What is church for?

For the Lesson titled "Sacrament" from January 7 - 13, 2013

The sacramental terms of the Christian church, such as baptism, eucharist, and communion, might sound old-fashioned in a world where interest in spirituality outside of church structures is rapidly growing. But this week’s Bible Lesson, titled “Sacrament,” shows that the origin of these church sacraments really has more to do with changing our thought to a more spiritual basis in order that our experience might be transformed. What they are really about is the transformation we experience in our lives when we live in accord with God.  

The first sacrament in this Lesson is baptism, and we have the story in Matthew about Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist. As Jesus comes out of the water, he hears “a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17, citation 2). This is something that would have been familiar to first-century Jews. A voice from heaven echoes a combination of words from Psalms and Isaiah regarding the relationship between God and one who serves God. From Psalms we have the first part, “He said to me, ‘You are my son’ ” (2:7, New International Version). The second part is from Isaiah, “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight” (42:1, NIV). This passage from Isaiah is the first of the so-named “servant songs.” It describes a servant of God, whose purpose is to establish justice by serving God and God’s people unselfishly. Upon hearing these words, the reader of the Gospel understands that Christ is here to serve God.

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