Paul calls the elders of the church at Corinth, “stewards of the mysteries of God (1 Cor. 4:1).” Bear with me as we do a little word study. The Greek word here mysteria (i.e. mysteries), was translated into Latin as sacramentum, which is where we get the word sacrament from. The word sacramentum in Roman culture was the vow which a soldier would make as he devoted his life to serve in a particular legion. Taking this onboard, we can see that both the outward sign of the vow, and what the vow effected matter.
The text I quoted at first tells us that ministers of God are to be stewards of these sacraments, these signs which seal the covenantal oaths binding us to Christ. There are two ways in which a minister can fail in his task to steward these mysteries. The first way is to belittle the sign, the second way tries to bedazzle it.
The first way treats the sign itself as a trinket that in itself is unimportant. The physical bread and wine can be tossed by the wayside. What really matters, in this erroneous way of thinking, is understanding that the real treasure is the pious feelings we had along the way.
The other way is through unlawful ornamentation. This can be through additional liturgical flourishes, or through taking the Lord’s statement about this bread being His body and wresting it to mean that some sort of magical switcheroo happens when the right spell is muttered over the elements.
Stewards of the mysteries of God must help God’s people learn to hold two things in tension. These physical signs aren’t dispensable; but we must not dwell on them alone, rather through these signs perceive Christ by faith, and therefore our fellowship with the Triune God.
So come in faith and welcome to Jesus Christ…