Friday, October 14, 2011

Sacrament or Ritual? A re-look at spiritual discipline

To be a disciple of Jesus infers discipline. It's the root of the word.
There have been many classics written about the spiritual disciplines of a disciple, probably the best known being Thomas A' Kempis's "Imitation of Christ." More recently Roger Foster's book, "Celebration of Discipline" has challenged many believers to walk in the ways of Jesus in areas like prayer, meditation and fasting.

Discipline is a good word. But it's a word which needs careful navigation, because it can so easily turn into legalistic ritual. That's the dance we have with discipleship. How do we call people, and respond ourselves, to Jesus call to imitate Him, without losing sight of Gospel of Grace? If Jesus' first call is to repent and believe the Gospel, how do we keep the Gospel central as we follow Him, rather than our own efforts? How do we walk in the finished work of the cross, when we are clearly still on a journey?

A wise man recently framed it like this for me. "Discipleship is learning to live up to who we already are because of the Gospel. It is not trying to attain to something.It is living up to what we have already obtained in Christ."
Subtle difference, you say? I say, significant difference. It's not trying to 'raise our game' as much as it is living up to the fact that Jesus has already 'raised our game'.

With that in mind, I want to introduce a helpful word. It is a controversial word, because it has 'high church' connotations, but it is a word worth redeeming. It is the word Sacrament. Meriam Webster's theological dictionary defines 'Sacrament' as a. "an outward sign of an inward reality", and b. a means of grace. The two recognized sacraments that make a church a church, are the Lord's Supper and Baptism.

We break bread not because we think a piece of cracker bread and a little sip of grape juice will save us, but because we are remembering and celebrating the
inner saving work of the body and blood of Jesus. It is an outward sacred sign of an inward reality. And through taking the sacraments, we somehow mysteriously are able to enjoy and experience that inward reality again and again. It is a means of grace.

It is the same with the sacrament of Baptism. We do not get baptized because we think it will cleanse us. But it is a sacred sign of the cleansing that has already taken place on the inside through the substitutionary death of Jesus. Plus, through the sacrament of Baptism, we celebrate Jesus' resurrection power over sin, and gain access to new life through His life.

My question though is this."Are these the only two sacraments that God gives us?"
I want to suggest that though they are more foundational to the church, the key to growing in discipline while staying in grace, is to live more sacramentally and less ritualistically.
More on this in my next blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment