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.
You can’t do this wrong and no one looks at you funny if you don’t “do it right.” When they come forward, a basket of bread is placed before them then they dip the bread in the cup and eat.
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!”
I’ll bet Abraham had similar thoughts as he walked out of Ur…just a thought
Sent from Robbie’s iPhone
The calling of God always involves mystery, Robbie. No doubt. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Pastor Joe: Please keep me on your list for your amazing posts. I wish you the very best, and I know you will be fine. Chase some Elk for me back there.
Come see us, Bob!
We’re spreading fertilizer on the grass over here for you Joe. Come on down! But only after you have said your goodbyes. This is not an easy thing. Those people and memories are stuck between your toes. Strength to you during this tearing away.
Dustin…liminal space…a difficult place to be. But the best is yet to come!
I’ll miss you both very much.
Thanks, Katie. You are a wonderful lady.
This is exciting news and a wonderful article. I can tell you are happy and sad at the same time. Congratulations on your new adventure. I hope you will continue the Field Notes on the Jesus Way. Last night I read this one to my dear wife and shared a joyful tear or two with you as you told about your last communion. I have shared many of your articles with friends, co-workers, and family since you started it. It has helped open doors for witnessing to others. So, I say, Go get’em Joe Chambers! And have a safe move.
Thanks, Mark. You can subscribe to the blog in the bottom right hand corner of the blog site where it says “Follow.” If you have trouble with it let me know and I can do it for you.
Lord thank you for watching over Joe and his family. Thank you for all the blessings you have poured out on then. Thank you for walking close to them. Thank you for guiding there every move. Lord most of all thank you for sharing them with us. They will be in our hearts always and on our minds always. In your name we pray. Amen.
Thanks for this, Eric. You and your bride are very special to Nette and I. Blessings to you.