Eastside Church is committed to faithfully celebrating the historic Word and Table worship pattern (liturgy) established in the earliest years of Christianity (see Justin Martyr circa 150-155 CE). This liturgy has been practiced for centuries by Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant denominations. Our leadership believes that weekly creative and prophetic preaching of the Word of God in combination with the celebration of Holy Communion must remain at the heart of the Church’s worship.
At Eastside Church we believe that a faithful, careful, and thoughtful practice of preaching and teaching the scriptures places us in solidarity with historic, orthodox Christianity. This practice provides one of the most essential avenues for God’s people to be challenged, filled, and encouraged as they grow into mature disciples of Jesus Christ. When possible, our community finds it important to root our teaching in the three-year lectionary cycle found in the Revised Common Lectionary – especially during the high holy seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, Paschal (Easter), and Pentecost.
INTRODUCTION TO THE SACRAMENTS
In the scriptures we see Jesus Christ institute two sacraments for the Church – Baptism and Holy Communion. We celebrate both of these sacraments in our regular Sunday worship because we believe that through the sacraments God meets us in an uniquely powerful and mysterious way whereby grace is infused into our lives. An elder (pastor) in the United Methodist Church is called to the ministry of Word and Sacrament. God uses ordained elders as instruments to celebrate these sacraments in order to nourish and strengthen the Body of Christ.
THE SACRAMENT OF BAPTISM
John Wesley understood the moment of baptism to be the point of regeneration or new birth. In first century Palestine, the word baptism was used to describe a ship that went out to sea and did not return. A ship that gets baptized is one that is buried in the depths of the sea forever. Similarly, in the waters of baptism our old self is buried forever – it is crucified with Christ never to return. And when we are brought forth from the waters, we arise new creatures – the old is gone and the new has come! We have been regenerated – born anew into the resurrection life of Jesus Christ.
The United Methodist Church understands infant baptism to be a sign of God’s prevenient grace (grace that goes before us) already working in a child’s life – already initiating them into the community of the redeemed, and starting them on this journey we call the ‘way of salvation’. For those who do not remember their baptism, we offer a service by which baptized Christians may renew their baptismal vows. The United Methodist Church recognizes any baptism from any denomination as long as it was done in the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We do not practice re-baptism.
For those who profess faith in Jesus Christ and who have never received a Trinitarian baptism, adult baptism is appropriate for you. Those who wish to be baptized as adults will meet with our pastor to prepare for this sacred rite.
THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY COMMUNION
This sacrament is a profound mystery whereby the unique presence of God in Jesus Christ is experienced in Christian worship. The following paragraphs seek to simply scratch the surface of the history, meaning and reality of this Holy Mystery we describe as Eucharist or Holy Communion.
In the Eucharist Jesus accepts us because he is the host at his Table. All are invited to God’s table, even those who the religious authorities of Jesus’ day would have never welcomed. These moments where Jesus shares a meal with societal rejects are future signs of God’s eschatological Kingdom. That is to say, Jesus, by sharing these meals, created a microcosmic picture of the incredible wedding banquet that is taking place in part, but that will take place fully when God’s Kingdom has finally merged with creation. Therefore in the Lord’s Supper, we get a taste of what is to come when God’s future comes crashing into our reality!
At Eastside Church, we believe (in solidarity with orthodox Christianity throughout the ages) that Holy Communion fuels the Church in Her mission to the world! Jesus broke his body and shed his blood for us. Now, in Christian communities across the world, we gather together and we break bread and we pour the cup to experience anew the transforming presence of Jesus in our lives. And as the Church lives into this practice of celebrating Christ’s presence among us, something larger takes place. When we eat the bread and drink of the cup we continue to be transformed into the Body of Christ. In this act, God pours into us God’s grace and love. Christ broke his body for us – now, in this Holy Mystery we live into that broken body – that suffering, as we partake of the Eucharist. Therefore, in this Holy Communion, the Church continues to become renewed and created anew as the Body of Christ. And as the Church is transformed through the sacrament of Communion, we are challenged with a call. In the same way that Christ was broken for the Church, the Church is to be broken for the world. The Cross shows us the intensity of our call, which reinforces our need to receive Eucharist weekly. If we take seriously the Church’s call to be servants to the world, then we will need to be regularly nourished by God.