Sacramentalism looks at the sacraments as talismans, objects or rituals that have power in themselves. In baptism, the old Roman Catholic phrase was ex opere operato (“from the work working”), which essentially meant baptism always regenerates people, which is not true. Likewise, in their communion theology, they teach transubstantiation, that when the priest lifts up the bread and the cup, even though the outward material still looks and tastes like bread and wine, the inward substance has changed into the flesh and blood of Jesus. And this is why they will bow down to the bread and wine and pray to the bread and the wine, and save the bread and wine afterwards and continue treating it as Jesus.
Reformed types may not be tempted by those particular errors, but some certainly have their own versions of them. One example would be communing your children to early, when they are still sleeping through most of the service and clearly not paying attention to much of anything, treating grace like some kind of vitamin you take. Another form is simply thinking that if we do our worship service correctly, God will automatically bless us or His Kingdom. Maybe it’s the exact perfect Covenant Renewal service, or maybe it’s the exact right way of doing communion, or concentrating on all the things we don’t do — like all those other Christians. While God does want us to want to obey Him, the most important thing is looking to Him in faith.
Sacramentalism looks at the sacraments and expects to receive blessing and power impersonally. But faith looks through the sacraments to Christ and expects to receive blessing and power because of His personal promises. So look to Christ. And look around as you celebrate this meal: the body of Christ is not only in Heaven, it is also in the saints around you. Smile at one another, make eye contact, whisper to your children that Christ is King. He has forgiven all our sins. He is ruling and reigning until all His enemies are put beneath His feet.
So come and welcome to Jesus Christ.
Photo by Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash
Edwin P Lang says
Hey Pastor Toby,
“communing your children too early, when they are still sleeping through most of the service and clearly not paying attention to much of anything, treating grace like some kind of vitamin you take.”
I’ve seen some of this, but how is baptism different in “understanding.” Certainly, we’d say the same thing about baptism: “faith looks through the sacraments to Christ and expects to receive blessing and power because of His personal promises. So look to Christ.” But that is what we tell / teach our children from the day they are baptized. It’s also what I tell my 4 month old or 6 month old at the table.
I’m not sure how the “age” or even the “sleeping child” necessarily violates this.
Generally, though, if I see parents waking up children to eat communion, or worse, going to the nursery to get the children for communion, that’s a problem because word and sacrament go together. The 1 yr old doesn’t understand the sermon or the bread or the wine, but they should be growing up and into Christ as the Spirit works through them. But they should wait to hear God’s word until they can “get it.” Same for the edible word.
Ed, while I’m very supportive of young children participating in the Lord’s Supper, it seems to me that Jesus’s instruction to “take and eat” and Paul’s instructions/warnings in 1 Cor. 11 to discern the Lord’s body and examine yourself should still be taken seriously, adjusted to the age/frame of children.