Baptism & The Lord's Supper
In the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), we participate in two sacraments: Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Our Directory for Worship explains sacraments in this way:
"The Reformed tradition understands Baptism and the Lord's Supper to be Sacraments, instituted by God and commended by Christ. Sacraments are signs of the real presence and power of Christ in the Church, symbols of God's action. Through the Sacraments, God seals believers in redemption, renews their identity as the people of God, and marks them for service" (Book of Order, W-1.3033).
Baptism is the sign and seal of incorporation into Christ. In Baptism, we participate in Jesus' death and resurrection. In Baptism, we die to what seperates us from God and are raised to newness of life in Christ. Baptism points us back to the grace of God expressed in Jesus Christ, who died for us and who was raised for us. Baptism points us forward to that same Christ who will fulfill God's purpose in God's promised future.
"Baptism enacts and seals what the Word proclaims: God's redeeming grace offered to all people. Baptism is God's gift of grace and also God's summons to respond to that grace. Baptism calls to repentance, to faithfulness, and to discipleship. Baptism gives the church its identity and commissions the church for ministry to the world" (W-2.3006).
"Baptism is received only once. There are many times in worship, however, when believers acknowledge the grace of God continually at work. As they participate in the celebration of another's Baptism, as they experience the sustaining nurture of the Lord's Supper, and as they reaffirm the commitments made at Baptism, they confess their ongoing need of God's grace and pledge anew their obedience to God's covenant in Christ" (W-2.3009).
Baptism is the sign and symbol of inclusion in God's grace and covenant with the Church. As an identifying mark, Baptism signifies:
- the faithfulness of God,
- the washing away of sin,
- putting on the fresh garnent of Christ,
- being sealed by God's Spirit,
- adoption into the covenant family of the Church,
- resurrection and illumination in Christ.
Children and Baptism
Both believers and their children are included in God's covenant love. Children of believers are to be baptized without undue delay, but without undue haste. Baptism, whether administered to those who profess their faith or to those presented for Baptism as children, is one and the same Sacrament.
The Baptism of children witnesses to the truth that God's love claims people before they are able to respond in faith.
The Baptism of those who enter the covenant upon their own profession of faith witnesses to the truth that God's gift of grace calls for fulfillment in a response of faithfulness.
As there is one body, there is one Baptism. (Eph. 4:4-6) The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) recognizes all Baptisms with water in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit administered by other Christian churches.
The Lord's Supper
The Lord's Supper is also known as Communion and the Eucharist. For the people, it is a communion with Jesus Christ, a time of remembrance, thanksgiving, belonging, and celebration.
"The Lord's Supper is the sign and seal of eating and drinking in communion with the crucified and risen Lord. During his earthly ministry, Jesus shared meals with his followers as a sign of community and acceptance and as an occasion for his own ministry" (W-2.4001).
"The invitation to the Lord's Supper is extended to all who have been baptized, remembering that access to the Table is not a right conferred upon the worthy, but a privilege given to the undeserving who come in fath, repentance, and love. In preparing to receive Christ in this Sacrament, the believer is to confess sin and brokenness, to seek reconciliation with God and neighbor, and to trust in Jesus Christ for cleansing and renewal. Even one who doubts or whose trust is wavering may come to the Table in order to be assured of God's love and grace in Christ Jesus" (W-2.4011).
In his last meal before his death, Jesus took and shared with his disciples the bread and wine, speaking of them as his body and blood, signs of the new covenant. He commended breaking bread and sharing a cup to remember and proclaim his death.
On the day of his resurrection, the risen Jesus made himself known to his followers in the breaking of bread. He continues to show himself to believers, by blessing and breaking bread, by preparing, serving, and sharing common meals. (W-2.4001)
In this meal the Church celebrates the joyful feast of the people of God. Brought by the Holy Spirit into Christ's presence, the Church eagerly expects and prays for the day when Christ shall come in glory. Nourished by this hope, the Church rises from the Table and is sent by the power of the Holy Spirit to participate in God's mission to the world, to proclaim the gospel, to exercise compassion, to work for justice and peace until Christ's Kingdom shall come at last.
At Valley Community Presbyterian Church, we celebrate the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper on the first Sunday of each month during 10:00 worship. Children are welcome to join with the community and share in the Sacrament with us; they are brought back to the sanctuary with their Sunday School classes for the Lord's Supper. We take communion by intinction, where each person is invited to come forward, take a piece of bread, and dip it into a cup of grape juice, thus taking both elements together. Grape juice is also offered in small cups for those who prefer not to dip the bread. Those who are unable to come forward may be served in their pews.