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D.I.S.C.I.P.L.E. S is for Sacramental

October 6, 2013

D.I.S.C.I.P.L.E.

S is for Sacraments

1 Cor. 11:17-34

 

Intro:  In discerning what makes a disciple we have noted that:  D = Disciples are devoted, I = Disciples are imitators of God.  This week I would like to propose that with the letter S we will find that Disciples are Sacramental.  This fits in nicely with the fact that it is World Communion Sunday when disciples around the globe are celebrating The Lord’s Supper together.  That and Baptism are the two sacraments we, as Reformed Christians, hold onto.

 

It seemed good to use as our passage this morning the words Paul wrote to the church at Corinth.  READ 1 Cor. 11:17-34

 

Obviously there were some problems in the church at Corinth.  The disciples were not acting like disciples.  They were having a hard time leaving their pagan past behind and embracing a holy life, pleasing to God.  In his patience, Paul is instructing them on how to come to the table.  The bottom line is that they were not taking the Lord’s Supper seriously.  There was no reverence.  There was no awe and thanksgiving for what God had done for them.  There was no significance in how they were called together as the family of God to observe and remember.  Paul had to re-teach. Perhaps that is my aim this morning as well.  But I will say, I don’t think we are rowdy as the Corinthian church!!

 

The Sacraments are important because they are “pledges and seals of the grace of God”, according to the French Confession which goes on to say:

. . . by this means aid and comfort our faith, because of the infirmity which is in us, and that they are outward signs through which God operates by his Spirit, so that he may not signify any thing to us in vain.  Yet we hold that their substance and truth is in Jesus Christ, and that of themselves they are only smoke and shadow.

They are meant to aid and comfort our faith.  They are outward expressions of the Spirit of God working in our lives.  When we observe either Baptism or Communion it is meaningful only to those in whom the Spirit of God is at work.  Only through the Spirit do we connect with truth of what God has done for us and are truly reminded of these things in the elements.

 

The Sacraments are important because we were dead in our sins and in need of redeeming.

How many of you grew up in the church?  How many of you never quit being involved with the church?  How many of you may have taken a little walk on the wild side and then come back to church?  How many of you didn’t come to Jesus and his church until later in life?

 

In each of those situations there is cause to be grateful to God and to be humbled by the grace shown you as you come here to worship today.  You see, whether you grew up in the church and have always been here, or left and returned or are just coming now, you were still once a sinner who either accepted Christ and are now God’s child or you are a sinner waiting for that time when you receive God’s grace and are redeemed.  Acknowledging that transformation, being aware of the debt that was paid for you, that is what makes the sacraments significant.

 

Baptism is a pledge of our adoption as God’s sons and daughters.  In this sacrament we acknowledge God saying to us, “I choose you.  I will be your Father and you will be my child.”  This is great news!  Because without God as our Father, we are doomed to life without him.  And without God as our Father we are left as orphans in this world without hope, without a future, without love.  Let me illustrate with two adoption stories I’ve watched over the past several years.

Robert and Debbie Cook began a relationship with Dusty through Big Brothers.  They chose to love him and he loved them back.  After time spent it became clear that Dusty needed more than occasional parenting and he needed a new home.  They sought to adopt him.  And they did!  I had the blessing of attending the event that made it official.  There were not many dry eyes in the courthouse that day.  Last week I watched Dusty outpace all the other Junior High boys at the cross country meet in Towanda.  I was standing next to Robert and being wowed when he proudly said, “Yep. He takes after his Dad!” Debbie laughed because obviously she is the runner in that family.  But you see, Dusty has neither of their genes, but is accepted as their own and Dusty receives their love and all they have to offer and has been transformed by their love. Dusty is in 7th grade this year and comes to youth group at Barry’s church.  He is a delight.

 

I will tell you another story of adoption.  Elle had a troubled and dangerous childhood.  Beth, a single woman, was asked if she would consider adopting her and after some time, when Elle was around 8, decided she would.  Elle had learned a lot of hard things growing up and they were hard to break free of.  Elementary school was hard but was a walk in the park compared to high school.

Elle came to youth group and was incredibly disruptive and on two occasions was asked to leave. Beth took Elle to counseling, gave her incredible opportunities, spent thousands of dollars trying to meet her needs.  But Elle was bent on another kind of life, she ditched school, stole money, chose to be transsexual, couldn’t keep a job, couldn’t keep up with college.  At 22 she has a part time job at Subway, has wrecked the two cars she had, and Beth has had to tell her, you can’t live here anymore.  Tomorrow, Beth is having part of her lung removed due to cancer.  As she has battled this disease, Elle has just kept asking for more.  Elle rejected all the love and provision that was made for her through adoption.  She went through the process but was never transformed by it.

 

I would wager that most everyone here has been adopted.  Do you realize the gift you’ve been given?  Have you embraced your status as “Child of God” or squandered it?  When we witness baptism it is a time to recall our own adoption and to be grateful that we were saved from what we might have been.  If it means nothing to us, we need to reexamine where we are in our spiritual life.

 

The Sacraments are important because Jesus died for us and enables us to be holy.

Our adoption is only possible because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  When was the last time you were aware of being grateful that Jesus died for you?  When was the last time you faced the truth that without Christ you would be truly lost in sin and separated from God?

 

I would propose that if coming to the communion table has become old hat, it has more to do with where you are in your relationship with Christ than in the sacrament itself and how often we observe it as a church family.

 

At this table we are reminded of Christ’s body being broken and beaten and his blood shed.  For what purpose?  To seal our adoption, to make us right with God, to forgive our sins.  We come to this table with brothers and sisters around the globe to bear testimony that we have Christ in common and that we all acknowledge that we are lost sinners who have been found.

 

Do you understand that without the sacrifice of Christ, none of us could stand before God?  When God looked at us he would see our sin and our faults and would not be able to stand us?  But because the blood of Christ has been spilled for us and covers us, he can accept us as his adopted children and embrace us as his own.  This table stands to tell us that story over and over again:  To remind us of our brokenness and our need;  To remind us of our redemption.

 

Concl.  A disciple is sacramental.  Baptism and The Lord’s Supper are the outward seals and signs of what God has done for us and in us.  They call for our thoughtfulness and our gratitude.  They call for our mindfulness.  They call us to remember what we were or might have been without the grace of God active in our lives.  This is what John Newton realized when he penned, “Amazing grace . . . (sing)