EN 28: a communion of signs

§27: salvation is not about fulfilling material needs but is "transcendent and eschatological" and is "fulfilled in eternity."

§28 speaks of the sacraments, which is a particular area of interest to me since evangelical missions to Muslims have tended to be (not surprisingly) almost entirely empty from a sacramental point of view. Here is the statement:

The preaching likewise [...] of the search for God Himself through prayer which is principally that of adoration and thanksgiving, but also through communion with the visible sign of the encounter with God which is the Church of Jesus Christ; and this communion in its turn is expressed by the application of those other signs of Christ living and acting in the Church which are the sacraments.

Here we have the theme of the search for God, which is in itself a response to God's already-present grace and revelation, and we find that our search for God takes place primarily in two ways: through prayer, and through communion in the church. Note that the sacraments then are not to be seen as acts or deeds or (irhamna ya rrab) 'works', but as a component of seeking God as part of a community. In other words, evangelicals often teach the former--seeking God through prayer--which one can do in isolation. But the other thing, seeking God within a communion that possesses 'signs' that point beyond themselves to the eternal Kingdom and being of God--that is rarely found.

Perhaps a better grasp of this concept of seeking God within a communion of signs would increase the effectiveness of the evangelical mission to Muslims. One need not go all the way to Rome or Orthodoxy to find a sacramental, evangelical framework. In fact the early Protestant missioners in Persia were Anglicans and Presbyterians and in reading their stories one finds quite clearly that baptism and Communion were major concerns. But there are other signs too, as mentioned in my previous post on Church Planting Movements, such as Holy Orders, that engender additional questions rather than answers.

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