Sacraments are the “outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace.” In the Episcopal Church we honor two Gospel sacraments that Jesus instituted: Baptism and Eucharist. In both of these experiences, the Church uses the stuff of daily life—grapes, grain, and water—in a sacred way, affirming that God’s grace courses through the physical world. Indeed, I think it is impossible for us humans to really separate the physical from the spiritual. God’s grace is expressed in powerful and particular ways when it is met by our humility and the intentions of our gathered prayers at the baptismal font and altar. Beyond the two Gospel sacraments, we also acknowledge five additional “sacramental rites” that the Church has received through the guidance of the Holy Spirit: Confirmation, Ordination, Holy Matrimony, Reconciliation of a Penitent, and Unction of the Sick.
This Sunday we are all invited to participate in the sacramental rite of Confirmation through our prayers and presence. Confirmation and Ordination are peculiar among the traditional seven sacraments because they require the presence of a bishop. In both, the bishop’s hands are part of the “stuff of daily life” that is used to convey God’s grace. Of course, our hands, too, especially when used to “seek and serve Christ in each person,” may also manifest God’s grace in the world. But the presence of the bishop at Confirmation and Ordination is important because it manifests each person’s connection in the wider Church—a Church that extends through space in the present moment in dioceses throughout the world and a Church that extends through time, tracing itself back to Jesus in Bethlehem and forward to Jesus when “he comes again in glory.”
While over 40 of our brothers and sisters take the important step of expressing a public and mature commitment to Christ, I ask your special prayers for and support of their lives and ministries. It is an honor to learn how God’s image is revealed in particular ways through each of them—and indeed through each of us.
The Reverend Deacon Joslyn Ogden Schaefer, Associate Rector