People of faith are known for their sacred practices. They are the repeated things, habits that are celebrated for their deep significance in the life of the believer and the heart of the church.
For Christians, these celebrations are not dead “rituals,” but living ones that remind us of our new life in Jesus and anchor us to the sacred faith of our fathers.
If a sport epitomized our culture, it would be NASCAR. It’s pedal down until the gas runs out or the tires come off. Keeping pace with it has created an identity crisis of sorts. We have quickly become pawns to our cell phones and social networks. We can’t keep up.
The beautiful things we have created have made ugly things of us. Who are we?!?
Richard Foster, in “Celebration of Discipline,” writes, “The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.”
Spiritual disciplines ground us, reminding us who we are and Whose we are. When believers participate in acts of devotion such as worship, prayer and communion, there is a recovery of true identity in a world of unsettledness. We are the people of God. We have a storied legacy. We have an unimaginable future.
The practices of the Christian faith were built on the frame of the New Testament and promote substantial living in a shallow world. Each act of devotion serves a sacred purpose of remembrance and holy anticipation.
— Brock Stamps, Harvest Church of God, Anniston
They are the vehicles of grace
Religious rites are necessary because they affirm what we say we believe as Christians.
Since the time of Augustine of Hippo, the term “sacrament” has carried the meaning of an outward and visible sign of an inward conferring of grace. The Augustinian view is that the church is the means of grace from the Lord to the individual, and the various sacraments are the vehicles that carry the grace.
Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate seven sacraments: baptism, communion/the Lord’s Supper, marriage, ordination, penance, confirmation and unction.
Most Protestants celebrate two sacraments: baptism and communion/the Lord’s Supper. Protestants have a different view of the church, one that sees grace coming directly from God to the individual.
Communion/the Lord’s Supper is practiced by all religious groups, but they differ on whether Jesus is present in the bread and the wine. Jesus commands us to eat the bread, representing his body which was broken for us, and to drink the cup representing the new testament in his blood; as oft as you do this, do it in remembrance of him (1 Corinthians 11:24-25).
Although Jesus never sinned, he set the paradigm for us when he was baptized, symbolizing the spiritual cleansing required of all sinners. Baptism, whether by sprinkling, immersion or pouring, is the universal initiation into the church after we confess our belief in Christ.
— Alberta McCrory, Gaines Chapel AME Church, Anniston
How to submit a question
Have a question to pose to our panel of local faith leaders? Send it to “Religion Roundtable,” Lisa Davis, Features Editor, The Anniston Star, P.O. Box 189, Anniston AL 36202. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.