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.
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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