Sacraments are funny things in the life of a church. From the outside looking in they seem quirky and odd, and are probably very hard to understand. But while they are admittedly mysterious, they are really quite simple – God, in tender, gracious love has stooped low to reach us where we are. A sacrament is a physical representation of a spiritual reality. He has given us signs and seals of His covenant of grace in a form that we can see, feel, smell and taste. They have been called gospel sermons for our senses. God gave us our senses, and in Baptism and the Lord's Supper He uses them to represent Jesus to us and to confirm our interest in him.
In Scripture God has given these two means of grace to His people from very early in His redemptive history. While they necessarily took on different forms after the incarnation and ministry of Jesus, their spiritual reality and significance is unchanged from the Old Testament into the New. In Baptism God's covenant people are marked once with a sign that calls them to believe the gospel. In the Lord's Supper these same ones, believing and repenting, come repeatedly to meet their Savior in bread and wine. In both the Holy Spirit is at work calling, persuading, confirming and strengthening His people in grace.
God actively uses the sacraments in the life of a believer, so we alternate weekly between the two. A baptized believer does not leave baptism behind as though it were only for children or new believers. His baptism still calls him to believe no matter how many years have gone by. But baptism isn't all that God has given either. He has invited us to His table, and there He meets us for our good.
At New St. Peter's we typically have a baptism on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of each month. Most often this is the baptism of a covenant child – a little one who has been born or adopted into one of our member families. Sometimes it is the baptism of an adult who has newly professed and demonstrated faith in Jesus Christ and who has not been previously baptized in a Christian church. Baptism is the sign and seal of God's covenant with His people and so also the entry point into church membership.
Parents who desire to have their child baptized must first be members themselves of New St. Peter's. They should contact Jan at the church office to put their name on the calendar. They also must meet with a pastor to discuss baptism for the sake of more clearly understanding how the gospel fills this means of grace. An adult who has newly professed faith and desires to be baptized should be pursuing membership at NSP through the new member class. Their baptism will take place on the Sunday when their class takes membership vows to join the church.
At New St. Peter's we celebrate the Lord's Supper on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Sundays of each month. We do so by coming forward to tables at the front of the theater so that families can enjoy communion together under the direction of an elder. Jesus provided this means of grace for our continued active growth in His gospel. We welcome anyone to the table who has been baptized and publicly professed his or her faith in Jesus Christ by means of membership in a local church.
Parents, please know that we will joyfully serve your baptized children at the Communion Table after the following steps. These steps are intended to assist you in shepherding your child towards active faith in the gospel, so please keep on reading...
- First things first. One or both of the parents must be a communicant member of New St. Peter's. Also, your child must be baptized before he or she can be served at the table. If this is not the case, then please call the church office to speak with a pastor. Also, the Session (the elders) must approve your child's admission to the table based upon his or her basic understanding of the gospel.
- Visit with elders. Contact the church office to request a visit with our elders. We do realize that the idea of this can seem intimidating to a child, and we really don't mean for this to be the case! Only two of us will be in on the conversation and parents are welcome to be present. It is important for your child to have some understanding of how, through baptism, God is calling him or her to believe the gospel. And it is necessary for your child to have a basic understanding of why he or she will be participating at the Lord's Table. While it is a parent's role to shepherd, teach and guide their child in the gospel and so towards the table, it is not their role to get their child to the table. Rather this is part of the natural progression of the Holy Spirit at work in your child's life, and we as a Session are simply trying to discern that progression.
You should assist your child to engage with the worship service each Sunday. Direct them to the "Work for Young Worshipers" at the end of the liturgy and give them a pen to answer those questions. Outside of worship, discuss some possible questions with your child and lead them towards understanding. Some questions that we might discuss with your child are:
If your friend asked you what it means to be a Christian, what would you say?
Are you a Christian? How do you know?
In His life, death and resurrection what did Jesus do for you? Why did He need to do this?
During the worship service on Sunday morning, what do you think about?
Why do you want to participate at the Lord's Table?
What is repentance? Can you describe a recent instance of your own repentance?
What does God do for us at the Communion Table?
Sometimes a child who seems ready at home is not quite able to give voice to their understanding when talking to another adult. That's okay. It may just be nerves, and a follow-up visit in the near future might be all it takes. Continue to discuss the Lord's Table with your child at home and we will try again soon. If, from the interview, your child seems ready, then we will immediately proceed to step 3.
- Membership Vows. Your child is already a member of the church by virtue of their baptism. But coming to the table constitutes a public profession of having received the faith that their parents and church have taught them. So it is also necessary for a child to answer the questions asked to any new member of the church. We encourage you to discuss these questions with your child beforehand.
Do you acknowledge yourself to be a sinner in the sight of God, justly deserving His displeasure, and without hope save in His sovereign mercy?
Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the son of God and Savior of sinners, and do you receive and rest upon Him alone for salvation as He is offered in the gospel?
Do you now resolve and promise, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, that you will endeavor to live as becomes a follower of Christ?
Do you promise to support the church in its worship and work to the best of your ability?
Do you submit yourself to to the government and discipline of the church, and promise to study its purity and peace?
Parents, we want to encourage and equip you in the task God has given you – to bring your child up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Please let us know how else we might assist you in this most important endeavor.