Sometimes I just sit and wonder things. Like whether or not Adam and Eve had belly-buttons. Or how the Kool-Aid guy, made of glass, jumps through solid walls without breaking. Or what it would be like to live outside of time. Today’s thoughts are along those lines. They touch upon some issues of great theological importance, of which I am not ignorant, but please take this in the spirit in which it is intended: as light-hearted wonderings.
I’ve been thinking about Communion. The Lord’s Supper, the Lord’s Table, the Eucharist, the Love Feast, the Third Sacrament, whatever you want to call it. Before His death, Jesus ate bread and drank wine with His disciples, giving them the image of bread and wine as His broken body and blood, a foretelling of events to come the following day. In reference to the cup of wine, He said, “This cup is the new covenant of My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” (1 Cor. 11:25b)
Now, the Church is divided on how the bread, wine, body, and blood are connected, and what it all means. I’ve spent a good deal of time trying to figure it all out, with little success. But this isn’t what I’ve been wondering lately.
My question is: is wine still the best drink to associate with communion?
At the time, wine was nothing special. Water could be scarce and oftentimes dangerous, but the fermentation process involved in winemaking made wine safe to drink. This means that wine was probably imbibed daily. It was not a special “We’re going out for a romantic evening,” or a “girl’s night in,” sort of a drink. It was probably just what they had on hand. The physical resemblance between wine and blood is a wonderful addition to the image (and probably part of God’s plan), but not completely necessary. Broken bread and broken human flesh are not very similar at all.
Today, however, wine is not sipped every day by a great part of the population. For many, it is thought of as an accompaniment for special occasions. This drastically lowers the number of occasions that we can drink “in memory of [Jesus].” Perhaps Christ meant for us to only remember His sacrifice when we partake of the Eucharist on Sundays, or maybe He wanted us to think about Him every day as we drink with our meal. Perhaps each glass of wine was meant to remind of of His blood. If we’re only drinking this beverage on occasion, then our remembrance is not as frequent as it could be.
Perhaps we can look at another option. In North America, an equivalent I see in my daily life is coffee. My coworkers drink an obscene amount of java while on the clock. Starbucks and Second Cup are always full of people lining up for their daily caffeine fix. Even at my church, where Communion is only celebrated once a month, coffee is served in the lobby every weekend.
Catholics refer to the sacramental wine as “fruit of the vine and work of human hands, it will become our spiritual drink.” Coffee grows from a plant but must be worked by humans to become a drink in a similar way. God has given us the basic materials, we work with them, and return them back as part of our spiritual service.
Perhaps if Christians think about Christ every time we look into our steaming cup of coffee, we would have our Lord in our memory more often. We would be confronted with the brutal forgiveness of our sins each morning, and it might lead to a more humble life. Maybe not, but it could help.
Now, coffee isn’t the only option I’ve thought of. I drink milk almost daily, which could suffice as a spiritual drink. Or water, for those who take the time to properly hydrate their bodies. Or perhaps we could teach our kids to think about Jesus every time they sip on some Kool-Aid.
Maybe it’s blasphemous to believe something other than wine (or grape juice, if your moral compass doesn’t allow for wine) could be substituted for Communion. Yet, I think it’s telling that people come together over coffee to share in communion (little C) more often than they do over wine.
It’s just what I’ve been thinkin’ about.