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Sacramentalism


Heads up to all my Catholic (current or former) friends, but John Knox had some fightin’ words:


This is why we abandon the teaching of the Roman Church and withdraw from its sacraments; firstly, because their ministers are not true ministers of Christ Jesus (indeed they even allow women, whom the Holy Ghost will not permit to preach in the congregation to baptize)and, secondly, because they have so adulterated b



oth the sacraments with their own additions that no part of Christ’s original act remains in its original simplicity. (The Scot’s Confession, 3.22)


You see, us Reformed Christians have it right, where the Catholics have it completely wrong. Seven sacraments?! More like seven sacrileges! In our neck of the woods, we only have two sacraments, baptism and communion. Those are the ones that the cool kids do, and to heck with the rest. Because we’re always right, and they’re always wrong. As it was and ever shall be, and all that.


Two sacraments. But why? Second Helvetic Confession states, “The author of all sacraments is not any man, but God alone. Men cannot institute sacraments. For they pertain to the worship of God, and it is not for man to appoint and prescribe a worship of God, but to accept and preserve the one he has received from God.” Baptism and communion were the only ones that Jesus specifically told us we had to do. So all of the other commandments are made up superstitions (please hear my sarcasm, my ecumenical siblings).


But should it only be two? Are these really the only two things we were told to do?


John 13:13-15 “You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”


Uh-oh!


It seems like we have another sacrament on our hands here! Baptism, communion, and pedicures. The three true sacraments.


Wait, are you telling me we don’t do this?


That can’t be! We’ve got it all figured out and this one seems like a pretty obvious slam dunk.


You’re saying its metaphorical? Pretty convenient that this one’s a metaphor and it also happens to be the grossest.


Maundy Thursday is around the corner, the meal where Jesus washed his disciples’ feet and gave them the commandment to love one another. Some churches do foot washing ceremonies, I’ve done one in the past. It’s pretty weird, kind of gross, and honestly pretty powerful. But I don’t do them every year, because it’s kind of gross. It seems like we are picking and choosing when it comes to defining a sacrament, maybe we’re not so smart after all.


Maybe we need to push ourselves a bit when it comes to the sacraments. The most stunning example of this is a story told by Brazilian theologian, Leonardo Boff in his 1975 book “Sacraments of Life, Life of the Sacraments:”


The next day, in the envelope that had brought me the news of a death, I noticed a sign of life of the man who had given life to us in every sense of the word. It was a yellowed cigarette butt, the last he had smoked moments before coronary thrombosis liberated him once and for all from this weary existence. The deeply feminine and sacramental intuition of a sister had prompted her to include the cigarette butt in the envelope.


From that point on, the cigarette butt ceased to be a cigarette butt. It became a sacrament and remained one. Itis alive and speaks of life. It accompanies life. Its typical color, its strong smell, and its burnt end mean it is still lit in my life. So it is of inestimable value. It belongs to the heart of life and the life of the heart. It recalls and renders present the figure of papa who, with the passage of years, had already become a family archetype and a touchstone for the fundamental values of all his children. “From his lips we have heard, from his life we have learned: one who does not live to serve is of no use of living.” That is the epitaph we placed on his tombstone.


The holy isn’t limited to water, wine, and bread. The holy is when God’s presence transcends our reality. The sacraments are holy when God makes them so. Let us seek to make a sacrament of the world.


Peace,

Rev. Jeff Fox-Kline

Twelve Corners Presbyterian Church

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