For the disciples in the upper room, feet washing was not new. They knew the old custom of welcoming travelers by providing water to wash their feet. They had read the Bible stories of Abraham, Lot, Laban, Joseph’s steward, and the old man in Gibeah offering this service to their guests (Gen 18:4; 19:2; 24:32; 43:24; Jude 19:21). They knew that the job of washing feet was often assigned to slaves and was considered very lowly.
On September 11, 2001, Al-Qaeda attacked the United States with shocking results. Like most Americans, I can remember exactly where I was when the news came. In the weeks that followed, our nation was caught up in patriotic fervor and crying out for revenge. October 7, 2001, America struck back, attacking Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, marking the beginning of America’s longest war.
Communion is an ordinance that Jesus Christ instituted and commanded. Jesus and His disciples were gathered to observe the Passover. We can look in on this scene through the writings of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. At some point during the meal, Jesus took the bread, blessed it and shared it with the disciples saying, “This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).
Ordinances are foundational to our Christian faith and practices. Understanding the spiritual meanings and principles in each ordinance is essential to keep spiritual life and vitality in the church today. This article begins a series on the ordinances.
Baptism as an ordinance for the church and of the church on earth is a command of our Lord Jesus. He specifically commanded it in His “going away message.” He established it just before going to His present position at the right hand of God on His throne in Heaven. He plainly said, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matt 28:19-20).
Some believe one’s own performance is key to salvation. Others contend that works will not save us; salvation is by faith alone. Some will maintain we can lose our salvation. Others advocate eternal security emphasizing that all we need to do is accept God’s provision and we will never be lost. One who is saved cannot become unsaved. If we are born again, we cannot become unborn.
Tom and I had never met before, but a rainstorm was holding us hostage in an old garage. All I knew was that Tom was only visiting in the community (same as I was) and that he had come from non-Mennonite background. He was now a member in one of the Mennonite churches. Thinking we may as well fill in the time with spiritual discussion I plunged in.
“Tom, why don’t you tell me how you became a Christian?” I asked.
“Well, I was raised in a Christian home, and we always were Christians,” was his response. I waited, but it became obvious he had nothing else to share.
Leaven is a substance that causes fermentation and spoilage, “Figuratively, an influence that, spreading silently and strongly, changes conditions and opinions” (World Book Dictionary). Literally, when leaven is added to a wholesome substance like bread dough or fruit juices and left unchecked the end result is a sour, smelly product which generally is unfit for any valued purpose. It is a fitting type of what sin does to our individual lives and to our church life when left unchecked or untended.
Our discussion began when my seat mate commented that he had observed my wife across the aisle. In observing her modest attire, he had questions about our identity. This opened the door for me to feel free to ask him questions about his faith. He seemed happy to inform me that he was a devout Catholic.
From Jewish chants in the early church, to praise choruses in our day, the sound of singing in Christian assemblies has changed significantly. The changes have seldom gone smoothly. In some ways, Anabaptist groups have been less vulnerable to worship fads. They have historically kept a strong hold on their worship traditions. But the switch from German to English in the late 19th century broke that continuity and left the Anabaptists scrambling to borrow worship materials from the nearest Protestant sources.