Friday, February 20, 2009

Gracious Restraint? What's Up?

The Episcopal Book of Common prayer defines sacrament(s) as such:

Sacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men’s profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God’s good will towards us, by the which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our Faith in him.

The Roman Catholics define sacrament as such:

According to the New Roman Catholic Catechism, the definition of “sacrament” is “an outward sign, instituted by Christ, to give inward grace.” Each sacrament has an outward sign, something that the recipient can see and touch. Though the Church has built rituals around each sacrament to increase reverence and to explain the sacramental effects, the sacrament, itself, was instituted by Christ, since only God has the ability to confer grace

I hope we can all agree that a sacrament is not "magic" but rather a GIFT from God.  Now, as I read the two definitions I see no qualification of who can or cannot receive sacraments. No, let's not get our knickers in a twist, I realize that we, "the church" have established an ordering of sacraments but there are no prequalifications save baptism.  But even with Baptism, there is no "personal" prequalification. That is to say, I find no concept that in order to receive a sacrament one must be white, or tall, or man or woman, or anything such as that.  One must be contrite, in a relationship with the Lord and the gift is yours.  

At Father Mark's place he takes a reductionist argument saying in effect, let's just not baptize the LGBT community (don't get crazy, that was just an argument he used to further his point).  If, as I believe and that persons such as IT and Goran and JCF and others have scientifically demonstrated sexual orientation is an issue of genetics (IT, forgive me and clear it up if I am of target here)  Then gracious restraint, as Father Mark has described, must be invoked at baptism, actually prior to baptism. If it is not then we should be taking back baptism and then, we should withhold communion, ordination, confirmation, and all the other "sacraments" while the other folks restrain themselves from boarding an airplane and traveling to Canada or the United States.  Okay, all together now, HUH? That is by almost any standards, absolutely absurd!

The fact is sacraments are gifts from God, not from man. God gave them to man and I find it hard to understand how man can take them away.  Why would anyone believe that they can take away "God's good will toward us."  Why would anyone, correction, any professing Christian want to?  We must be very careful about taking on the persona of God. We must not decide who is worthy and who is not worthy of sacraments and grace and God's good will.  If we believe that our spiritual health depends on our individual relationship with God and then we place ourselves in God's place, well let me just parrot a line from the Devil's Advocate: "Pride, my favorite sin."