Friday, September 23, 2011

Sacraments: Channels of God's Grace






    Roughly one sixth of the world does not have a reliable supply of clean drinking water.  More than 3.5 million people die every year because of water related illness.

    Scientists and community organizers have tried to solve this problem in a variety of ways, but one of the most creative is atmospheric water generators.   AWG’s take water from the air around us.  In most environments, there is enough water in the air to provide clean drinking water for several families with a single AWG machine.  This is an amazing technology.  The water is already there.  We just have to tap into it.

    However, we also have to recognize that this is not the normal way people get water.  Normally, people go to one of three sources for their water: rivers, lakes, or wells.  For many thousands of years, most people in most places have gotten most of their water from these reliable sources - rivers, lakes, and wells.  This water is much easier to reach.



    That’s kind of how grace works.  God’s grace is all around us.  We can experience God laying in our beds or walking on a mountain or riding a subway.  Grace is in the air we breathe.  We just have to tap into it.

    This is beautiful and profound, but we are also wise to recognize that there are some “normal” ways to experience God’s grace.  There are some normal channels of grace that have proved effective means of grace, and our spiritual ancestors have been coming back to these basic channels of grace for thousands of years.

    Theologians call these “means of grace.”  Down through the years, the Church has recognized two means of grace as being especially deep and meaningful for Christians: baptism and communion.  These are often called the sacraments. 

    A sacrament is a living drama of God’s gracious action.  It is a sign pointing to grace.  In a sacrament, we remember what God has done for us through Jesus.  But in this remembering and re-enacting, we are also opening ourselves to God’s gracious action again.  It seems that we humans need to experience these very physical things - water, bread, and wine - to help us experience the fullness of God’s grace.  The physical is somehow connected to the spiritual.  The sign pointing us to grace also becomes a channel bringing grace to us.

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