Pizza and Coke for Communion?

Great Article by Clint Archer at the Cripplegate today:  A great reminder of why we celebrate communion the way we do and the importance of being intentional about our practice of the Lord’s Supper.

“Have you ever thought of these provocative variables in the form and substance of the Lord’s Supper:

•Should we not emulate the NT church’s practice of sharing an entire, sit-down meal?
•Must the bread be unleavened?
•Must the wine be alcoholic?
•Must the wine be red or can we useChampagneinstead?
•Where does one draw the line? For example, can pizza and Coke count as communion? I.e. can the bread be sweetened, or have a topping? What about milk and cookies?


Makes the blood boil a bit, doesn’t it? You may have got stuck on the milk & cookies on, and you would probably say: “Obviously not, don’t be dumb.” And you’d be right to say that…but why?

Here are some principles by which we can make these decisions.

1. Jesus instituted a practice of breaking and sharing bread and wine, therefore the substance of the meal must correlate with his intention.

Thus breaking bread is essential, as it represents the breaking of Christ’s body. The bread represents the body. It was the symbol Jesus selected, perhaps because he also called himself the Bread of Life (John 6:35).

This is why he said “Do this in remembrance of me” as he broke the bread. He clearly meant “Break bread.” Not, break a cookie, or cut some pepperoni pizza slices.

The question as to substance is, Does it correlate to what Jesus intended? Wheat crackers, unleavened pita, or even your regular store-bought breadloaf all accurately manifest the image of Christ’s body being broken as bread.

Likewise the contents of the cup is significant. At that Last Supper it was most certainly alcoholic wine, as there was no other kind available. Fermentation can only be delayed by refrigeration, invented later than 33AD. The wine may have been highly diluted, but this is speculation, and thus not stipulated in Scripture as a requirement. After all, Paul had to rebuke the Corinthian gluttons to not get drunk on the communion wine (1 Cor 11:21).

But today’s non-alcoholic grape juice is still an accurate manifestation of the symbol. The cup was intended to symbolize Christ’s blood being shed. Also, Jesus clearly said that he would not drink of the “fruit of the vine” until the kingdom comes (Luke 22:18). This pries open the category to include any fruit of the vine, like grape juice, or even perhapsChampagne (calm down, it’s just wine made in a region ofFrance calledChampagne).

Though the white color is usually a no-no for conservative types, it must be noted that the color of the communion wine is never mentioned in Scripture, it is only assumed, and therefore should not be stipulated as an unwavering regulation in our churches. And yes, the bubbles are ok. Fermenting grape juice always produces bubbles, it’s just a matter of quantity, which again has not been limited by Scripture.

On a practical note, we use grape juice and never wine because of the epidemic prevalence of alcohol abuse in our society. Those who are repentant drunks find it unhelpful to be tempted back into their debauchery each time they are trying to remember the shed blood of their Lord at church. Our grape juice is not legalism, it’s courtesy.

2. Jesus instituted the practice for us to remember his death, namely his broken body and shed blood, therefore the form of the practice must be an accurate reflection of his original intention.

So, it doesn’t matter if we recline or line-up or remain seated in our pews, as long as we all share. It does appear the Corinthian congregants each had a meal (1 Cor 11:21), but Paul rebukes this practice. The object of the exercise is to share a common piece of bread. Whether this is done as part of a sit-down meal (which I observed with believers inIsrael), or by queuing at table, or being served in the pew, it is the sharing that is symbolic.

It was a distinct moment in the mail that Jesus said “Do this” as he broke bread and “likewise” has he passed the cup (Luke 11:19-20). The “this” was referring to the moment of breaking and sharing, not to the whole meal. Which, incidentally, is also why foot-wshing is not one of the ordinances (as the Bretheren movement takes it to be). It was done as a precursor to the meal, but not part of the “this” we are instructed to perform; neither does foot-washing aid in the remembrance of the death of Christ through symbolism.

Some insist that there is only one cup and that it should be passed around. But the command was to “Take this [cup] and divide it among yourselves,” (Luke 22:17). There is no stipulation on how to divide it. At our church, for example, we divide the grape juice into single portion shot-glass-type cups that are distributed. I have also divided the wine among 300 Russians the other way: a single cup complete with floaties and lipstick marks.

As long as the form is an accurate representation of the Lord’s intention, it counts.

The Lord’s Supper is one of the most precious events on our calendars. It should be experienced with reverence, purity, and joy. The elements employed should reflect this attitude. So no Oreos and chocolate milk. At the same time, there has been given us tremendous liberty to accommodate various cultural norms and denominational quirks.

