The ups and downs of the sacraments

I am reading this very boring book. The author attempts to be humorous, but his idea of humor and mine are canyons apart. Anyway, I’m plodding through and all of a sudden (on page 96 of a 134-page book), he makes an “ah-ha” statement. I go back and read it again, and then, this morning, again. He was talking about the church’s two sacraments, (obviously not a Catholic writer) baptism and communion:

…when we’re too big for our own britches…and font and table bring us back down to size…Likewise when our tune is, ‘Woe is me–I am unworthy of the church and don’t belong,’ neither font nor table pay us any mind, but continue to expect our attendance. Longing for Enough in a Culture of More

Honestly, I have never thought about how baptism and communion have to serve all humanity, those who are over-confident and those with no confidence and all of us in-between. They truly serve as levelers. These past two weeks baptism has been in one of my memory verses, Colossians 2:12,  “having been buried with Him in baptism you were also raised with Him by your faith in the working of God Who also raised Him from the dead.” In this verse is both burying and raising, but I always only interpreted this one way as going from “woe is me, I’m not worthy” to being raised by Christ to wholeness (confidence).  It was new for me to think of baptism taking someone who’s accomplished much and thinks highly of herself down under the water, drowning out the self-righteousness so she is low enough for Christ to “raise” that person to holy lowness (humility). It’s the reverse of what I always thought. In this case the person is taken from sinful high to holy low. Hmmmmm

In the same way I always thought of communion as a picture of the lowly putting on the almighty through grace. For some, however, it is more deflation than elevation. The person, elevated in importance in his own mind, has to submit to the forceful tearing away of fleshly confidence in order to take on divine might that he may not even realize he needs. A picture of this was given in CS Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader where the thoroughly obnoxious Eustace Clarence Scrubb, unable to shed his dragon skin himself, submits to the fierce claws of Aslan and is reborn a new, whole person. The following is a description of the renewal process as it was described by Eustace himself in the story:

The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt…Well he peeled the beastly stuff right off—just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt—and there it was, lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me—I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on—and threw me into the water.” -C.S. Lewis, “How the Adventure Ended,” The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

And he threw me into the water…so then, in baptism and communion the movement is not automatically from low to high. Indeed, some start low, but for others there must be a tearing down before the person is low enough to be raised up. Or, perhaps, everyone has to tear down. I don’t want to dismiss the fact that persons without confidence may have a battle on their hands, too. It may be a battle with lies of the enemy telling them they are not good enough. They must let Jesus’ death take care of that. That may be quite a battle, as well. Being brought down so you can be raised up. It sure sounds like God and his “upside-down kingdom” doesn’t it?




2 comments on “The ups and downs of the sacraments

  1. Thanks so much for these thoughts, Dawn…
    This really brought home to me the reasoning of why we should not judge one another. Jesus says to those who are thirsty, ‘Come!’… my prayer is that I would always thirst and come and for those around me that they would, likewise, thirst and come. It is in the ‘coming’ that we are all made the same and in the ‘filling’ that we are all made whole giving us all something wholly [holy] in common ❤

  2. As usual, Susan, your words make my eyes fill with tears. My goodness, if I were your neighbor I would need tissues all the time. You are so profound in your simplicity. It must be the milking in the evening that does it. Out there next to nature carrying the warm pail of milk home and then using what the animal has provided to make something delicious with your own hands. I do treasure your description of the everyday journeys in your life, those things that make you “you”.
    You keep me thirsty for Him.

    To be wholly His,

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