Thursday, November 16, 2006

No thanks, Jesus. I don't drink

I'm not sure why I haven't thought of this before, but the whole grape juice at communion thing is starting to bother me. Could be just me and where I'm at. Maybe it doesn't even matter, but I've got some questions that don't have any answers right now. 1. Why did we (my tradition) start using grape juice in the first place? I can understand if there was not wine available, so to use what you had onhand was acceptable, but why all across the board? 2. Did we think that Jesus used only grape juice? I've witness a few textual gymnastic moves over the years to prove that he did, but his first miracle, after all, was to turn water to wine, really good wine (it seems), so its hard to believe the people at the party were happy about getting a few barrels of Welch's. People celebrate over a case of Caymus, not Juicy Juice. By the way, did people get drunk off that wine that Jesus made? Just curious. 3. What does using grape juice do to the symbol of communion? I would guess to most of my evangelical friends it wouldn't even cross their minds, but to me it cheapens the ordinance. As I said in my last post, we learn to prefer sweet over bitter, but I believe its in the bitter palatte that resides our most mature flavors and richest sensory experiences. Communion is not a sweet, easy experience, so to use grape juice takes something away from my senses as I receive it. Has fear of the symbolic cup led us to soften the intimate portrait of Christ's blood being shed?


knnuki said...

How could wine not be available? If you've got grape juice, you can have wine, yes? Historically, there's no such thing as "no wine - sorry, we'll just have to use grape juice."

Publius said...

You know, it's funny. The whole 'grape juice communion' thing really started in America around the turn of the twentieth century, with the temperance movement. Remember Prohibition? Same thing.

The funny thing is, for a hundred years, conservative evangelicals scoffed at 'liberals' who abused the Word by using grape juice instead of wine. "Jesus clearly used wine," they said. "If we are Scriptural, we must use wine also!" Nowadays, of course, the 'conservative' position is to use only grape juice. Only Catholics and 'liberals' would ever use real alcoholic wine.

It would make me laugh, if it weren't so sad.

yourplanispuny said...

I've heard fundamentalist/Baptist preachers use the argument that NT wine had a very low alcohol content and was basically bitter grape juice. I'm sorry, but that is just propaganda bullshit. We don't give the ancients enough credit. They knew how to make wine and they knew how to get drunk. That much should be obvious from the biblical text. I'm so glad that that is one vain battle I don't have to fight anymore. Sorry if that sounds self-righteous.

Randy said...

I think it wasn't prohibition, but with the ministry of the Salvation Army. As alcoholics came to Christ, they believed it would be a mistake to serve wine for communion. The rest of the world thought it was a good idea, i guess. Part of the problem is growing up in the South, where alcohol and church don't mix. One of the things I miss about being overseas is that in Asia, Christians don't really see any problems with alcohol in moderation.

Tim said...

I had my eyes opened to wine for communion when I was in french study (1993) in France in a BAPTIST church.
I really connected with the whole concept of a bitter cup rather than a sweet one. And have always prefered wine for communion ever since.
At our recent SIL Mali-Cote d'Ivoire branch conference, I was leading communion and was going to use wine. We are a pretty mixed group - Europeans and N. Americans of many traditions, but I pulled back out of deference to a few.

I also had a bit of a struggle as I wanted to use a big ceramic cup and pass it around, but had someone among the organizers very opposed to that on "sanitary" reasons. She had procured some little plastic cups, so away with all the symbolism of sharing a cup.

Needless to say, I had some issues to deal with before leading communion. . .

BTW, really enjoying reading your blog.