by Demi Prentiss
For those of us who choose to be partners in baptismal living, we aim to live our lives following Jesus, walking the road he described as The Way. One frame for that style of living is to understand the life we live as abiding in sacrament. I’m not talking about The Sacrament: the Body and Blood of Christ. Instead, I mean sacrament as “outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace.”
When I examine my life through that lens, I notice that I often move between receiving sacrament and being sacrament. In life, I’m frequently receiving those signs of grace, those signs of God at work: a smile, a life-giving word, a gift of time, a token of encouragement, a flood of forgiveness. What I notice less often – and usually only in after-the-fact reflection – are the times God’s grace allows me to BE sacrament: being the cup of water for a thirsty soul, laying down time or money as a life-giving sacrifice, allowing God to transform my poor offering to anoint another with healing and support. Most of those occasions are less the fruit of my own work, and more of God making the most of my offerings. And I notice that often, the catalyst for moving me from receiving to being is heartfelt gratitude. That seed produces the fruit of generosity.
Our faith communities move along that same continuum between receiving and being. We who gather with our siblings in Christ often come together to receive: washing, feeding, anointing, blessing, and fellowship. Gratitude and the power of God enable us to become water, food, healing, and forgiveness – blossoming into God’s justice, peace, love, and resurrection in a hurting world. It takes faith to open our eyes to perceive God at work, in and through us, and our communities. Commissioned by our baptism to be co-creators with God, we can learn to recognize that we are receivers of God’s grace, and that we can be bearers of that grace to those around us. That work – observing God at work in the world and joining as God’s partner – is the essence of baptismal living.