Boats and Burning Bushes

The word "sacrament" is a non-biblical word used to describe something that may be loosely or strictly biblical. It comes from the Latin sacramentum - a military oath of allegiance taken by a soldier, an oath that bound him to his mission, his post, his commander, etc. Common usage has kind of distorted the word "sacrament" (much as it has the meaning of other words - like "love" and "anointing" and now "family"), but if we look back - if we dare look back - we may find some power behind this word.

If we look back - say to the Prophet Isaiah - we can see God describing Himself as a warrior - a soldier sworn to waging peace, expanding the borders of justice, armed with love and truth. If we dare to look back we may even see God not as this nice, passive, passionless "Breck lady" looking mystical thing, and we may discover a maniac God, a God who is wild and ferocious, uninhibited by our arrogance, unafraid of any cruelty - a God who is passionate about people, One who would truly go to Hell and back out of love for us.

And if we dare look back, maybe we can then look around and see all the oaths of allegiance through which He has shown His faithfulness to us - bread and wine and water, even frail shadowy little human commitment, the rainbow.

He showed his allegiance to us in the boat that Noah built, in the bush that Moses saw burning, in Aaron's budding rod and in David's five smooth stones. We can see it in the Wall in Jerusalem, in the fact of the Bible, in every star that pierces the night, in the change of the seasons, and in every new morning.

Maybe we can hear it in the chirping of crickets or in the sound of old friends laughing, feel it in the hope and the yearning within us that will not (even when we try to note it) go away. Maybe the heavens do declare the glory of God: "and the skies proclaim the works of His hands." Maybe they themselves are his proclamation, His declaration, His sacrament to love.

Some of us say that there are seven sacraments, some say there are only two. Some say that there are none - maybe we're all wrong. Maybe there are countless sacraments - countless "oaths" of God's allegiance to His own glory and our hope of salvation.

There is, of course, one very great and startling one - the empty tomb and the One whose body laid in it and then walked out of it on its own two feet. Next to Jesus, maybe all the heavens and the hills of the earth, all the music and works of art, all the rainbows and wines and burning bushes and boars seem like tiny tokens - great as they are - and maybe the issue is not so much about how and through what God swears His love, as it is about whether or not God does love.

"And this is how we know what love is, that while we were yet sinners, Jesus died for us."

I hope you see the faithfulness of God in everything He has made. I hope you learn to trust that all of this is His care sworn to you. But mostly, I hope you know Jesus through whom God has wildly and ferociously loved us. I hope you know and that you become sacramental to your neighbor who God also loves passionately. I hope you leave them little doubt about His love and the victory Jesus won over hate and death.

Copyright 1993 by Release Magazine, reproduced with permission

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