The Case for Wine in Communion image

The Case for Wine in Communion

Emmanuel Church Brighton recently took the radical step of serving wine at communion. (Whether the word "radical" in that sentence means "indefensible and bizarre" or "staringly obvious to virtually every Christian who has ever lived", I leave for the reader to judge.) Because it was a somewhat controversial move for many, as it often is in a low church, charismatic, not-very-sacramentally-inclined context, they wrote a brief explainer on it on their website, and I thought it was excellent. They reason as follows:

“And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” (Luke 22:17-18)

As from Summer 2019, we are changing the way that we practice the Lord’s Supper at Emmanuel to include the use of wine (as opposed to a substitute drink). Scripture and the historical practice of the church supports this and we are looking to bring ourselves into better alignment with Jesus’ leadership.

Why Wine, Why Now?

At Emmanuel we always want to be responsive to the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. Over the years this has meant various changes in the way we conduct the Lord’s Supper in our services. For example, several years ago we were provoked about the frequency with which we were celebrating the Supper - it was once a month or less - and we changed our practice to make the celebration a core part of our weekly gatherings, to the point where it would be unusual for us not to celebrate Communion on any given Sunday.

In a similar way, we have become convinced that Scripture calls for the use of wine in communion. We are not alone in this and the vast majority of Christians throughout the ages have done the same so it is no new discovery. Over the last couple of centuries, temperance movements have responded to abuses of alcohol in society by banning alcohol on their premises and in their services. Often well-intentioned and pastorally caring, the application of these decisions to omitting wine from the Lord’s Supper was presumptuous.

The wine stands for the blood of Christ which was shed for us and the symbolism is not merely or even mainly in its colour. In the Old Testament, we are told: “the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life” (Leviticus 17:14) and it is the overflowing life of Jesus which we are being called to participate in in the Supper. It is supposed to be a celebration of a great gift and not a time of sorrowful introspection - we are dealing with the God who commands His people to celebrate with wine and strong drink in His presence (Deuteronomy 14:26).

The way Jesus told us to go about celebrating is to take bread and wine and we want to obey Him.

What If I Am Unable To Take Alcohol?

For some people, in their present phase of life, it would be unwise or unsafe to take alcoholic drink. We understand this and want to make provision for the whole congregation to participate as much as possible. We have been very concerned to take the appropriate time to assess all of the related practical matters. With that in mind, we will make a non-alcoholic alternative available at every service.

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