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Blood and Water

• Greg Boyd

Baptism and Communion are important sacraments to the Christian community. In this sermon, Greg shows us how the Anabaptists understood these sacraments and how Woodland Hills performs these today.

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We believe that every church should be embedded in a tribe and tradition that make it a part of something bigger than it. And these tribes and traditions should embed themselves within something larger than themselves. We believe that the Anabaptists are our tribe and tradition, and with every tribe and tradition, they have views on ordinances and sacraments that are very similar to ours. The two ordinances that we are focusing on today are baptism and communion.

In the 1600’s, the main use of Baptism was by the state. They would baptize infants as a sign of joining the church and the state. They would also baptize adults when they converted, but this was rare because every baby was baptized when they were born. It was as common as registering a baby when they are born today. For most people, the meaning of baptism was lost.

The Anabaptists saw that baptism was giving your life over to Jesus in a symbolic way. They believed that a person had to understand and know who they were committing their life to, and at that point, they would be baptized. But, adult baptism was in direct conflict with the state wanting the allegiance of the children they baptized. There are even times when the state, in political maneuvering, would force the church to not allow people to be baptized or receive communion. In these cases, the people would quickly overthrow their leaders in order to have these ordinances reinstated.

At Woodland, we believe that the meaning of baptism is the important part as well. While we don’t have the same state control of baptism, we still believe it requires an understanding of what a person is committing to in order to be baptized. Baptism is about submitting ourselves to God. We no longer put ourselves as first in our lives nor any other power or authority as first in our lives. Baptism is the sacrament that renounces all allegiances and puts our sole allegiance in Jesus.

In the 1600’s, communion had several different views. In the Catholic church, they believed in transubstantiation. They believed that the bread and wine (we use grape juice at Woodland Hills) actually became the blood and body of Jesus. The other reformers took up different distinctions of the metaphysical understanding of how the bread and wine were to be interpreted. But all of them understood it as the church giving the sacraments to the people.

The Anabaptists believed that communion was a part of the covenant that Jesus made with his followers. Communion was the sign of the covenant. In a covenant, there are two parties involved. In Jesus’ case, he wants communion to represent his sacrifice for us. We are to remember Jesus’ sacrifice and remember the length of God’s love for us. In our case, we are to use communion as a rededication time of our vows in that covenant. It wasn’t a one-way street from the church to the people, but rather, the Anabaptists understood it as a two-way street, and the communion table was where Jesus and his followers remember the covenant they made together.

At Woodland, we occasionally do communion on Sunday mornings. We believe that communion should be done more often, but it doesn’t have to be on Sunday mornings. We believe that any two believers can join together in communion anywhere, at any time. We encourage believers to understand that communion is something that should be done outside of the church wall with other believers, and it is not limited to Sunday mornings.

In the past, communion and baptism have been understood in a variety of ways. And at Woodland Hills, we align very closely with the Anabaptist views on these ordinances and sacraments. We reject the Christendom view that was in the past, and we strive to honor the covenant signs that Jesus entrusted to us.

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Topics: Anabaptism, Baptism, Communion, Covenant

Sermon Series: Kindred

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Focus Scripture:

  • Luke 22:19-20

    And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

    In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

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4 thoughts on “Blood and Water

  1. Jill says:

    We were in the process of leaving the Catholic church while my son was going through his First Communion. The Director of Faith Formation at the church was so strict, we called her the Christian sergeant. So, when my son had Communion for the first time at WH it was very funny. He turned to me and said “Mom, what do I do, how do I hold my hands, what do I say, how do I stand?” I said all you have to do here is love Jesus. His shoulders dropped as he relaxed himself and said “well that’s easy”.

    Thank you Woodland Hills and Greg Boyd for making Communion so special yet so simple.

  2. sarah says:

    As i have been reading the book of Jeremiah, i am seeing the multitude of Gods love for us! Mercy Mercy, Mercy! Just as we will each have to stand before God individually and answer for all we have done and what we have done with his son, i beleive we each have to answer for ourselves if our lives are right with God. There are scriptures that are straight to the point: Abide in my love, If you love me you will walk as Jesus walked, we are saved by grace not by works, man looks at the outward apperance but God looks at the heart, out of the mouth flows what is in the heart……

  3. Jesse says:

    I would like to access the presentation slides, but am not able to

  4. RAR says:

    Greg, you are too wise and savvy to present such a simplistic version of history where the Anabaptists were/are completely right and every other Christian “tribe” was/is completely wrong. It’s much more complicated than that. There were/are thoughtful, Biblical, theological reasons that that many Christian traditions supported/support the baptism of infants – it didn’t have only to do with complicity with state governments. And after being Biblical re: your understanding of Baptism, why not follow suit in understanding Communion: Jesus said “this _is_ my body/blood” not this symbolizes or points to them.

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