Let’s keep the main thing the main thing, and not spend too much effort straining out the gnats or other floaties in the communion juice.”

-Clint Archer, 03-05-2012

Execution by God

Athanasius on the death of Arius (in a letter to fellow pastor)

“You have asked me to tell you about the death of Arius.

I debated with myself for a long time about whether or not to give you an answer, afraid that someone might assume I was taking pleasure in his death. But, since there has been a debate among your colleagues concerning the Arian heresy — in which the question was raised as to whether or not Arius was restored to the church before he died — I think it is necessary to give an account of his death. That way your question will be put to rest, and, at the same time, it will silence those who are contentious. My guess is that, when the incredible circumstances surrounding his death become known, even those who raise such questions will no longer doubt that the Arian heresy is hateful in the sight of God.

I was not in Constantinople when he died, but Macarius the presbyter was there, and I heard about what happened from him.

Arius, on account of his politically-powerful friends, had been invited to appear before the emperor Constantine. When he arrived, the emperor asked him whether or not he held to the orthodox beliefs of the universal church. Arius declared with an oath that he did, and gave an account of his beliefs in writing. But, in reality, he was twisting the Scriptures and not being honest about the points of doctrine for which he had been excommunicated.

Nonetheless, when Arius swore that he did not hold the heretical views for which he had been excommunicated, Constantine dismissed him, saying, “If your faith is orthodox, you have done well to swear; but if your beliefs are heretical, and you have sworn falsely, may God judge you according to your oath.”

When Arius left the emperor, his friends wanted to immediately restore him to the church. But the bishop of Constantinople (a man named Alexander), resisted them, explaining that the inventor of such heresies should not be allowed to partake in communion. But Arius’s friends threatened the bishop, saying, “In the same way that we brought him to the emperor, against your wishes, so tomorrow — though it be contrary to your wishes — Arius will have communion with us in this church.” They said this on a Saturday.

When Alexander heard this, he was greatly distressed. He went into the church and stretched out his hands before God, and wept. Falling on his face, he prayed, “If Arius is allowed to take communion tomorrow, let me Your servant depart, and do not destroy that which is holy with that which is unholy. But if You will spare Your church (and I know that You will spare it), take note of the words of Arius’s friends, and do not give Your inheritance to destruction and reproach. Please remove Arius from this world, lest he should enter the church and bring his heresy with him, and error would be treated as if it were truth.” After the bishop finished praying, he retired to his room deeply concerned.

Then an incredible and extraordinary thing happened. While Arius’s friends made threats, the bishop prayed. But Arius, who himself was making wild claims, unexpectedly became very ill. Urged by the necessities of nature he withdrew, and suddenly, in the language of Scripture, “falling headlong, he burst open in the middle,” and immediately died where he lay. In an instant, he was deprived not only of communion, but of his very life.

That was the end of Arius.

His friends, overwhelmed with shame, went out and buried him. Meanwhile, the blessed bishop Alexander, amidst the rejoicing of the church, celebrated communion on Sunday with holiness and orthodoxy, praying with all the brethren. They greatly glorified God, not because they were taking joy in a man’s death (God forbid!), for “it is appointed for men once to die,” but because this matter had been resolved in a way that transcended human judgments.

For the Lord Himself had judged between the threats of Arius’s friends and the prayers of the bishop Alexander. He condemned the Arian heresy, showing it to be unworthy of communion with the church. God made it clear to everyone, that although Arianism might receive the support of the emperor and even all mankind, yet it ought to be condemned by the church.

(Note: [Nate Busenitz] has updated and paraphrased the story in a few places for the sake of readability. Those interested can find Philip Schaff’s original translation here.)”

Behold the Lamb

Behold the Lamb who bears our sins away,
Slain for us: and we remember
The promise made that all who come in faith
Find forgiveness at the cross.
So we share in this Bread of life,
And we drink of His sacrifice,
As a sign of our bonds of peace
Around the table of the King.
The body of our Savior, Jesus Christ,
Torn for you: eat and remember
The wounds that heal, the death that brings us life,
Paid the price to make us one.
The blood that cleanses every stain of sin,
Shed for you: drink and remember
He drained death’s cup that all may enter in
To receive the life of God.
And so with thankfulness and faith we rise
To respond: and to remember.
Our call to follow in the steps of Christ
As His body here on earth.
As we share in His suffering,
We proclaim: Christ will come again!
And we’ll join in the feast of heaven
Around the table of the King.
-Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty, and Stuart Townend