Posted by: Jim Black | September 14, 2008

cookies & coke for communion…. and flag-burning?

Okay, I am sure that the word has already gotten out… they’re talking about cookies and coca cola for communion over at Washington Street.  AND the preacher’s a flag-burner!  Maybe I’m being paranoid, but I just know how rumors get out.  Well, this one actually has some truth to it…

One of the things I hear about baptism from some of our religious friends is that baptism is “just a symbol”… that it is an “outward sign of an inward grace.”  I agree with them up to a point.  The outward act of baptism is meaningless unless it includes a genuine penitent heart.  What God cares about is the surrender of our hearts to him, not just our bodies to the water.  And yet… I don’t think that negates the importance and even the necessity of that visual, symbolic act of baptism.  The truth is that symbols mean something.  Take for example our nation’s flag, as I did this morning.  It isn’t particularly creative in design.  the material is like hundreds of other fabrics and it isn’t that expensive to purchase one.  it is “just a symbol.”  So, what would cause men and women to give their lives to protect it?  What would prompt Francis Scott Key to write his ode to it which would become our national anthem?  What would happen if I lit it on fire before our church this morning?  I got out a match and acted like I might just to get a reaction.  One gentleman told me afterwards that he would have thrown ME in the baptistry if I had done it… and I wouldn’t be coming up!  Yikes! 

What about the Lord’s Supper?  We know, don’t we, that the bread and the fruit of the vine (i.e. Welch’s) are “just symbols”.  They aren’t ACTUALLY the body and blood of Jesus.  They only symbolically represent the body and blood.  So, what if I substituted cookies and coke next week?  Maybe the point is overstated, but I think you get it… I hope everyone did at church this morning.  Symbols mean something!  We wouldn’t desecrate the symbol of the flag and we wouldn’t substitute the symbols of the Lord’s Supper.

Why, then, do some want to do that with baptism?  Replacing the mode of baptism with sprinkling or pouring for convenience sake misses the whole point.  The visual symbol of the water burial is important.  It publicly proclaims the gospel (the death, burial & resurrection of Jesus) AND it publicly proclaims our own death to sin, desire to leave it behind and resurrection to new life.  A powerful symbol, indeed.


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