immersion a few months previous to this).  I asked her some open ended questions to determine her level of understanding, and was positive and encouraging, but because I didn't feel certain that she really understood what baptism meant versus as just wanting to be like her cousin, I didn't pursue it.

In terms of communion, it's an issue for me because of my sensitivity to gluten.  I've had to skip the bread part and it doesn't feel complete to me.  I know there are solutions like bringing my own bread or asking the church for accommodation but it hasn't been something I've managed to address yet.

So no conclusions yet, just thinking out loud....


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