Monday, September 03, 2018

The Significance of Sacraments

I've been doing lots of reading in preparation for preaching a series at CCC on the subject of sacraments.  You can get the first sermon of three here, which is sort of introductory; the other two will deal with Baptism and Holy Communion in more detail.

I've had quite a few thoughts, but one that I keep coming back to is that I suspect we often ask the wrong questions about sacraments.  A key question we tend to ask is 'how does it work?' - how does baptism work?  How does the Supper work?  That tends to reduce the sacraments to mechanisms.  Or, perhaps to avoid the sacrament-as-mechanism, we insist that the sacrament doesn't work - it doesn't do anything, it is merely an illustration of the gospel.  It doesn't add anything to the sermon except a bit of a visual reminder for those of you who appreciate that sort of thing.

I wonder if a better question might be 'what does it mean?'  What does it mean for the whole of creation that the Son of God entered into the cosmos and took on flesh?  What does it mean for this bread and wine that the minister will speak over it the words which the Son of God himself spoke, in space and time, over similar bread and wine?  What does it mean that we together will eat that bread and drink that wine?  What does it mean for our ordinary meals that they occur in proximity to this holy meal?  What does it mean for the ordinary stuff of our existence that this particular stuff has been set apart by God's promise and command to be more than 'just stuff'?  Can anything be 'just stuff' anymore?

For me, at least, that has been a much more fruitful line of enquiry, and in particular has led to wonder and worship at the sacraments and by implication the presence and power of Christ in creation.  And that seems like a good thing.


  1. I've just finished Todd Billings' 'Remembrance, Communion and Hope'; there's so much more to celebrate and be nourished by.

    1. Not come across that one - but it looks good! Sadly won't be able to read it before my sermon on Holy Communion this Sunday...