This series is intended to be a public conversation among teaching theologians of the ELCA on various themes of our faith and the challenging issues of our day. It invites readers to engage and dialogue with the ELCA's teaching theologians. The series is edited by Philip D.W. Krey, president of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, on behalf of the presidents of the eight ELCA seminaries.
Christian Scharen: Sonja and I have been married for 20 years. When I look at the wedding band on my left hand, or fiddle with it absentmindedly, I in fact receive again the promise she made to me on our wedding day.
We Lutherans don't hold marriage as a sacrament, but something of the same logic is present in baptism and communion. In a sacrament we receive this combination of a promise along with a physical sign that helps us hold on to it. And the promise in baptism and communion is made not by another human — whose words and love are fallible, even with our best intentions — but by God.
We receive a holy and divine promise of love that can never be broken, joined to the physical elements of water and food. So when I hear God's promise of forgiveness and new life, I also feel the water washing that comes with the promise; I taste the bread and wine that speak to my eyes, mouth and nose, the same promise that words say to my ears.
Within baptism and communion we can know the deep truth that God works in and through the goodness of creation, working to heal and make whole the relationships broken apart by sin.
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