Perhaps you have seen a church performing a baptism or a communion service. At first glance, these may seem like strange rituals. But they are at the heart of the church’s life and message.
Becoming Like Christ
Jesus Christ is the head that rules over the diverse community of true believers known as the church. The church as a whole is Christ’s body present in the world. So what does it mean to be part of the church? To get at that question, we have to ask another question: what does it mean to live as a Christian? The whole point of being a Christian is to become like Jesus – each in our own unique way.
Jesus initiated two actions called “sacraments”. (A sacrament means a sacred or special action. In some traditions, they are called “ordinances”.) These acts point to key moments in the life and ministry of Jesus. When we particpate in them, we’re learning to imitate Jesus and become part of his story.
At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus was baptized in the river Jordan by his cousin John. Then, after his resurrection, Jesus told his followers to go to all the nations and baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus was baptized himself, then sent others to baptize.
At the very end of his ministry, Jesus gathered his core group of followers and celebrated one last supper with them. He compared the elements of the meal – bread and wine – to his body and blood. Jesus told his followers to break the bread and drink the wine together in remembrance of him. Again, Jesus practiced this ritual meal himself, and then commanded it of us.
Sacraments in the Life of the Church
Baptism is initiation into the household of God. It is God’s gracious way of including us in his true church – not a human institution or denomination, but in God’s family. Baptism is a one-time act at the beginning of our relationship with God. Communion, however, is something we should do as often as we can in the life of the church. It’s a celebration that Christians always and everywhere have done regularly, as Jesus taught us.
Connecting with Jesus’ Saving Work
In baptism and communion, we re-enact key events in Jesus’ life, but we also participate in Jesus’ death and resurrection. In communion, we remember Jesus’ death – his broken body and shed blood – and we look forward to his return. In baptism, we’re buried with Christ under the waters, then raised again. We share in Jesus’ death so we can share in his resurrection as well.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- Were you confused the first time you saw baptism or communion in a Christian church? Explain.
- How do the sacraments help us become more like Jesus?
- What did you learn in this video about baptism?
- What did you learn in this video about communion?
- How often do you typically take communion? Do you feel like this is frequent enough? Explain.
- Have you been baptized as a Christian? If not, why not?
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.