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Gardening and other sacraments

My friend Dan and I have been wondering about sacraments: What are they? Where do they come from? How many?

A sacramentum was the oath taken by a Roman soldier. It obligated him to live by all the rules and disciplines of the Roman army. As far as we can tell, somehow this became the source of the idea of sacrament.

So the first thing to note is that the idea is not from the Bible.

The Catholic Church defines sacrament as words and actions that make the grace of God tangible and effective in our lives. Catholicism specifies 7 official sacraments: baptism, confirmation, communion (the Eucharist), reconciliation, anointing the sick, marriage and ordination.

The Protestants practice the abridged version, recognizing only two: baptism and communion.

Let’s just think about this.

If sacraments are about ways the grace of God is made tangible and effective in our lives, then why couldn’t gardening be a sacrament? Why couldn’t painting or drawing be a sacrament? Why couldn’t writing this blog be a sacrament? Of course I’m listing the activities I like to do. But my point is that these things make the grace of God tangible and effective in my life.

The Psalms speak repeatedly about how all of nature shout out the grace of God – in tangible form.

Now, I understand we need to be actively submitted to others in body life (the church). In my younger days I knew a guy who always promised he’d be at church next Sunday, but never came. He was a hermit who met God (or so he said) while holed up in the carriage house he rented on somebody else’s side lawn. He had major issues.

So, I am not promoting that everyone euphemistically label all of his or her preferences as sacraments. If not submitted to the body of Christ, preferences can easily slip-slide into idiosyncrasies and eccentricities.

But there’s a poverty to just limiting the grace of God “made tangible” in only seven ways, not to mention in only two.


Titus 2.11-14 11For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

1 Peter 4.10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace:

Ephesians 2.8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Psalm 104.4-15 [4] you make the winds your messengers, fire and flame your ministers. [5] You set the earth on its foundations, so that it shall never be shaken. [6] You cover it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. [7] At your rebuke they flee; at the sound of your thunder they take to flight. [8] They rose up to the mountains, ran down to the valleys to the place that you appointed for them. [9] You set a boundary that they may not pass, so that they might not again cover the earth. [10] You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills, [11] giving drink to every wild animal; the wild asses quench their thirst. [12] By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation; they sing among the branches. [13] From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work. [14] You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for people to use, to bring forth food from the earth, [15] and wine to gladden the human heart, oil to make the face shine, and bread to strengthen the human heart.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, New York: Image/Doubleday, 1995. Section 1084 reads, in part: "The sacraments are perceptible signs (words and actions) accessible to our human nature. By the action of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit they make present efficaciously the grace that they signify."


Daniel Leslie Peterson June 5, 2009 at 6:30 PM  

I learned today in Church History class that the sacraments and the sacramental view developed in the medieval period when the place of the "material" was becoming more important. Whereas mysticism simply skips the material, idolatry makes the material the point and thereby misses the point.

But a proper understanding sees ALL material pointing to The Material object, the Lord Jesus Christ. While the terminology may not be biblical, the concept is absolutely central to biblical faith and illustrates how good theology always serves to deepen our understanding of the Scriptures. The concept is rooted in the INCARNATION: "The Word became flesh ..." (John 1:14)

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