Stump the Rector: On Drankin

Kristen writes;

I have a question for you and am having a discussion with a friend about communion wine. He believes in no alcohol intake and feels like grape juice is appropriate for communion. I explained to him that the wine is blessed and used as part of the holy sacrament of communion. He feels that wine during Christ’s time was not fermented and contained no alcohol. I looked up a website about communion wine and it stated that during Christ’s time that there was no refrigeration, therefore grape juice would naturally ferment into wine. He feels that he has been mislead over the years and would like clarification as to rather or not it is a sin to take in any alcohol according to the bible, even during communion. He does not drink at all and I occasionally have a glass of wine or a beer. He believes that is a sin. Could you clarify our friendly argument about the differences between moderation and abuse, as well as, rather or not blessed wine is appropriate for communion according to Christ’s teachings. I, of course believe it is, but I am asking this for my friend to help him understand. God Bless and thank you!

Great question. From a historical perspective those who oppose alcohol offer a relatively new argument and it is very American, unknown in many parts of the world. It is a non issue for many Christians in other parts of the world which should at least make us wonder.

Jesus’ first miracle was to turn water into wine, not grape juice. Wine is wine. Thus the people remarked that you usually serve the best wine first then bring out the cheap stuff later. Why? Because after a few glasses they are intoxicated enough to not tell the difference. If alcohol was sinful, this would not have been our Lord’s first miracle.

The biblical admonition is not to avoid drinking but to avoid drunkenness. So St Paul says “Do not be drunk with wine but be filled with the Holy Spirit.” When the Apostles were accused on Pentecost of being drunk for speaking in tongues St Peter said ” We are not drunk as you suppose, it is only 9 o’clock in the morning.” Neither the detractors nor St. Peter were not talking about grape juice.

Jesus instituted the Eucharist at the Passover Meal which included wine. Ask a Rabbi if they drank grape juice at the Passover and he will laugh at you. Look at it logically. Grapes are harvested in the fall. The Passover is in the Spring. Without refrigeration the grapes get happy.

In terms of the sacrament, we are required to offer the same species that Jesus instituted. We have no right to change what our Master ordained. If your friend does not want to take the wine that is okay. We are required to offer it but you are not required to take it. Since flesh and blood cannot be separated, to receive one is to receive both. We have a number of folks who only take the bread. That is appropriate and we honor individual conscience.

Lastly, St. Paul told Timothy to take a little wine for his oft infirmities. Again he was not prescribing grape juice. Come to think of it I’m not feeling so great myself. Cheers!

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