If you only watched Baptism and Communion and didn’t hear what was being said, you’d probably be confused. Why is everyone excited about watching someone getting dunked into water? Why are these people drinking one ounce of grape juice and eating a mere smidgeon of a cracker? Many things we observe make sense “without the audio,” so to speak: someone taking a bath, eating a meal, driving to work. We understand what’s going on because they are so familiar to us. But without the audio, Baptism and Communion are just odd, even strange.
Here’s another thing that’s odd about Baptism and Communion. If much of our preaching and teaching follows the form, “Believe this; now demonstrate your belief by giving yourself over to good works,” where do Baptism and Communion fit in? They aren’t things to be believed. One doesn’t believe Baptism or Communion; one gets baptized and partakes in Communion. But while they are something to do, they aren’t really “good works,” such as loving another, speaking truth, and helping the poor. Those commands are ethical, that is, commands to do things that, in and of themselves, are good and can be done by anyone, even non-Christians. But Baptism and Communion are to be done only by those who have faith in Christ, and one would hardly call them “good works.”
So if they aren’t things to be believed or good works, what are they? They have been called many things, including “sacraments,” “ordinances,” and “rites”. But perhaps the simplest way to think about them is that they are ceremonies: formal events that have very specific meanings and are meant to celebrate, symbolize, and honor that meaning.
Part of the “oddness” of Baptism and Communion is because they are ceremonies and our culture (and sometimes our own churches!) don't value ceremony. We don’t like the formality of ceremonies. We don’t like doing the same thing over and over again. We want to do something new and unique, not old and just like everyone else. Why do we need a ceremony? Let’s just get on with it. What matters is the reality, not the ceremony. All rituals are empty or, at least, not very important and certainly not required.
The other part of the “oddness” is that, as ceremonies, they don’t make a whole lot of sense unless the “audio is on”: someone needs to explain to you the significance of the ceremony. Much more could be said about their significance. They are meant to be celebrated and enjoyed, and they are meant to be honored and obeyed. Even if they are not ethical acts or good works, “be baptized” (Acts 2:38) and “do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19) are still required.
If you have confessed Christ but not been baptized, follow his command and be baptized. If you have confessed Christ, do not neglect to participate in Communion, even if it takes extra effort (e.g., it is offered at Sunday evening Family Gathering). Do these things to celebrate and honor Christ.