Reverend Tina Burgess.........................07909107404
Email: [email protected]
Part of being a curate means a commitment to ongoing training…to engaging with the formational criteria laid out for us in the different phases of IME (Initial Ministerial Education) and to keep a record of theological reflection in all that we do. This gives us space to think about some of the things we do in church in a deeper way.
One of those topics which has recently required me to think about it a bit more deeply is the practice sometimes seen in the Communion service of ‘intincting’. The common reference to Intincting means that a person receiving Holy Communion does not eat the wafer/bread straight away but waits to ‘dip’ their wafer/bread into the chalice when the wine is offered.
I do not presume to know the reasons why individuals choose to ‘intinct’ but I wondered, perhaps it is for hygiene reasons? Perhaps they have a cold and do not want to put their lips to a chalice which others will also sip from? Perhaps they do not want to catch a cold from someone else?
I can understand these concerns. But while intincting brings its own hygiene concerns, however, the practice of intincting is not supported in the Church of England except where there may be exceptional circumstances.
These exceptional circumstances are recognised, for example, in the Anglican Communion where there may be the problem of HIV. Intincting is also allowed as common practice in male prisons and as documented in the Sacrament Act of 1547, there may be a necessity for intinction in the case of a pandemic… but in all cases, only the Priest who is presiding over the Communion service is allowed to intinct and place the wafer on the tongue. It is not meant that communicants can intinct for themselves.
Where a communicant is unable to (or does not want to) partake of the wine from the common cup, then they are to receive only one of the elements ie, the bread.
Why is it important both to receive from the common cup and to receive the bread and the wine separately? Simply because this is what Jesus instructed his followers to do. Both gospel accounts makes this clear.
In Matthew 26:26-30 and Luke 22: 14-23, Jesus takes one cup and tells his disciples, “Drink from it, all of you” and “Take this and divide it among yourselves”. At this time of the Passover meal, just before his crucifixion, Jesus is giving meaning to taking the elements separately. The wine for establishing the new covenant by his blood shed for us and the bread for remembering that his body is broken for us.
To depart from Christ’s instruction would be taking communion in our own way and we miss the meaning of what he has instituted for us. To partake of this one bread and one cup in the same manner we demonstrate that we are one with Christ, sharing in his one sacrifice made for the forgiveness of our sins and that signifies the unity we share in the one Holy Spirit, which unites us together.
As we continue through this season of Lent, with the glory of Easter coming into view, what better time to declare our unity with Christ and with each other than in partaking of the Lord’s supper, all together, sharing the one bread and one cup as he commanded.
When hearing the word ‘disciple’, it’s an easy mistake to make to think that it only applied to those twelve chosen followers of Jesus.
Historically, ‘discipleship’ was something that many in the ancient world practised to one master or another. But far from just assenting to someone’s teaching, or being mentored by someone, it meant the whole of life being shaped by that one individual whom you had chosen to follow. Christ’s disciples embraced that kind of whole life relationship with Jesus while he lived here on the earth, and one of the most important characteristics of being a disciple today is that we can, with the help of the Holy Spirit, have that same kind of intimate relationship with Christ, which is so much more than just learning about Him.
Recently, I was privileged to hear three different people talking about their own experience of being disciples. Each person was a different age, chosen to show a spread of ages at different times of life. Each one spoke personally of their experience and gave their reflection on what being a disciple of Jesus had meant to them.
Although these people were different ages and at different stages of life and had different experiences in life, one of the overwhelming realities which stood out from hearing their experiences was that being a disciple is… for life! It’s not a job which you do for a certain length of time and then retire from. It’s not an artistic fad or a music craze which comes in and out of fashion. It’s not something you are too old or too young to be. Being a disciple of Christ is just that…being a disciple, a learner, a follower of Christ in every season of life, through every season of life and there are lots of people in every different walk of life who are disciples of Christ…and this has been so for the last 2000 years.
The other overwhelming reality which stood out to me from their shared experience was that discipleship is not easy. It involved not knowing the future; of waiting, but being ready to respond when prompted; of sometimes realising that you had wandered from the path and needed to call out to Jesus to bring you back and set you in the right direction again; of staying faithful to God and believing what he has promised you even when life looks nothing like that promise. Of course there are mountaintop experiences but there are shadows and valleys too…It was actually a relief to have it publicly acknowledged that this was the common experience of discipleship.
I guess that it made me see that God is so much bigger than our circumstances and that from beginning to end, he reigns over it all. 2Timothy 2: 13 says, “If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself”. We are safe in him because we belong to him through Christ. Knowing that we are his and that even when our certainties wobble, God remains steadfast. This gives us the strength to keep going.
The final thing which stood out to me from this reflection on discipleship was that the vicar leading the service commented that the collective noun for disciples is…church! The reality is that we are on this journey together under God’s grace. Brothers and sisters in the kingdom of God. We need each other’s encouragement, understanding and love. Let’s ask our Heavenly Father to help us remember that and to help us be that for one another on this journey called discipleship.