Visible signs of invisible grace

I believe it was St. Augutine who said that the Sacraments are visible signs of invisible grace; or to put it in modern terms, they are outward signs of what God is doing inwardly.  The bread and wine we share in communion, food that nourishes our bodies, are representations of the grace of God’s communion which nourishes and strengthens our souls with the real presence of Christ.  The water used in baptism is a representation of the cleansing and renewal of our spirit by the Holy Spirit of God.  Sacraments – visible signs of God’s invisible grace.

I think God works like that a lot.  Jesus spoke in parables, giving us pictures that we can relate to (sower and seeds, the prodigal son, good samaritan, etc) to teach about the mind blowing grace of God that our understanding can never completly comprehend.

These sacraments (visible signs of invisible grace) are all around us.  Yes, there are only two sacraments that we in the reformed faith adhere to, Baptism and Communion; these are the two that were authorized by Christ.  These are the sacraments where God has promised to meet us.

But God meets us in daily life – in smaller sacraments – reminding us daily of His grace.  I see these sacraments, most notably now, in my children.  Let me tell you how…

Last week I was home on a Wednesday night with my oldest (7 yrs) and my youngest (10 months).  My oldest was sick with strep – really not feeling well at all.  The youngest was a typical 10 month old – hungry, stinky, and loud.  I was feeding the baby, strained squash and carrots – a wonderful combination – when the phone rang.  It was a call that I really needed to take – so there I was talking on the phone, feeding the baby, while the oldest was moaning that she didn’t feel good.

I don’t multi-task, my wife will tell you that, so the baby wasn’t getting fed as quickly as he wanted.  In between each bite, he would voice his protest that I wasn’t moving fast enough, shouting at the top of his lungs.  I’d get 3 seconds of silence following each bite, long enough to listen to what my caller had to say.

That’s when it hit me, my children are representations of my own relationship with God.  There are times when I am impatient with God, times when I stubbornly refuse to listen and obey, times when I just need to rest in His arms, be fed by His hands, washed in His love.  I read somewhere that God intentionally brings peopel who are hard to love into our lives, just to show us how much He loves us, and how we are to love others.  This is one of the greatest gifts my children give, they remind me that I, too, am a child of God, loved by Him, and growing in His grace.

The church may not recognize my children as sacraments, but I know that I see in them a reminder of God’s grace in my life every day.


otherwise occupied by death

Sorry friends, it’s been a while since I’ve written.  I had such grand aspirations – then life happened.

I had two funerals this week, hospital visits to an entire family from my church in a very serious auto accident, and an elderly gentleman in the congregation whose cancer treatments took a turn for the worse.  I’ve been, rightfully so, rather preoccupied by death this week.

I’ve stopped fearing death.  Please, that doesn’t mean I want to die; I love life and want to keep on living.  But I have overcome my irrational fear of dying.

I say it’s irrational, because, as Christians, death is nothing to fear.  For the longest time, I was afraid of death, of dying, and was paralyzed with fear over saying the wrong thing to people whose loved ones had died (as you can imagine, this isn’t a good fear for a pastor to have).  I don’t know where my fear came from, it could be from the fact that I didn’t have a lot of experience with death until my first pastoral call. 

Regardless, I no longer fear death – not now that I understand how Christ has conquered death.

It used to be that death was seen as the end of life, a departure from the living, the payment of natures debt.  The wages of sin is death… when this life is over, there is no more to be said.  That’s what death used to be.

Now, in Christ, death has lost it’s sting, it has no power over us.  Death is nothing more than putting off this perishable, mortal existence, and putting on the imperishable, immortal life with Christ.  We cannot live in eternity without laying down this life.  We exchange this existence for a greater glory; to live is Christ, to die is gain.

This does not negate the fact that when someone we love (a parent, grandparent, child, or spouse) we will feel great loss and sorrow.  The more we love someone, the greater the void we will feel.  Jesus dignified this sorrow; he did not rebuke Martha when she criticized him for not keeping Lazarus from dying, he even wept at the death of his friend.

Still, do not lose hope, remember your faith.  We do not grieve as the world grieves, as those without Christ.  For we know that death is but the passage into eternity with Christ.  For the dead in Christ shall rise first, and we shall meet them in the air.

I don’t remember where I came across this – but I thought I’d pass it along:

The world pictures death as coming to destroy; let us rather picture Christ as coming to save.  The world thinks of death as ending; let us rather thing of life as beginning, and that more abundantly.  The world thinks of losing; let us think of gaining.  The world thinks of parting, let us think of meeting.  The world thinks of going away; let us think of arriving.  And as the voice of death whispers “You must go from earth,” let us think hear the voice of Christ saying, “you are but coming to me!”