What is Baptism? Baptism is not simply plain water. Instead it is water used according to God’s command and connected with God’s Word.
What then is this Word of God? Where our Lord Jesus Christ says in Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
What gifts or benefits does Baptism grant? It brings about forgiveness of sins, redeems from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe it, as the Word and promise of God declare.
What is this Word and promise of God? Where our Lord Jesus Christ says in Mark 16:16, “The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned.”
How can water do such great things?Clearly the water does not do it, but the Word of God, which is with, in, and among the water, and faith, which trusts this Word of God in the water. For without the Word of God the water is plain water and not a baptism, but with the Word of God it is a baptism, that is, a grace-filled water of life and a “bath of the new birth in the Holy Spirit.” As St. Paul says to Titus in 3:5-8, “He saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is sure.”Saint Mark’s large baptismal font is a reflection of the importance of this sacrament in our church. We welcome questions related to any feature of the baptism ceremony, please contact Pastor Mary Jane Hastings at (973) 538-3939.
What is Holy Communion? Holy Communion is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ himself for us Christians to eat and to drink.
What is the benefit of such eating and drinking? The words “given for you” and “shed for you … for the forgiveness of sin” show us that forgiveness of sin, life and salvation are given to us in the sacrament through these words, because where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.
How can bodily eating and drinking do such a great thing? Eating and drinking certainly do not do it, but rather the words that are recorded: “given for you” and “shed for you … for the forgiveness of sin” (Matt. 26:17-29; Mark 14:12-25; Luke 22:7-23). These words, when accompanied by the physical eating and drinking, are the essential thing in the sacrament, and whoever believes in these very words has what they declare and state, namely, “forgiveness of sin.”
Who, then, receives this sacrament worthily? Fasting and bodily preparation are in fact a fine external discipline, but a person who has faith in these words, “given for you” and “shed for you … for the forgiveness of sin,” is really worthy and well prepared. However, a person who does not believe these words or doubts them is unworthy and unprepared, because the words “for you” require truly believing hearts. At Saint Mark communion is offered weekly as part of our 9:30 am service.The wine (or juice in center cups) is bestowed by the Communion Assistant in individual thimble-sized cups. The bread (wafer) is placed by our Pastor into the receiver’s hands. There is no minimum age requirement for communion, however, children between ages 7 to 9 are generally better able to understand the implicit forgiveness of the bread and the wine. Younger children are offered a blessing by the Pastor. We welcome questions related to any feature of the communion ceremony held each Sunday during our 9:30 church service. To discuss, please contact Pastor Mary Jane Hastings at (973) 538-3939.
Information from Martin Luther's Small Catechism