The Sacraments 

Baptism and the Lord's Supper, the two sacraments instituted by Christ, are part of the full expression of corporate worship. They are understood to be signs of Christ's presence with us and thereby belong to the regular worship of Christians.

 

The primary importance in both sacraments is what God does and the reality of God's self-giving in and through the water, bread and wine. Like all aspects of worship they are corporate acts in the deepest sense, and they always point to the saving grace of Christ and Christ's benefits offered to us. Especially do the sacraments re-enact the redemptive acts of God by which we are united to Jesus Christ and made one in Christ.

 

The power and meaning of the sacraments depend upon the presence of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word. They are also linked to the proclaimed word, and are inseparably connected to the Word, incarnate and proclaimed. They are in a true sense a visible Word. The Word and sacraments together give the fundamental shape to all Christian worship.

CELEBRATING THE SACRAMENT OF BAPTISM

 

It is recommended that prior to the celebration of the sacrament of baptism, the person to be baptized or the parent(s) of the child who is to be baptized should receive thorough instructions from the pastor and the session as to the meaning of baptism and its significance for the church and the one receiving the sacrament. After adequate instruction has been given, a date should be set for the celebration of the sacrament. The date should be a time when the regular worship of the congregation is anticipated.

 

The sacrament is administered during corporate worship in the context of affirmation of faith and may occur before or after the preaching of the Word. At the time in worship appointed for the sacrament, the minister may begin the celebration by simply asking that those who are to be baptized will come or be brought to the baptismal font. The minister, along with any others who are to assist in administering the sacrament, will then join them at the font. A hymn reflecting one of the themes of the sacrament may be sung.

 

Once at the font, with the participants in their proper places, the minister may then read or recite scripture passages which set forth the deep meaning of baptism found in scripture. Such texts as Isaiah 40:11; Acts 2:39; Matthew 28:18-19; Psalm 103:17-18, and Mark 10:15-16 are highly appropriate, as are many other texts.

 

The minister will then state for all to hear the meaning of baptism, emphasizing the notions of the covenant of grace, God's forgiveness of our sins, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into our lives and declaring that through the sacrament we are marked as members of the household of faith.

 

The parents of those to be baptized, or each believer who is to be baptized, will next be asked to make affirmation of faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and they shall be asked to declare their willingness to be obedient to Christ through serving Christ as a member of Christ's church. Parents of children receiving baptism are also asked to declare their intention to teach their children of the love of God, to instruct them in the Christian faith, and to assist them to live lives obedient to the gospel.

 

The following questions and responses are suggestive of questions which could be used for the purposes stated above:

 

1. Who is your Lord and Savior?

Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.

 

2. Do you trust in Jesus Christ for your salvation?

I trust only in Jesus Christ.

 

3. Do you intend to be Christ's faithful disciple?

I do so intend, with the help of the Holy Spirit.

 

The next two questions are to be asked only of the parent(s) of the children to be baptized:

 

4. Do you seek baptism for your child?

I do, confessing its meaning for my salvation and the salvation of my child.

 

5. Do you intend to teach your child of the meaning of baptism for a person's life, the love of God and the meaning of Christian discipline?

I so intend, relying greatly upon the Holy Spirit and the community of faith.

 

The members of the congregation are then to be asked if they will accept, witness to, and support the persons who are to be baptized, recognizing them as members of Christ's church. A question such as the following could be put to the worshiping congregation.

 

Do you, the people of God, members of Christ's church, promise to share with this new member the good news of the gospel, to surround (him/her) with love and compassion, and to support (him/her) through prayer, fellowship, and direction?

We do so promise and we so intend.

 

The response of the congregation being given, the minister will then lead the congregation in prayer, giving thanks for God's grace and forgiveness, God's love and mercy and for the church of Jesus Christ. Other biblical themes concerning baptism may be used to enrich the prayer. Moreover, it is in order to pray for the blessing of the water and the coming of the Holy Spirit into the life of the one to be baptized.

 

Following the prayer, the minister shall ask the Christian name of the one to be baptized. The congregation will then stand for the act of baptism.

 

Pouring or sprinkling water on the person who is to receive the sacrament the minister shall say:

 

  "__________________________, I baptize you 

in the name of the Father and of the Son

and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

 

 

After the act of baptism the minister shall charge the congregation with respect to their responsibilities. A hymn may then be sung, or testimonies presented by members of the congregation. Or the minister may give witness to the fact that Christians are no longer aliens but fellow workers with Christ.

 

When persons being baptized are to be received into the church, the session may receive them before the act of baptism, or after the act of baptism, or at a meeting of the session at a later date.

