I found this Mennonite Confession of Faith on another site I sometimes comment on and have been thinking of explaining the different position of some Charismatics to sacraments or ordinances. The Mennonite statement provided a good launchpad for something I had been wondering how to offer, so here goes.
The Catholic contingent here comments on Protestant views that sacraments are just symbols and do not convey grace. The 1963 Mennonite Confession of Faith says something different about Ceremonies and Practices that is perhaps not Catholic or Protestant but somewhere between the two:-
“The Lord Jesus and His apostles instituted ordinances for the church to observe permanently as symbols of Christian truths. The apostolic church literally observed them. Among these are baptism with water, the communion of the Lord’s Supper, the washing of the saints’ feet, the holy kiss, the laying-on of hands, and the veiling of Christian women, the anointing of the sick with oil, and the institution of Christian marriage. When the church observes ordinances as expressions of a heart of faith, divine blessings are received, and a Christian witness is given.”
I found this while reading a post about foot washing and the question posed was “Is foot washing a NT ordinance for the church”
I have posted here what I posted there to illustrate the understanding that the outward symbol practiced in faith becomes a touch point that enables faith and releases grace which can be extremely tangible. We have seen evidence of the exorcism of demons without any attempt along that line but just as subjects were baptized. But let me return to my experience of foot washing.
Foot washing is practiced in the ‘Church of God’ or the ‘Church of God of Prophecy’ I cannot remember which it was that I visited, now living in Barbados. It was very meaningful for me to have my feet washed as a white man by a black man from a nation previously enslaved by whites; particularly as there is still a pronounced racial segregation here and my wife and I are usually the only whites visiting a black church.
I also had an interesting experience on a mission trip I took to South Africa to help a man I had got to know through my son’s time at a Bible school there. Let me first paint the picture.
The man had been a JW for 35 years and the main foundational member/pioneer worker opening the Kingdom Hall in the township. He had become a Christian through his son 2 years previous to me meeting him. He had been preaching Christ to a community living in shacks made of rubbish and won a whole group of converts to Christ. He built out of meager income a meeting place in his garden.
Subsequently I spent 2 periods of 6 weeks teaching and evangelizing among the community as the only white man who had ever lived among them. Things seemed to be ordained by God in our meeting from the start. The first time I met him (Ronny) on visiting my son at end of term I asked how he understood the Trinity now that he was a Christian – he said he did not understand it but just believed it – fair enough I thought. But I just happened to have in my computer case a print out of my studies on the Trinity that I had been expanding the Lord is great at coinciding incidents like this.
Well that paints the picture now back to feet and eventually sacraments.
At the end of one meeting I appealed for anyone who needed prayer for healing to come forward. I think very few of them could have afforded to visit a Dr and I’m unsure if medical services are provided by the state there. About 10 people came forward.
When I got to my friend Ronny he explained that he had a lot of pain in his feet. He was paralyzed down one side from childhood and had to walk with a very awkward motion dragging one leg. In this condition he worked visiting homes for a few hours every day apart from Sunday when he was occupied with the converts he had won to Christ already. He would visit these homes (or shacks to be more accurate worse than what we would keep our dog in) and get permission at some house he called on to hold a meeting there and preach the gospel the next night gathering the neighbors.
He had done door to door work as a JW for 35 years doing a considerable number of hours unpaid every week dragging his lame leg. Perhaps we have some things to learn even from Arians.
So now he faces me with feet in pain hindering him but not preventing his now more enlightened work for Christ. I immediately sensed what I thought the Lord wanted me to do. I said “Ronny take off your shoes”. He did so and when he was finished I said “Ronny take off your socks” and he did so.
Then I knelt down in the dirt floor of the meeting room and kissed both of his feet. He said the pain immediately left his feet. The pain did not return in the weeks I was there and I never had any report of a re-occurrence of the pain.
Each place we visited Ronny told people this white man kissed my bare feet. He did not remember in most cases to tell them that his feet were also healed through the foot kissing sacrament; the greater miracle for him was that the white man he had recently met had been kissing his black South African feet.
It’s fun when you work with the Lord not just for the Lord and sacraments work well then I wish I could get it right more often.