In the Protestant tradition of the Christian faith, we do not teach that the sacraments “do anything” in heaven. God does not save the baptized child or ignore the unbaptized . . . Water brought from the Jordan River in a little bottle might be a nifty souvenir of your trip, but it won’t make a better baptism. The rituals of ordination don’t make the ordained more holy or important or powerful. It would be easier to say what religion is about if we believed in magic, but all that is dead and gone for those mature in the faith.
To be a Christian at Riverside, do you have to believe Jesus was born of a virgin? As many of you know, in the 1920s, some years before he began his ministry here, Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick got himself and the Presbyterians into a marvelous snarl preaching No! You do not have to believe in the virgin birth.
“You are doing it all wrong,” Paul wrote to the church at Corinth. “Not everything–but the main thing: your celebration of communion—why, it’s not really communion. You’re doing it all wrong. ” Are we doing it right? In his book “Rabbi Jesus”, professor Bruce Chilton argues that what we’re doing is not at all what Jesus was up to at his last supper.
Was there really a Judas? Or was the character “Judas” a creation of the first Christians who told these stories–a way for them to utter an ineradicable curse upon all their brothers who would not see Messiah in their master Jesus? I do not know the answer to that question. All of us know, however, that through every generation from the first, the church beat words into weapons to torment Jews and kill them as Judases. How unblessed are those who see others as enemies and thus preserve their righteousness.