People of the Spirit, worshiping Jesus in all places, at all times

Archive for the ‘Sacraments’ Category

Baptismal Reflections

My little sister was baptized on Sunday. A child who has been anointed since before she could form full sentences was united with Christ and joined to the Church in the waters of Baptism. After the service, I had the distinct joy of anointing the sign of the cross with chrism on her forehead and praying the ancient prayer: “Receive the sign of the Cross as a token of your new life in Christ, in which you shall not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, to fight bravely under his banner against the world, the flesh, and the devil, and to continue as his faithful servant to the end of your days. Amen.” The chrism oil smells of incense, which received multiple comments. One exchange in particular stands out– at lunch, my dad said she smelled good. Her response was “Yeah. The aroma of Christ is strong.”

It really is. We don’t think about it, but we ought to consider the impact of the sacraments on us in the world–and in relationship to the spiritual forces in the world. For those who receive the increase of grace through Baptism, or the sustaining grace of the Bread and Cup at Communion, do we imagine that those have no impact on our relationship to the rest of creation? The aroma of Christ is strong–and we are commissioned and empowered as His presence in the world, the signs of His Kingdom. Surely, the Holy Spirit at work in the sacraments, is making that presence felt and known and announced to the powers of the world.

Another joy of that day was the sermon by my family’s pastor. He preached from the book of Acts of the ministries of Stephen and Philip, which were ministries in the power of the Holy Spirit–where the witness of martyrdom and baptism were fully present. He made a point, however, that in the early Church–and among Muslims coming to faith in Jesus now–salvation and Baptism were inseparably linked. Specifically, he pointed out that people did not regard themselves as having become part of Christ and the Church apart from Baptism. He’s right–that’s the history, and that’s the experience of our brothers and sisters who are coming to faith out of Islam or Druze or Yazidi religions. Of course God’s grace is greater than the sacrament itself, and can work in its despite, but for us as Christians to embrace and teach the ordinary working of the sacraments: that God is doing some powerful and gracious, life-transforming work through Baptism should be the heart and soul of our Pentecostal preaching and call to discipleship. Jesus is here.The Spirit is here. The Father is here. And by grace, so are we.


Jesus Died for Your Body

So American evangelicalism and its caricatures have a huge emphasis on the salvation of the human soul. It’s not without reason. The soul, is, after all, in bondage to sin and unable to free itself. But there’s an on-going problem with contemporary gnosticism in American Christian theology when the soul (or mind/heart, or spirit) is elevated above the body. Whether it’s in preaching, teaching, Bible studies, or prioritizing day-to-day values, the message is clear: “That’s just the body. What really matters is your soul.” Friends, that’s a lie from the pit of hell. The story of Jesus–which becomes our story as the Spirit gives it to us in baptism–from when the Word took on flesh (John 1:14-16) to the return for which we so eagerly long for is a great rescue for our bodies. (more…)

Jesus is There: Pentecostals and the Sacraments: Part 5

Alright, so I’ve been sitting on this footwashing thing for awhile. Why? Because it’s not an easy question. Even though a number of small Baptist groups, Brethren churches, and a number of the Pentecostal churches observe Footwashing as the third ordinance or sacrament, the reality is that through much of Church history, it has not been regarded as a one by most of the Church. It’s never gone out of practice, however, and many liturgical traditions observe footwashing in some way on Maundy Thursday or, as in the early centuries of Christian practice, at baptism. So what’s someone who is both Pentecostal and Anglican to do?

The Gospel of John’s an interesting take because, unlike the other Gospels, John does not record for us the institution of the Lord’s Supper. He has the most content of what Jesus said at the supper of all the Gospels, but he doesn’t give the command about the Eucharist. But he does provide the only account of the Lord washing the feet of the disciples. The question is, does John give us this story instead of the institution of the Lord’s Supper?

People far wiser and educated and more thoughtful than I have given that question a lot of consideration and I’m not sure that there’s any clear consensus (feel free to correct me, scholars). Some will cite Tertullian, or Augustine, or early synods that seem to assume the practice. But everyone has to tangle with the fact that no binding “formularies” (creeds, councils, confessions, articles of religion) hold footwashing as one of the sacraments of the Church. Some Brethren scholars make a compelling case to see it as sacrament, however.

But I don’t want this to be a scholarly argument. I don’t know the answer to the question. I know I want footwashing to be a sacrament practiced in the Church. I also want to not cause those kind of waves! Our Pentecostal forefathers and foremothers found great joy and fellowship with Christ in this rite. They experienced the fellowship of the Spirit and a strengthening for their Christian lives that complemented the Lord’s Supper. They knew that Jesus was there in that service.

When I read John 13, and hear Jesus say, “Just as I have done for you, you ought to do for one another” I can’t help but think that he meant it just as he said it. It’s not popular or glitzy and you can’t dress it up as fancy as baptism or the Lord’s Supper can be. But there’s something to it. There’s something of the presence of Jesus there that is more like Baptism and the Eucharist than not.

What do you think? Feel free to share your own thoughts or experiences!

  1. Part 1: A Pentecostal Theology of the Lord’s Supper
  2. Part 2: A Pentecostal Experience of the Lord’s Supper
  3. Part 3: A Pentecostal Theology of Baptism
  4. Part 4: A Pentecostal Experience of Baptism
  5. Part 5: Pentecostal Questions and Reflections on Footwashing

Jesus is There: Pentecostals and the Sacraments: Part 4

Part 3 may have made some waves. I’m okay with that. We were once a whole movement of wave-makers and earth-shakers, and what happened since is the subject of books and articles by church historians and theologians who have a far better grasp around the issues than I do. But if we’re to be a Pentecostalism for the Church, we have to take our practice of Baptism that seriously– we have to remember it’s about Jesus, not us. (more…)

Jesus is There: Pentecostals and the Sacraments: Part 3

So there may be some confusion as to why I started with the Lord’s Supper. In the “order” of sacraments, baptism should be first in our experience of the Kingdom of God. It’s why I “held back” from Communion until I could be baptized. But when we’re dealing with a Pentecostal approach to the sacraments, we also have to recognize that to shake the assumptions that have often invaded from our evangelical friends (that it’s “just symbolic”), it helps if we first recognize Jesus’ presence in the Lord’s Supper before we tackle Baptism. In the interest of full disclosure here, I’m going to argue something that few Pentecostals will–at first–accept as valid, but if we are consistent in our baptismal theology, it’s where we end up. (more…)

Jesus is There: Pentecostals and the Sacraments: Part 2

So in Part 1, I laid out a theology of the Lord’s Supper focused on Jesus’ presence. Chris Green’s book, “Towards a Pentecostal Theology of the Lord’s Supper” does, in fact, lay out that early Pentecostals undeniably upheld the presence of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper. In this part, I want to write more of my own testimony and experience of the Lord’s Supper. (more…)

Jesus is There: Pentecostals and the Sacraments: Part 1

Note: So, as an Anglican, there’s obviously something I find personally and spiritually significant in the Lord’s Supper. As a Pentecostal, I have an experiential engagement with that. This week, I will lay out in five parts a catholic Pentecostal reflection on the sacraments:

  1. Part 1: A Pentecostal Theology of the Lord’s Supper
  2. Part 2: A Pentecostal Experience of the Lord’s Supper
  3. Part 3: A Pentecostal Theology of Baptism
  4. Part 4: A Pentecostal Experience of Baptism
  5. Part 5: Pentecostal Questions and Reflections on Footwashing

 So, without any further note, let’s get to it. (more…)