On Christmas Eve, my wife Jennifer and I attended the communion and candlelight service at Woodmont Christian Church in Nashville. The contemplative combination of Word and Table was what we were seeking that evening and it was a meaningful experience.
The Table was served by congregants coming to the front and receiving the bread from the minister and we were then invited to dip the bread into the wine. The technical name for this is “intinction” (from the Latin intinctio meaning to “dip in”). It has been practiced for centuries in many traditions and is widely practiced in liturgical churches.
We each have our own peculiarities, I suppose, but intinction is not my preferred mode of experiencing communion. I find it much too reductionistic.
I don’t like a dip in wine or grape juice ; I would actually like to drink it. I prefer the experience of drinking.
At the same time, I don’t like eating a pinched piece of bread or cracker; I would actually like to eat it rather than swallow a pill or simply get a taste. I prefer eating and drinking rather than a mere tasting.
Moreover, I actually prefer a meal for the Lord’s Supper; it is called a “supper,” right? It is a called a “table” rather than an “altar”; it is for eating and drinking rather than a procession of ceremonial tasting. I prefer the full experience of a table meal rather than a “wine tasting,” or a minimalistic “snack”.
However….and this is a major point–don’t miss it…the efficacy of the sacrament–the power, meaning, and grace of the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper–does not depend on the quantity and quality of the meal. God’s gracious work through the Lord’s Supper is God’s own work, not ours.
By faith we receive what God gives. Whatever we think God does through the Supper (and opinions vary here), God does it, I think, through faith. Consequently, as we receive the Supper in faith, God is actively at work.
It is unfortunate, as far as I am concerned, that we have reduced the Supper of the Lord to eating and drinking small quantities and have even reworked drinking by virtue of intinction. I think we loose something. We lose, for example, the fullness of the meal experience that is part of a communal act of eating.
Nevertheless, when we come to the table, it is God who graces us. We do not grace ourselves. God can work through eating small quantities and even through intinction.