There is an issue within current expressions of church to not have a constructed memory with enough power to inform our individual local stoies and to help indiviudals to find their place within God’s story. We have long-term memory loss. We can put together a few memories of our favorite times in church, but is that enough to empower faithfulness?
One way the Church has rehearsed the story is through Sacraments, or physical acts that communicate matchless grace to us.
Though the Eastern and Roman Catholic churches have 7 sacraments, the Protestant world has 2: Baptism and Holy Communion. A peculiar thing happens when we scan the ideas that the NT writers had when they commented on these two observances.
Holy Communion is mentioned at length from Paul in 1 Corinthians 11, including a “whoever” and a “whatever”. Here is how Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians 11:25:
“For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
Notice all three time zones mentioned in the act of communion:
The Lord’s death- Past tense
He comes-Future tense
In the same way, Baptism creates this collision of time zones. Notice what Paul says in Romans 6:3-4:
“Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him thorugh baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead, through the glory of hte Father, we too may live a new life.”
Jesus burial and resurrection- Past tense
Our Baptism- Present
Our Future resurrection applied now- Future tense
In each of these sacramental rites, all of time collapses together and we commune with God in a redemptive time warp. For a brief moment, if we care to look, we experience time on God’s terms, no past, present, or future.
Churches that don’t share communion together, that don’t take the time to soak in the meaning of baptism, miss the time warp. Communion and Baptism simply become another “churchy” thing we do, or rush through, so seekers won’t be bothered by ritual.
Next time you see a Baptism or observe Communion at your local congregation, take a look around. For you might be standing on holy ground, and might come to know that there are angels all around.