A Pinch and a Sip

OK, so maybe I’m not the brightest bulb in the chandelier. The clock ran out on my class Sunday before I got to this controversial point, so instead of being thankful that I was this “providentially hindered” and dropping it, I'm going to bring it up on my blog.  As they say, fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

First, some background. We practice baptism by full immersion in water, not sprinkling or pouring water. Paul in Romans 6 speaks of baptism as a burial, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Baptism is a recreation of the Christ-event in our lives as we die to sin, are buried in water and then rise out of the water to a new life. The Greek word “baptizo” from which we get the transliteration “baptism” originally meant “to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge.” Sprinkling or pouring a little dirt is not a burial; sprinkling or pouring a little water is baptism.

I never know who (if anyone at all) ever reads this blog, and this emphasis on immersion may be news to you. But everyone in my class Sunday would have “amened” this point on baptism. Churches of Christ really stresses baptism; it’s a good thing someone else already had the copyright on “Baptist Church” or else we may have been tempted to call ourselves that! We stress baptism!  I remember listening in on a conversation while some of our folks debated whether or not a baptismal candidate who was standing in the water waiting for his turn to be baptized and then was eaten by a crocodile before his turn came would be saved, (After all, the croc pulled him completely under the water, so…). We do stress baptism, and baptism (baptize) means immersion.

Here’s the question for which I ran out of time and that I now foolishly ask. The word “Supper” as in “the Lord’s Supper” is the Greek word “deipnon” which (using the same lexicon I used above) means “supper, especially a formal meal usually held at the evening.” In other words, the word “supper” means “a full meal” just like “baptism” denoted a full immersion. So (do you see what's coming?) why is it NOT OK to use a little water sprinkled or poured on someone as a symbol of a burial but it is PERFECTLY OK to use a little pinch of cracker and sip of grape juice as a symbol in the Lord's Supper? Do we lose something of theological significance when we replace a meal eaten communally around a table (the model Jesus used) with a symbolic “pinch-and-sip” which we eat in private meditation with no real sharing or communion going on around a table?

For further study, let me recommend a book by my friend John Mark Hicks (most of my friends don’t even read books let along write them) entitled Come to the Table. His take is that we have, to our detriment, turned the Lord’s Supper from a table into an altar.

If you'll excuse me, I have to get ready for the new class I'm teaching Sunday based on Rob Bell's book Sex God.  His first chapter is entitled "God Wears Lipstick."  What on earth was I thinking?