Whatley: The Lord’s Supper

Published 9:57 pm Monday, October 30, 2017

If you mix yeast and sugar, the yeast will consume the sugar and you’ll get ethanol and carbon dioxide. If the sugar comes from “Vitis vinifera” (grapes), you’ll get wine; although you can also make wine from other fruits or even rice. If the sugar source is honey, the “wine” is called “mead.” But wine has long been more than mere chemistry.

Martin Luther said, “Beer is made by men; wine is made by God.” Benjamin Franklin once said, “Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.” And Robert Louis Stevenson said, “Wine is liquid poetry.”

The earliest evidence of wine is from 7000 BC in China, 6000 BC in Georgia, 5000 BC in Iran, and 4000 BC in Sicily. The Egyptians connected red wine to blood and it was widely used in religious rituals. Wine was later used in the Greek cult of Dionysus, the Roman Bacchanalia, the Jewish Kiddush, and the Christian Eucharist.

Mary Ella and I presented our Navajo Mission to a church on St. Simons Island and were invited to stay for worship later. They served Holy Communion and offered us a communion tray with small cups of white wine in the center of the tray and small cups of red wine around the outside of the tray. Our host explained that the red wine was for the adults and the white “wine” was actually grape juice for the children.

“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:17-26)

Like a few other things in the church, our observance of Holy Communion is a shadow of the original observance. For the sake of expediency, we take a sip of grape juice and a hint of bread. In the early church, Holy Communion was the opening ritual of a feast signifying the abundance of God’s love and mercy. The wine symbolized Jesus’ blood poured out for us on the cross of Calvary, and the bread symbolized his body broken by the thorns of his “crown” and the stripes of the whip.

It’s the simplest story in all of history; we messed up, we broke the rules, we sinned and Jesus stood up to take our punishment. It’s called forgiveness and mercy!

Pastor’s viewpoint is written by Charles ‘Buddy’ Whatley, a retired United Methodist pastor and, with Mary Ella, a missionary to the Navajo Reservation in Arizona.