Symbols? Sacraments? Signs?

Symbols?  Sacraments?  Signs?

Short answers to big questions: What are Symbols, Sacred Actions and Sacraments?  What is the significance of Baptism?  Why do some churches baptize infants?  What is the significance of Communion?  What is Sacred Time?  What are the advantages of observing the Christian Year?

What are Symbols, Sacred Actions and Sacraments?

-How do symbols and symbolic actions help a worshiper?

-They are the physical side of being spiritual.

-They give concrete expression to an invisible reality.

-They are entities that help people incarnate their faith.

-What are rituals, signs and symbols

-Ritual = Symbolic activity in which people engage when they worship.

-Sign = Points to, or indicates, the existence of something not immediately apparent (sign of the fish or dove).

-Symbol = Resembles and participates in what it represents (Cross; bread and cup)

-What is a sacrament?

-Originally referred to the mystery of Christ’s sacred actions.

-A “sign whereby God effects in people the promise that God signs and seals to us with that sign.” (Calvin)

-Baptism and Communion are commonly referred to as sacraments.

-What is the difference between a sacrament, and sacramental?

-Sacramental = Symbolic actions that represent and suggest.

-Sacrament = Actions in which God has attached a promise to dispense grace.

-Sacramental actions signify the work; Sacraments do the work.

-Orthodox Christianity accepts both understandings.

What is Baptism?

From baptizein, meaning to submerge a cloth into dye in order to change its color

-A symbolic use of water, applied to a believer.

-Did not originate with Christianity, but was modified from Jewish and pagan worship.

-What do the various modes of Baptism represent?

-Immersion – historically represented either birth, burial or bath.

-Affusion (pouring) – representing the pouring out of the Spirit.

-Sprinkling – representing the sprinkling of the blood of Christ

-What is the significance of Baptism?

-It is the expected sign of a person’s repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

-Historically, it was a necessary step for initiation into the Church.

-Baptism was a prerequisite to participating in Communion.

-Why do some churches baptize infants?

-It was an accepted practice of the early Church.

-It emphasizes God’s prevenient grace, rather than human response.

-Covenant theology views the practice as a continuation of the Circumcision rite.

What is Communion?

-A communal, covenant meal that remembers and rehearses the story of Christ.

-Elements include broken bread, signifying the broken body of Christ, and wine, signifying the spilled blood of Christ.

-Biblical terms include: Communion; Breaking Bread; Eucharist (thanks); Lord’s Supper.

-What is the significance of Communion?
Depending on one’s views, it:

-Signifies and rehearses the death, resurrection and return of Christ.

-Is an event at which Christ has promised to be present.

-Is the actual body and blood of Christ; a feeding on Christ.

What is Sacred Time?

-What is the principle of Sacred Time?

-Reclaiming the calendar as a tool to remember and celebrate God’s story.

-An acknowledgement time is both cyclical (Eccl 3) and linear (Dan 9:24-27).

-Neither Biblical, nor unbiblical; it comes from Church tradition as tool for spiritual formation.

-What are the demarcations of Sacred Time?

-The Day: various times of prayer, known as the Daily Office.

-The Week: centering on Sunday, celebrating the resurrection.

-The Year: three cycles.

-What are the three Cycles of the Christian Year?

-The Cycle of Light = Advent/Christmas

-The Cycle of Life = Lent/Resurrection/Ascension/Pentecost

-Ordinary time = the time between the other Cycles.

-What are the advantages of observing the Christian Year?

-It shapes the worshiper by assimilating the pattern of dying to sin and living to Christ.

-It shapes corporate worship through tangible, theological observations of Christ’s story.

-It connects the world-wide Body of Christ, all living the rhythm of remembrance and anticipation.

2 Responses to “Symbols? Sacraments? Signs?”

  1. Thankful you did not remain silent … God’s word reigns!

  2. Alfred Orudiana says:

    Thank you for the insights. God is never silent. He speaks even in signs and symbols and throught people like you.

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