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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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God comes to us

sacraments

When it comes to the sacraments, many Lutherans are under the impression that we believe and teach that there are more than two.

From the first day of the confirmation retreat right up to the first unit quiz, I would enter the classroom and announce, "There are two sacraments — holy baptism and holy communion." I would explain what a sacrament is and revisit the subject every week, hoping each confirmand would have an epiphany.

Imagine my dismay when, eight weeks later, one response about the number of sacraments was: "There are seven sacraments, but you only taught us two."

We believe the sacraments are those ways in which Jesus Christ comes to us through the Spirit's power as the gift of God. We have other rites and ceremonies, but three decisive factors make a practice a sacrament: it must be commanded by Christ, it employs a common earthly element in administration, and it gives us God's grace and unconditional love.

In the water of baptism, commanded in Matthew 28:19, God delivers us from evil by joining us to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who triumphed over sin, death and the forces of evil. We can, therefore, get on with living our lives to glorify in word and deed the God who loves and saves us.

Through the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper, commanded in Matthew 26:26-29, God nourishes faith, forgives sin and calls us to live in ways that spread the good news of God's love in Jesus Christ. Although science can't prove it, we believe Christ is truly present. At the communion rail, I've seen that presence draw together feuding siblings and lift to the heights of ecstasy those who were in the pit of despair.


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