Nothing but the Blood of Jesus

IMG_2193What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Blood is symbolic.  Positively, blood reminds us of: family, heritage, a life-giving force, and the truth that courses through us.  Negatively, blood reminds us of: wounded-ness, sickness, disease, and violent death.  The blood of Jesus is remarkable.  It is blood that was spilled in a violent death that gives life, that heals sin-sick souls, that restores the stigmatized and dehumanized to wholeness and community.

Blood is sometimes linked to water.   Blood is thicker than water.  Don’t drink the water, there’s blood in the water.  And there’s that weird watery blue stuff in pad commercials.  The blood of Jesus has a water counterpart, baptism.

There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.

In the sacrament of Baptism, sins are forgiven and a new identity is bestowed, child of God.  As a Presbyterian (USA), I believe that a sprinkle of water once is a sufficient outward sign of the inward workings of God.  However, I do appreciate the idea of being fully immersed in the waters of Baptism; being held under the water, and then lifted out.  It is quite literally the whole person that is washed and called beloved child.  It is this imagery that reminds me that all of me is called by God to do his work in this world.  I am not just called to love God and neighbors with my head or my heart, but with my whole being, my whole female being, blood and all.  The more I am able to accept myself, my flaws and my strengths, my body and my soul, the more I am able to listen to and respond as my Baptism, my ordination, and God’s call.

Recently, I received a message from someone with two questions she thought were unrelated.  The first was about choosing a seminary and the second was about choosing a menstrual cup.  For me, finding the right seminary and the right menstrual cup are both about being true to who you are and loving the incredible woman you are (you know, the way God loves you).  I shared with her Put a Cup in it‘s Menstrual cup Comparison chart and that I personally use a Lunette cup and that I attended Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

It took me a while to get used to the cup.  Finding the right way to fold the cup and make sure it was inserted correctly took some practice.  My tip is once you have it in make sure it’s opened (unfolded). Sometimes I have to get a finger in there and encourage the unfolding and sometimes its fine without additional adjustment. The most important step is to take a cleansing breath and relax (easier said than done if your worried about it). I find that the more comfortable I feel with my body the easier the cup is to use. I really think it is empowering.

I know that my faith was shaped throughout my life and not just while I was at seminary.  My family of origin is composed of Presbyterians, Catholics, and some who no longer attend traditional church.  I was baptized, confirmed and ordained in the PCUSA.  While each of those events happened at different churches in Pittsburgh Presbytery, I consider Sharon Community Presbyterian Church my home church.  I attended Pittsburgh Theological Seminary after attending Alderson-Broaddus College (now University) which is associated with the American Baptist church.  While attending AB, I interned at a United Methodist Church.  Before I was ordained, I was the music teacher at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart High School, a Catholic High School, a ministry of the Felician Sisters.  While each of these places and the communities of people within them have influenced my faith and have opened my eyes to different understandings of the Christian faith, I feel most connected to the PCUSA.  The following paragraphs are pieces of my faith statement (part of the requirements for ordination).

I believe there are two sacraments, Communion and Baptism.  I acknowledge that for other Christians there are more than two sacraments (although we agree that Baptism and Communion are among them) and our explanations of what God and the church are doing during the sacraments vary widely.  The following is the shortest way I have been able to explain sacraments.

God acts through the sacraments of Baptism and Communion.  In sacraments, the church participates in worship and we are drawn more closely to the real presence of God.  Sacraments are holy mysteries we experience more than we understand.  Sacraments are public; they are received by the congregation during worship and not given privately.  Participating in sacraments is a public profession of faith by individuals as part of the body of Christ, the church.

Baptism is a sign and seal of God’s grace, and we respond to God’s grace by committing ourselves to faith in Christ.  When an infant is baptized, the parents profess Christ is their Lord and Savior, renounce evil, declare they will be active participants in the church, and declare they will provide Christian nurture for their child.  A child’s baptism shows us that it is God who claims us; we do not earn our way to God.  When an adult is baptized, the adult professes that Jesus Christ is his/her Lord and Savior, renounces evil, and professes to be an active participant in the church.  In both instances, the church professes faith, and promises to support and nurture the person baptized.  Each member of the congregation remembers and reaffirms the promises made in baptism (their own and those they have participated in).

Communion is a sign and seal of God’s grace, and we respond to God’s grace by committing ourselves to faith in Christ.  It’s the sign of the new covenant sealed in Christ’s blood.  Elements used in communion represent Christ’s body and blood.  In Communion, the Holy Spirit draws us into the real presence of the risen Christ.  Communion renews and sustains our faith so that we can go into the world and serve as faithful disciples.  We also experience a foretaste of what is to come in the kingdom of heaven.  By taking communion together as a community of believers, we show our unity.  The church is called to create disciples to edify and build up the body of Christ; to proclaim the good news of Christ to the world; to give drink to the thirsty, food to the hungry, clothing to the naked; and to visit the sick and imprisoned.

When we participate in the sacraments, we remember who Jesus is and we remember who we are called to be. Christ’s identity forms our identity as individuals and as a worshiping community. Our identity is beloved children of God.

We are joyful because our identity is one that rests in God and not on our success or circumstances. And yet, we are sorrowful, because of what Christ had to endure for our sake. Christ’s bitter passion was for our salvation. He paid the debt for our sin, a debt we could never pay. He loves us even thought it is difficult to love us.  Our response to this difficult kind of love is to love God completely and to love others as Jesus has loved us.  This is bloody work.

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

1 thought on “Nothing but the Blood of Jesus

  1. Beautifully said.

    Like

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