A sacrament is, as St. Augustine said, “a visible sign of an invisible reality.” It communicates love and grace to us in very real concrete terms.
Through the very physical water of baptism, we encounter forgiveness, reconciliation, renewal, and cleansing. The water surrounds us, and we are surrounded not merely by bonded hydrogen and oxygen, but are immersed in God’s love. The water cascades over us, and we feel the rush of God’s grace. The water soaks us, and we are infused with God’s acceptance and mercy.
In the very physical elements of bread and wine, we encounter mercy, love, healing, and grace. We taste not only the substance of the harvest—grains become flour, flour become bread—sating our hunger, but gain a foretaste of a banquet in which all the things for which we hunger are satisfied: justice, righteousness, peace. In the sweetness of the grape juice we taste the sweetness of redemption, the sweetness of the vindication of hope.
These ordinary physical things convey a deep spiritual grace. But why should it stop there? Can’t more things be sacraments?
The Eucharistic meal is a sacrament, but what about the potluck supper? Anyone who has ever done a potluck right, and made it an occasion of fellowship, sharing, and hospitality, has certainly conveyed and experienced something of God in those moments. Two friends sharing a plate of Buffalo wings and a couple of glasses of beer can experience the love of God known in relationship. Can the wings and beer not be sacramental elements, no less than bread and wine?
We can open ourselves up to the possibilities of a sacramental life: everything we do can be a way that God’s love and grace are communicated. A ballgame, a hike through the woods, time at the artist’s canvas, giving a helping hand, writing a letter to an old friend, a hug. If vested with a sense of love and of grace, anything can be sacramental. If we seek to embody love and grace in our lives, then everything we do becomes “a visible sign of an invisible reality.” All life becomes a sacrament.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Lenten Devotional: Life As a Sacrament
My university's Methodist student group partnered with a church nearby to produce a Lenten devotional for our members. Students and adults both contributed pieces about memories and experiences with the different sacraments. The devotional is also online here, but I really liked today's selection, written by my chaplain, and thought I would pass it along.