All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost. ~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
There are things about my job I don’t like. I don’t like the intangible nature of my calling. I work with people at a soul level on problems that do not have quick solutions. There are deep-seated pathologies that will take months and years to find healing. In fact, some of those wounds will never be healed this side of Heaven. I don’t like that. I want their pain to go away—today.
I don’t like officiating weddings for people I do not know. That’s right, I don’t like doing weddings for your cousin’s friend. Nobody wants to hear what pastor says at a wedding, especially a pastor that they don’t know. Folks are too busy ogling the bride’s maids or wondering if there is going to be any alcohol at the reception. Get a Justice of the Peace, for crying out loud.
I know—I sound grumpy.
But recently I’ve come to love an aspect of my calling almost more than any part. It is serving Communion by Intinction.
Intinction \in-ˈtiŋ(k)-shən\ It’s a fancy word for saying we are taking Communion by dipping bread in wine/grape juice. I am a Baptist so that means we use non-alcoholic grape juice only.
When given the bread I say words of affirmation, such as “Christ’s body broken for you.” When given the cup: I say, “The blood of Christ shed for you.”
Folks are usually silent and don’t say anything, maybe a silent prayer or, they say, “Amen” or, “Thanks be to God!” or, they may also say whatever the Spirit leads them to say.
The practice of receiving communion by intinction is an ancient one. In the last few generations many Protestant churches have revived this practice in Sunday worship. When taking Communion by Intinction, the body of the Church acts together, moving as a community towards the Table. In the Baptist tradition, we believe that salvation is given to us and is not something we take; by being handed bread, the symbolism for this belief is enacted.
But the reason I love it is because when I serve the bread and fruit of the vine, I lock eyes with people I love and sometimes call them by name as I say, “Christ’s body broken for you. Christ’s blood shed for you.” And in that two second eye-to-eye, soul-to-soul moment a look leaps between pastor and people and a connection occurs that doesn’t happen in any other encounter. The Holy Spirit is present as our souls—pastor and people—take, bless, break and give the body and blood of Christ together. Two hours of conversation is compressed into two seconds of soul care.
Last Sunday I administered communion for the last time in the Pacific Northwest. My wife and I have accepted a call to pastor Mountain Heights Baptist Church in Buena Vista, Colorado. As the congregants came forward to receive the elements from both of us—many tears flowed—from pastor and people.
Almost half of my ministry life has been in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and we will miss it very much. The mountains, the water, the coffee, the rain, the lushness (it is so green here it feels like the front lawn of heaven) But more than all of that we will miss the precious souls we have grown to love. But God has been clear about what our next assignment will be and I’ve learned a long time ago it’s best not to argue with the Lord.
I could quote John Muir and say, “The Mountains are calling and I must go” but that would not be accurate.
So, I will tell you that God said, “Get off my lawn!”