Thursday, January 6, 2011

Rambling Thoughts on the Church Symbols

Why don’t more churches practice foot washing? It is something Jesus modeled for His disciples and instructed them to imitate. Of course His point was clearly not for His disciples to ritualistically gather together to dip each others’ feet in water and symbolically clean them. Instead, He wanted them to understand that they were to serve each other. In the Kingdom of God no one is better or higher ranked than another, or at any rate ranking does not imply that one is served. In God’s Kingdom, to “lead” is to serve and the person with the most responsibility has the most serving to do.

That thought begs a question or two from the two symbols that Christ did establish amongst His people. Are we missing something when it comes to Baptism and the Lord’s Supper?

If foot washing is less about symbol and more about service, what do the symbols of Baptism and Lord’s Supper convey and are we getting the point?

Baptism is a proclamation to the world of the Faith that a believer is embracing. It is a picture of the Gospel where the person is dying to self and being buried with Christ, and the new creation is rising from the dead with Christ into new life. If this is a proclamation to the world, why do we more and more practice this symbol in the privacy of the church building? And why oh why is a person’s baptism more often than not the last time they “publicly” share the Gospel story? Chalk one symbol up to a failure of the Church to really convey the meaning as it could be done.

The Lord’s Supper is the ultimate picture of the fellowship and shared life that the family of God has here on Earth as we await the time when we will once again be able to eat and share life with Christ again in His Father’s house. Few churches truly share life around the table day in and day out anymore. Most Evangelical churches have reduced this symbol down to the bare minimum. The tiniest of grape juices and a flavorless piece of… chalk? paper? It is hard to say, but it does not resemble bread, leavened or not. As symbols go, we have found a way to almost kill another one.

Maybe it is time we found ways for our witness to live beyond one dip in the church hot tub, and for our fellowship as a family to find its ways into our homes and out into the communities where we live.

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