 

Prayers may conclude the celebration, prayers of thanksgiving and intercession. The prayers may be in unison, silent or bidding in form. A blessing or peace may then be pronounced.

THE SACRAMENT OF THE LORD'S SUPPER AND CORPORATE WORSHIP

 

The sacrament of the Lord's Supper is not to be thought of as an addition to corporate worship; it is rather to be understood as central to Christian worship. It gives distinctive shape to the worship of Christians, and it should be celebrated frequently enough that it is clear to everyone that the Lord's Supper is a central part of corporate worship.

 

In the Lord's Supper God acts to give those who come to the table in faith the spiritual nourishment necessary to sustain them in their Christian lives. The quality and growth of one's life as a Christian are tied inseparably to this sacrament.

 

This sacrament is more than a memorial to, or a reminder of, Christ's sacrificial death and resurrection. It is a means, instituted by Christ for His disciples. through which the risen Lord is truly present with his people as a continuing power and reality. While the meaning of Christ's sacrificial death is at the heart of this sacrament, it is a resurrected, living Christ whom we encounter through the bread and the wine.

 

The time and place for each celebration of the Lord's Supper is to be set by the church judicatory which has jurisdiction over the group of Christians who are to celebrate the sacrament. The sacrament is to be offered freely to all who express personal faith, but all who are to partake were to be encouraged to confess their sins, to be reconciled to each other and to all human beings, and to come in humility and hope to Christ's table.

 

Celebrating the Lord's Supper

The sacrament of the Lord's Supper is to be celebrated as an integral part of corporate worship. Its administration will ordinarily follow the reading and proclamation of the word.

 

The celebration of the Lord's Supper may begin with the minister, or an elder authorized by the presbytery to administer the sacrament, reading or reciting scripture passages which speak of Christ's invitation to us to come to Him. Matthew 11:28-30; Matthew 5:6; Luke 14:29; John 6:35, 48-51; John 10:10-11, and Revelation 3:20 are passages which may be used, but there are many others which may be used.

 

After the hymn has been sung the minister then reads or recites the biblical words of institution. These are passages of scripture which tell of Christ's institution of the Lord's Supper: I Corinthians 11:23-26; Luke 22:14-19; Matthew 26:26-28, and Mark 14:22-25.

 

The minister after presenting the words of institution then leads the worshipers in a prayer of thanksgiving. This prayer and its emphasis of thanksgiving has been so critical to this sacrament that the sacrament often is referred to as the Eucharist, which comes from the Greek word in the New Testament, Eucharisto, which means thanksgiving. It should include thanksgiving to God for the gift of Jesus Christ, thanksgiving for Christ's life, death and resurrection, and thanksgiving for Christ's presence among his people. Traditionally the prayer has also included a petition for the coming of the Holy Spirit to bring about our union with the risen Christ. It is appropriate that the Lord's Prayer follows the prayer of thanksgiving.

 

The minister may then break bread in the presence of the people, voicing Jesus' words: "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."

 

It is in order for the minister and those assisting the minister themselves to partake of both elements, and then distribute the bread and wine to the other worshipers. As the elements are being passed, a hymn may be sung, or scripture may be read or silence observed.

 

As the minister gives the elements to the other worshipers, the minister may say: "This is the body of Christ; take, eat, and remember Christ died for your sins, and was raised victorious over sin and death."  and

 

 

                                        "This is the blood of Christ; take, all of you                                               drink of it, and remember that Christ died                                              for your sins,  and was raised victorious                                                  over sin and death."

 

 

or "Jesus said: 'I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never be hungry; whoever believes in me will never thirst.'"

and "Jesus said: 'I am the vine, you are the branches. Cut off from me you can do nothing.'"

 

When all the worshipers have been served, the minister may remind them of Christ's grace or bid them Christ's peace, using such phrases as: "The peace of God be with you" or "The grace of our Lord is yours."

 

The worshipers may then praise God by singing or reading a psalm, or by singing a hymn of praise.

 

It is proper that a brief prayer of praise and thanksgiving follow, after which a hymn may be sung. Following the hymn the worshipers may be given a charge and commissioned using such words as the following:

 

"Go out into the world in peace and be the people of God; be of good courage; hold firmly to all that is good; return no person evil for evil; strengthen the fainthearted; support the weak; help those in need; treat all persons with respect and compassion; love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit."

 

or "Rejoice in the Lord always: Let all people know your gentleness and compassion and patience. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything trust Christ who has promised to be with us always. And the peace of God keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."

 

The service properly concludes with a blessing, after which the people may respond by saying:

"Alleluia! Amen!"

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