Sacramental Witness — Part Three

Part One

Part Two

The beauty of sacramental witness is it helps us tell the story of our faith over and over. The “downside” is not with the method. The downside is with our “been there, done that” culture. We hear something once and then think we have it down. There is very little we truly enjoy in our journey today.

So, we get bored with our church services. We want to “mix it up.” Harper and Metzger are not kind on this subject:

Another instance of failure to rehearse the gospel story and/or reconfigure sacred space around the sacraments resulted from the neutralizing of sacred space in the 1980s for the purpose of making seekers feel more comfortable.

We got rid of the crosses and other specifically Christian symbols from our sanctuaries. The authors note that some “postmodern” seekers have restored some semblance of sacred space. But, for them, that doesn’t count. It misses the point. Whether a church places a cross in the center of the platform or takes it away completely shouldn’t even be argued. When we do that, we come from a stance of pragmatism, which only plays into our cultural standards rather than our faith. We treat the cross and other symbols as window dressing rather than substantive signs of kingdom presence.

And then there is the whole other matter of a church looking like a Starbucks. They really don’t like that one! It is sending mixed signals to those who come. It invites fellowship, but neutralizes the communal and theo-political identity and purpose of the people of God. We get so relaxed we forget the sacred practices and needed rituals. The rituals join us together as community… true community. It is far different than sipping a latte and listening to music.

Sacramental witness is meant to be vibrant and meaningful. We need these stories repeated in our lives.

Let me illustrate.

I teach Old Testament survey as an adjunct professor in a Christian college. I can’t even launch into the disappoint I have in teaching Old Testament stories to students who grew up in church and haven’t even heard these narratives. (That’s another rant.)

We have such a sound-byte society, such a “been there, done that” society, I knew I needed to go over the narrative consistently. When we hit the section on the historical books I began just about every class period with a review. We would interactively go over the story to that point. Over a few weeks I had consistently mentioned the judges, Ruth, Samuel, David, etc.

Yet, almost every class period, they could not remember from the last class period what we had covered. It was like I was telling the story all over as a brand new story.

And we say we don’t need to repeat some things in our church services? Please.

We come to the Table of the Lord. We remember his work, his life, his sacrifice. We remember his power to forgive. We walk in his presence at that table. And we do it again… and again. Sacred rites. Sacramental witness.

4 thoughts on “Sacramental Witness — Part Three

  1. This is a good post. I can feel it. I remember the conflict around should a church have stained glass windows, a cross on the wall, stations of the cross, etc or not? with the debate thinking it distracts, or that iconic sort of worship is taking place? Not. so what happened? stripped down 4-wall meeting places with a band and a podium, and powerpoints, with no idea if the place is for church service or an motivational meeting.

    And i am not for a service that feels and looks like a coffee shop. the Reverence for the LORD’s house is missing, and people tend to forget its a sacred gathering time, as noted. the feel good, comfy stuff gets the upper hand of it all, and the come into the house of the LORD attitude is out the window in thought.

    When I go to church , whether pentacostal or not, whether in a revamped strip mall or a huge elaborate cathedral, I come with expectancy. I set my heart and mind on meeting the LORD God. Thats what i want to see, feel and know inside that sanctuary or meeting place. I want to hear the story of Jesus and that baptism, I want to partake in the communion. all the time, because if its not there i find something is missing, and i feel short changed. How am i to live like a sacremental witness if this isnt there?

    searching for an authentic, back to basics church service and gathering place that wants to talk of the stories of the LORD and wants to be set apart from the worldview is a challenge for me and I am sure for others too.

  2. Great post. Our efforts to accommodate people is well intended, but we do so at a high price I fear. We carve up the kingdom into tasty morsels that everyone will finds delicious, but there is little substance and almost no spiritual food in it. However, I sense a hunger for something deeper and richer. People need worship that is intimate and transcendent, not cute and clever.

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