How to connect, or re-connect, to God? For most of its history, Christianity has offered two main ways to connect to God: the Word and the Sacraments.
The Word has two main meanings: In the first and primary instance it is Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ of God. So, for Christians we connect to God in, with, under, and even sometimes against, Jesus the Christ. The meaning of The Word expands to all that puts us in touch with Jesus the Christ. Prayer, meditation, reading the Bible, and serving our neighbors in love are all ways that The Word (Jesus the Christ) connects us to God.
For most people, “the Word” is reduced to the Bible, but that’s not the main use of the phrase in classic Christianity. The Bible is important as a way to connect with God, but the Bible never supplants Jesus the Christ as the connection to God.
The second major way Christians have connected with God over the past two thousand years is through the sacraments. Different versions of Christians have different numbers of sacraments, and different ways of understanding how God and humanity connect in sacraments, but–in general–sacraments connect us up with God.
For example, let’s take the sacrament of baptism. Baptism connects us up with God. (Some people believe you can be connected to God only IF you are baptized, but for most Christians that is too narrow of a definition of God. A healthy percentage of Christians believe one is connected to God through God’s creation of you, and baptism is a sign of God’s enduring promise to love you forever.) So that when someone is baptized in a font of water they reconnect with God, as God promises through the Word–Jesus the Christ–to love the baptized person forever, even if they die. So a sacrament, in this case baptism, becomes a sign of God’s promise to love you.
Nowadays, of course, such ways to re-connect with God seem controlling, manipulative, and silly. How can drops of water, or even a bath, restore a relationship to the creative power and energy of the universe? How can words written thousands of years ago, filled with misogyny, hatred, ignorance, and pettiness reconnect one to a God of love and peace? Even more so, both the Word and the Sacraments have been co-opted by patriarchal, prejudiced, and elitist Christians so that unless one bows and acquiesces to their self-inflated egos one cannot partake of the Word or Sacraments to re-connect with God. And that would all be true if the Word and the Sacraments are magic–but they are not.
The Word and the Sacraments are all about our relationship with God. They are not magic tricks we use to “get busy” with God. Rather, they are the promises of God to always be be busy in, with, under, and even sometimes against us. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ is promise that life with God and the creative and energetic power of God does not stop with our finitude. The sacraments are signs that God connects with us.
Because, you see, that’s what’s so amazing to me: I assume every human wants to be connected to God–but why,–Why?–does God want to be connected to us? That we even have Jesus the Christ in our lives, that we even have something such as baptism to remind us of God’s love for us is the greatest mystery of all. I understand we want to reconnect with God, but what impresses me most is why God wants to re-connect with us?
May your tables be full, and your conversations be true.
Scott Frederickson, Ph.D., is a Lutheran theologian and educator. He also blogs at Thoughts from the Prairie Table.