On Sunday afternoon we celebrated our American Baptist association's annual meeting. My friend and former classmate Chris Rice talked. He shared some profound stories from his life of living along the path of racial reconciliation. Many of those stories can be found in his book Grace Matters.
Following Chris' talk I and some deacons from our church led the whole assembly in Communion. For various reasons we I decided to break the typical Baptist protocol and have people come forward to receive communion (I can hear the collective Baptist gasp). This was the first time I had ever officiated a service of "intinction" (the official name for the practice of dipping the consecrated bread into the cup). I held the cup as the congregation streamed by. Everyone had a nametag on and as they dipped I addressed each of them by name. "The blood of Christ, for you Rebecca." "The blood of Christ, shed for you, Rohn." "Riki, the blood of Christ, given for you." The thing that gripped me most powerfully were the fingers that dipped their bread into that cup.. Some were long and beautiful. Some were stumpy and fat. Most were white, but some were black. And I hate to admit this, given that I was the one who decided on this whole intinction business, but some of the fingers were really, really dirty. Like dirty enough to make a germaphobe never come out of the house again. Yet even in that there was a profound truth about Christ. The cup, was open and available to all in spite of our dirtiness, or perhaps because of it.
After communion we went downstairs into the kitchen and one of my deacons had the presence of mind to ask if the cooks would like to receive communion also. I didn't do a very good job of explaining intinction to the group and before I knew it the first lady had swallowed her bread and was about to take a pull right from the cup. "Mm. . .I'm thirsty," she said. I saw the other ladies' eyes grow big as pumpkins. "Uh, I think I'm going to let you go last," I said embarrassingly. "And now, for the rest of you, dip the bread into the cup."
I've thought a lot about that lady over the last couple of days. I've decided that she in spite of how awkward she made me feel maybe she was on to something. Maybe we should all be as unabashadly thirsty for God as she was.