Sacraments: Lord's Supper

Olivet and the Presbyterian Church (USA) recognize two sacraments which are understood to be outward visible signs of God's inward, invisible presence and grace. They are baptism and the Lord's Supper. The Lord's Supper is the sign and seal of eating and drinking in communion with the crucified and risen Lord. In his last meal before his death, Jesus took and shared with his disciples the bread and wine, speaking of them as his body and blood, signs of the new covenant. He commended breaking bread and sharing a cup to remember and proclaim his death. On the day of his resurrection, the risen Jesus made himself known to his followers in the breaking of bread. He continued to show himself to believers, by blessing and breaking bread, by preparing, serving, and sharing common meals. The Church in the New Testament devoted itself to the apostles' teaching, to fellowship, to prayers, and to the common meal. The apostle Paul delivered to the Church the tradition he had received from the risen Lord, who commanded that his followers share the bread and cup as a remembrance and a showing forth of his death until he comes. The New Testament describes the meal as a participation in Christ and with one another in the expectation of the Kingdom and as a foretaste of the messianic banquet.

In the Lord's Supper the Church, gathered for worship,

  • blesses God for all that God has done through creation, redemption, and sanctification;
  • gives thanks that God is working in the world and in the Church in spite of human sin;
  • gratefully anticipates the fulfillment of the Kingdom Christ proclaimed, and offers itself in obedient service to God's reign.

At the Lord's Table, the Church is

  • renewed and empowered by the memory of Christ's life, death, resurrection, and promise to return;
  • sustained by Christ's pledge of undying love and continuing presence with God's people;
  • sealed in God's covenant of grace through partaking of Christ's self-offering.

In remembering, believers receive and trust the love of Christ present to them and to the world; they manifest the reality of the covenant of grace in reconciling and being reconciled; and they proclaim the power of Christ's reign for the renewal of the world in justice and in peace. As the people of God bless and thank God the Father and remember Jesus Christ the Son, they call upon the Holy Spirit

  • to lift them into Christ's presence;
  • to accept their offering of bread and wine;
  • to make breaking bread and sharing the cup a participation in the body and blood of Christ;
  • to bind them with Christ and with one another;
  • to unite them in communion with all the faithful in heaven and on earth;
  • to nourish them with Christ's body and blood that they may mature into the fullness of Christ;
  • to keep them faithful as Christ's body, representing Christ and doing God's work in the world.

Around the Table of the Lord, God's people are in communion with Christ and with all who belong to Christ. Reconciliation with Christ compels reconciliation with one another. All the baptized faithful are to be welcomed to the Table, and none shall be excluded because of race, sex, age, economic status, social class, handicapping condition, difference of culture or language, or any barrier created by human injustice. Coming to the Lord's Table the faithful are actively to seek reconciliation in every instance of conflict or division between them and their neighbors. Each time they gather at the Table the believing community

  • are united with the Church in every place, and the whole Church is present;
  • join with all the faithful in heaven and on earth in offering thanksgiving to the triune God;
  • renew the vows taken at Baptism; and they commit themselves afresh to love and serve God, one another, and their neighbors in the world.

In this meal the Church celebrates the joyful feast of the people of God, and anticipates the great banquet and marriage supper of the Lamb. Brought by the Holy Spirit into Christ's presence, the Church eagerly expects and prays for the day when Christ shall come in glory and God be all in all. Nourished by this hope, the Church rises from the Table and is sent by the power of the Holy Spirit to participate in God's mission to the world, to proclaim the gospel, to exercise compassion, to work for justice and peace until Christ' s Kingdom shall come at last. The invitation to the Lord's Supper is extended to all who have been baptized, remembering that access to the Table is not a right conferred upon the worthy, but a privilege given to the undeserving who come in faith, repentance, and love. In preparing to receive Christ in this Sacrament, the believer is to confess sin and brokenness, to seek reconciliation with God and neighbor, and to trust in Jesus Christ for cleansing and renewal. Even one who doubts or whose trust is wavering may come to the Table in order to be assured of God's love and grace in Christ Jesus. Baptized children who are being nurtured and instructed in the significance of the invitation to the Table and the meaning of their response are invited to receive the Lord' s Supper, recognizing that their understanding of participation will vary according to their maturity.

Sacraments: Baptism

Olivet and the Presbyterian Church (USA) recognize two sacraments which are understood to be outward visible signs of God's inward, invisible presence and grace. They are baptism and the Lord's Supper. Baptism is the sign and seal of incorporation into Christ. Jesus the risen Lord assured his followers of his continuing presence and power and commissioned them

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember. I am with you always to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19).

In Baptism, we participate in Jesus' death and resurrection. We die to what separates us from God and are raised to newness of life in Christ. Baptism points us back to the grace of God expressed in Jesus Christ, who died for us and who was raised for us. Baptism points us forward to that same Christ who will fulfill God's purpose in God's promised future.

As circumcision was the sign and symbol of inclusion in God's grace and covenant with Israel, so Baptism is the sign and symbol of inclusion in God's grace and covenant with the Church. As an identifying mark, Baptism signifies:

  • the faithfulness of God
  • the washing away of sin
  • rebirth
  • putting on the fresh garment of Christ
  • being sealed by God's Spirit
  • adoption into the covenant family of the Church
  • resurrection and illumination in Christ

The body of Christ is one, and Baptism is the bond of unity in Christ. As they are united with Christ through faith, Baptism unites the people of God with each other and with the church of every time and place. Barriers of race, gender, status, and age are to be transcended. Barriers of nationality, history and practice are to be overcome. God's faithfulness, signified in Baptism, is constant and sure even when human faithfulness to God is not. Baptism is received only once. The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to the moment when it is administered, for Baptism signifies the beginning of life in Christ, not its completion. God's grace works steadily, calling to repentance and newness of life, God's faithfulness needs no renewal. Human faithfulness to God needs repeated renewal. Baptism calls for decision at every subsequent stage of life's way, both for those whose Baptism attends their profession of faith and for those who are nurtured from childhood within the family of faith. We believe that both believers and their children are included in God's covenant love. Children of believers are to be baptized without undue delay, but without undue haste. Baptism, whether administered to those who profess their faith or to those presented for Baptism as children, is one and the same Sacrament. The Baptism of children witnesses to the truth that God's love claims people before they are able to respond in faith. The Baptism of those who enter the covenant upon their own profession of faith witnesses to the truth that God's gift of grace calls for fulfillment in a response of faithfulness. As there is one body, there is one Baptism (Eph. 4:4-6). The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) recognizes all Baptisms with water in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit administered by other Christian churches. Baptism is authorized by the Session, administered by a minister of the Word and Sacrament, and accompanied by the reading and proclaiming of the Word in a service of public worship.

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