There are many things that I love about the United Methodist Church, its history, and the people who are called Methodist. However, what is often lost in antiquity about United Methodist worship is the involvement of the sacraments. Much of this comes from the reality that in the early American Methodist movement there were far too few ordained pastors to offer the Sacraments, so it became a special occasion to have an elder with the people of the church to offer Baptism and Holy Communion. This became common place, that the times between the sacraments would be lengthy, and so even though times changes and more ordained pastors came to serve the people, the Sacraments where not offered any more than they were when they where consider special occasions.
However, I believe there is a call for us to recapture a bit of our ecumenical roots when it comes to sacraments. By doing so, we may be able to recapture not only a Wesleyan spirit that began the Methodist movement, but also a 1st Century understanding of committee and worship.
In Acts 2 as the church began to grow verse 46 tells us the the people of the Way devoted themselves to meeting together everyday and broke bread from house to house.
Now, in and of itself, this is a bit ambiguous, until we realize the beauty of breaking bread together. For such as the disciples traveling the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13 – 33) had their eyes opened to the presence of Jesus as he broke the bread, we too realize that the presence of Jesus is with us when we come to the Lord’s table.
We should know that the presence of the Lord is always with us, but this is often not the case. And in reality most of us focus more on what Jesus has done for us, through his sacrifice on the cross and resurrection than on what grace is working in our lives today. This is where we need a marriage between evangelicalism and sacramental theology. We need to celebrate the life we have because of the grace of Jesus Christ offered though is faithfulness to go to the cross (evangelicalism); yet, also remember that He is with us today, giving us grace and guidance as we are discipled, which is best understood through the liturgies of the Sacraments (Sacramental theology).
When we come to know Jesus and find ourselves relieved from our burdens because we have received new life by our relation to God by claiming the righteousness of Jesus, we enter into the new covenant that was made by water and spirit. The Sacramental theology as found in the communion liturgy reminds us of this covenant, but doesn’t stop there. In fact some of my favorite words of this liturgy (aside from “In the name of Jesus Christ you are forgiven.”) Are found in the words of institution which state: “…until we feast at his heavenly banquet…” These words indicate that we are now getting a glimpse at the beautiful meal that is to come, and we need to be reminded of this meal more often.
Every time we break bread we are reminded of the new covenant, and the meal that is to come, why not celebrate that meal more often to be reminded the grace offered to us that was, that is, and that is still to come. Let the grace of God abound as we break bread together.