Sermon Notes 1.12.20

1-12-20                             Sermon Notes   “Connecting With God Through The Sacraments”

When you come to worship this Sunday, you are going to notice something that looks a little strange, and yet really fun (No, not Pastor Andy…heeheehee)…  You are going to see a giant Connect Four Game.  You remember that game?  Each person chooses a colored round tile (like checkers) and you drop your colored tile down into a slot and try to “connect four” – either vertically, horizontally, or diagonally.  Your opponent will be trying to “block” you, while at the same time trying to connect four him or herself.

Doesn’t that sound like fun?  OK – besides being fun – the giant Connect Four game will be there as a visual reminder of connection.  Our theme for all of 2020 will be #Connect2020.  We will be focusing on connecting with God and connecting with others.  For the month of January, the theme is Connect Four:  Four Ways to Connect With God.  

Last Sunday we started with connecting with God through prayer.  Prayer is going to be a “thread” that runs throughout the year for us…we will always be praying, talking about prayer, and encouraging different kinds of prayer…  Prayer is essential…it is primary!  It’s the number one way we connect with God!
This week is the traditional week in the Christian Year that we talk about the baptism of Jesus.  It will also be the week we celebrate Holy Communion.  So… I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to talk about connecting with God through the sacraments.
A sacrament is defined as 1a : a Christian rite (such as baptism or the Eucharist) that is believed to have been ordained by Christ and that is held to be a means of divine grace or to be a sign or symbol of a spiritual reality. b : a religious rite or observance comparable to a Christian sacrament.  (Merriam Webster Dictionary)

That’s the dictionary…  I would just define a sacrament as an “outward sign of an inward grace.”  Something “visible” – like water in the case of baptism, or bread and cup in the case of the Eucharist – that reminds us of something “invisible” that God is doing in someone’s life through grace.

In the United Methodist Church we have two sacraments:  baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  Why these two?  Well, we believe that Jesus, through his example and his teaching, instituted them as means of grace (as special ways that God connects to us by grace).
Here are a couple of places you find these in Scripture:

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”  (Matt. 3: 13-17  NRSV)

23 For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.  (1 Cor. 11: 23-26  NRSV)

Are these two things (baptism and the Lord’s Supper) rituals?  Sure.  Are they “rites?”  Yes.  But they are more than that.  In participating in these sacraments there is a connection…but it is God who connects with us in the sacraments.  We participate, but God takes the initiative.  It’s God’s grace.  We don’t earn it by doing a good job administering these sacraments or receiving them.
Connecting with God through the sacraments is really…a mystery.  We can’t fully explain what’s going on…and that’s OK.  We even express the “mystery” in our Communion Liturgy.  In the prayer following the giving of the bread and cup, the pastor prays:

Eternal God, we give you thanks for this holy mystery in which you have given yourself to us.  Grant that we may go into the world in the strength of your Spirit, to give ourselves for others, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Somehow – God moves to connect with us in the sacraments.  It’s very real, and it is life-giving and life-changing.

Come celebrate this with us Sunday!
Pastor Sam

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