Communion & Baptism

What we believe about the Lord’s Supper

The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament of continuous growth, nourishment and new life. In our Reformed tradition participation in this sacrament should follow the sacrament of baptism. Just as humans need food and drink for nurture and sustenance, Calvin wrote that the Holy Meal is God’s way of providing for our maintenance during the whole course of our lives after we have been received into God’s family. Both sacraments provide a visible, in fact a graphic, way of presenting God’s promises.

Through the sacraments God seals believers in redemption, God renews our identity as God marks us for service. But participation is a corporate act rather than an act between an individual and God. Infants and children are baptized by the church and nurtured in the faith so that they can participate with the church

in the sacrament of Holy Communion. Out of this belief congregations continue Christ’s extension of open arms to children and welcome those growing in the faith.

We believe that the sacrament of the Lord’s Table presupposes, deepens and assists personal faith. We cannot wait until we think we are appropriately worthy for such a divine encounter. In presenting ourselves and offering God our imperfections, our weaknesses, even our sinfulness, God may make us worthy. Our worthiness is found in putting our trust in God and, in faith, relying upon God’s mercy. The act of eating and

drinking with Jesus has been called by a number of names: Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, the Breaking of Bread. Each of these points to a particular meaning.

On the day of his resurrection, the risen Jesus made himself known to his followers in the breaking of bread. He continued to show himself to believers by preparing, serving and sharing meals. This act continued among the followers of Jesus and the breaking and sharing of bread became a sacred act of remembrance, making present God’s gracious act in Jesus the Christ in the special moment of remembering. The term

Communion is derived from the practice of early Christians. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth: “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a koinonia in the blood of Christ?” ( 1 Corinthians 10:16). The Greek word koinonia is translated “communion” in the King James Version and “sharing” in the New Revised Standard Version. It is also translated “fellowship” or “partnership,” referring to a common sharing or a sense of communion with Christ and with one another. Communion is understood as a common participation in a divine Christian life that a person lives in Christ because it is initiated by Christ. Calvin contends that such a union is ultimately a mystery too great to explain.

Presbyterians believe that the Word of God should be read, proclaimed and enacted in the Lord’s Supper as an integral part of worship. The relationship of Word and sacrament can be understood in the context of the Emmaus Road narrative (Luke 24:13ff). While there are various interpretations of this account, it has long been recognized that the “breaking of bread” is a reference to the Lord’s Supper.

The Directory for Worship in the Presbyterian Book of Order encourages the “appropriateness” of frequent celebrations of the Lord’s Supper. A few congregations have begun celebrations of the sacrament as often as each Lord’s Day and on other occasions of special significance in the life of the Christian community. But frequency alone is not the basic issue. Some believe we need to restore the Biblical pattern of the Lord’s Supper on each Lord’s Day to provide a disciplined reminder of a divine act that will help centralize and “re-focus” the rhythm of our daily lives.

Accepting the invitation to come to the Lord’s Feast demands that we actively seek reconciliation in every instance of conflict or division between ourselves and our neighbors. To say we “trust in God . . . who feeds us . . . ” means we have faith in the Word of God–faith in the Word who became flesh, lived among us, and provided the model for our actions. We are invited to the Table to be nurtured for Christ-like living. We are called to commit ourselves anew to love and serve God and one another.

When communion is served 1st- 3rd grade are encouraged to stay in worship to participate.

Baptism

Regardless of our divergences on other issues, Presbyterians can certainly agree that baptism is all about grace. If we know anything that is distinctively Presbyterian, we know that God’s grace extended to us in Jesus Christ is prior to and calls forth our own response of faith. We know our relationship with God depends primarily on what God has done and only secondarily on what we may or may not do. As Presbyterians practice it, baptism is a powerful sacramental enactment of this truth. And because God’s gracious call precedes and evokes the human response of faith, it is normal for Christian parents who are active church members to present their children for baptism as infants or very young children. That is why Presbyterians practice infant baptism and offer a time for personal commitment at confirmation. However, the Presbyterian church welcomes baptism to believers of all ages and affirms baptism by sprinkling or full immersion.

When Presbyterians speak of baptism as a covenant, we emphasize the multiple commitments involved. First and most basic, there is God’s commitment to us. Then there are the commitments the community of faith makes to us. Finally, and no less important, are the commitments we make to God, to our children, and to the church.  Practically speaking, the point is that Christ has stood in our place, fulfilling all the divine conditions for our salvation, wholeness and future hope. Nothing we do or fail to do can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38).

The Biblical understanding of baptism underlines and profoundly reinforces its corporate and communal nature. Chapter 12 of First Corinthians emphasizes that together Christians constitute the Body of Christ and are individually members of it. In this same context, the apostle Paul can say, “In the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body . . . and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (12:13). Baptism implies active membership in Christ’s Body: the community of faith.  Baptism calls us to the kind of mutual caring and sharing that characterized the early Christians, and that made others say about them, “See how they love one another!”

For more information about baptism or the Lord’s Supper, you are welcome to speak with our pastor.