Sacraments vs. Idols
I recently was reading a book titled Answering God: the Psalms as Tools for Prayer by Eugene Peterson. I came across a section called "Sacraments vs. Idols," in which credit was given to the writers of the Psalms for staying away from making idols objects of worship.
Peterson writes: “While the psalmists call God a rock, they never set up a rock and called it God. They called God a shepherd but never found a good-looking shepherd and made a statue of him to preserve the form of God. They called God a shield but never embellished one with precious stones, hung it in a sacred place, and worshiped it.”
Peterson, Answering God, p.77
They also spoke out against silver and gold items as objects of worship. The Hebrew writers knew by commandment and prayer that matter could not be used to represent the creator of all things. An idol reduces and confines divine things into a lump that can be measured and controlled; it is inert and has no power or motion.
Sacraments are the events that our Lord and the early church, through word and example, asked us to do. They are real holy events that have a purpose and we do them for a reason. Our two sacraments are (1) Baptism (Matt.28:16-20), which uses the element of water to represent new life as we become part of the body of Christ, and (2) the Holy Eucharist (Matt.26:26-29), which represents unity with our Lord through the elements of bread and wine as shared at the Last Supper.
These elements are an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace and are not objects of worship in themselves. The Episcopal Church is sacramental and that means we do not worship idols! These sacraments and our five other sacramental rites (Confirmation, Holy Matrimony, Ordination, Confession and Reconciliation of a Penitent) are given as physical signs and symbols as a tangible reminder of the God we worship. We do not worship them, but we worship the God to whom they point us. And that is a God who has dealt with our sin and made us new so we can part of His family (Baptism) and a God who unites us with Christ, the perfect and atoning sacrifice for our sin (the Eucharist). So let us use our sacraments and all of our liturgical practices to draw us back to this God who loves us and gave Himself for us.
Thank you Lord for the sacraments of our Church. They are at the center and heart of our faith and belief and remind us of who You are. They keep us connected to You and each other in our spiritual journey. They give us guidance and direction on how to serve You and those around us. Amen.