Jesus, Light

He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored…

Communion is highly organized and sanitized in Baptist churches – at least in every Baptist church I’ve attended. Sips of grape juice are portioned into little plastic cups and placed on trays; bread, wafers or crackers are broken into bite-sized bits.

The bread and the “wine” are passed down the pews, or the rows of comfy chairs. And it’s fine. Because, in those large churches, it would take forever for 50 x 3 rows of congregants plus an entire balcony to come down and sip from a single chalice.

But there is something about drinking from the cup. Or, in my case – call me a germaphobe – having my wafer dipped into the cup. Of wine. Maybe when you’re offering a communal cup you have to use wine. Maybe the alcohol kills germs. Maybe.

Anyway, I’m preparing to teach Revelation 14 Monday night, and I’m thinking about cups.

The cup of wrath and the cup of forgiveness.

Jesus said it there in the garden of Gethsemane, as He was sweating blood. “Father, if there is any other way, take this cup from me.”

If there had been any other way, Jesus’s desperate plea proves He would have taken it. He didn’t WANT to endure the cross.

If there had been another way, His Father certainly would have shown it. He didn’t WANT His son to suffer needlessly.

But there was no other way. So Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath. For us.

And now I see that cup again. At the end of chapter 14.

When evil had reached its full measure, “The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath.”

And that gives a new depth to the Eucharist. When I drink from/dip into the cup I am identifying with the One who drank my cup of wrath. And I am grateful that He offers instead the cup of forgiveness.

The wine of His blood.

Because without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin.

The Baptist church offered communion once a month. On the first Sunday. The church I attend now offers it every Sunday. This week I took communion three times – Sunday morning, at a funeral on Tuesday and again on Ash Wednesday.

Wednesday evening I noticed the young girl next to me receiving the wafer into her cupped hands. Not taking it, receiving it. The wafer was then taken from her hands by the cup bearer, dipped into the wine chalice and placed in her mouth.

I started to notice others doing it that way. Then I remembered the cupped hands of my Catholic cousins receiving communion when I visited them as a child.

All these weeks I have been taking the wafer from the pastor’s hand with my fingers and handing it to the cup bearer. The first time up I even dipped it into the chalice myself.

It must be the way they are taught to do it, I thought, and dismissed it as an unnecessary ritual that this old dog needn’t adopt.

But today I’m seeing the beauty in humbly receiving the body of Christ into cupped hands.

And as I ponder this lesson, it comes down to this:

Any one of us can identify with the wily beast and drink the cup of wrath, or we can identify with Jesus, who drank it for us.

Special Valentine’s dinner with the hub tonight. Better get in the shower.

In related news: Six Stone Jars and a Cup of Forgiveness

And for my friend Alma, who is reading Revelation with me (and anyone else who cares to read a little bit more):

All those people who received the mark of the beast at the end of Chapter 13, who thought they were aligning themselves with power – or who thought they were doing what was necessary for survival, to get ahead, to be able to buy and sell, to be politically correct – were actually marking themselves for destruction. Because isn’t that way the beast always works – promising one thing, delivering another.

Paul expressed it like this:

“But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.” Romans 2:5

Those beast worshipers thought they were winning, thought they were doing just fine, thought God didn’t really care about their sin. And all the while He was letting evil ripen and they were storing up wrath against themselves.

But, Hallelujah!, chapter 14 opened with the Lamb standing on Mt. Zion, high above the beast of the surf and the beast of the turf, worshiping before His Father’s throne.

He and the 144,000 who bear His name and the name of His Father, sing a new song. A song that only those martyrs can learn. ‘Cuz there are some things that only intense suffering can teach.

And if the Lamb’s response to the political madness, blaspheme and puffed-up noise of the beast is to stand before the throne and worship, then I think I’ll make it mine, too.

 

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10 thoughts on “He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored…

  1. Alma Mater says:

    As a Catholic in the 80s, I was taught to hold my hands together, right palm underneath left. The priest would place the host on the left palm, muttering the words, “The Body of Christ.” I would reply, “Amen,” and wait until I had taken a few steps to the side — there was a waiting line behind me after all — to use my right hand to pluck the host from my left palm, and put it in my mouth before walking back to my seat. It was all very carefully taught… and just as carefully learned.

    20 years prior, my mother had been taught to kneel down and open her mouth, and the priest would place the host on her tongue. There was a row of kneelers at the altar so that five or six people could kneel at a time, so as to keep the line moving. As one would leave the spot, another would kneel in their place. The idea was that only the priest was worthy to touch the transubstantiated Body of Christ. The laity must just open their mouths. Why their tongues were more worthy than their hands, I am not sure. Certainly we sin as easily with our tongues as with our hands..

    It was a really serious thing to believe in transubstantiation, and it led to all kinds of precautions that must be taken with the host. If there were leftover, it was to be consumed by the priest, or stored in the tabernacle. It could not be disposed of in a way unfitting to the Body of Christ. If it were to go bad, it had to be dissolved in water — it would cease to be the Body once it no longer had the appearance of bread. Once dissolved, it could be poured down a sacrarium (special drain) in a sink called a sacristy. The drain was to lead directly out to the ground outside, and not into the sewer system.

    I find it really interesting how a doctrine leads to so many practical concerns. Thinking about special drains to transport sacred water from baptisms or sacred bread from Communion seems to me to border on silliness, but if the host is truly the body, or if the Holy Water is truly sacred, then these practical matters must be considered.

    In an attempt to ensure that certain rituals are not denigrated to the rank of symbolic, as in protestantism, doctrines which are developed to protect the dignity of the sacraments, instead paint themselves into a corner where that dignity dissolves into silliness.

    Although who am I to call it silly?

    When I was leaving the Catholic Church, this issue of transubstantiation was the most compelling and fearsome doctrine that held onto me for a long time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad you commented, Alma, I’ve been a bit concerned about you. And, of course, I love the richness of your sharing.

      Thank you for the interesting history lesson – and for the instruction that the right palm goes under the left.

      “Certainly we sin as easily with our tongues as with our hands..” In my case way more easily. Good point.

      When I was the director of a pregnancy center, once a year my daughter and I would attend all 4 (one on Saturday night and 3 on Sunday morning) masses at a Catholic Church. They threw an annual baby shower for the center which included a reception after each of the services. The priest said I couldn’t take communion because I didn’t believe that the elements became the actual body and blood of Jesus.

      My husband and I visited a Lutheran church a few years ago, and we were again told that we could not take communion for the same reason. Like your mom, people came up to the altar – which was surrounded on three sides with kneeling benches – and the wafer was placed on their tongues. My husband and I were allowed to come up and kneel for a blessing, but not for communion.

      The pastor at this church has not said that the elements become the actual body and blood of Jesus, but I get the feeling that is what they believe. I don’t believe that, but I don’t think I’m required to believe it. The pastor said the Lord’s table is open to all baptized believers and that includes me.

      “In an attempt to ensure that certain rituals are not denigrated to the rank of symbolic, as in protestantism, doctrines which are developed to protect the dignity of the sacraments, instead paint themselves into a corner where that dignity dissolves into silliness.”

      You call it silliness, I call it church nonsense. 🙂 There is a difference between approaching worship reverently; being mindful of worshiping God the way He wants to be worshiped, and using rituals, as you said, to uphold and reinforce the doctrines and traditions of men.

      I like the idea of holding out my hands to receive the bread because it puts my heart in the proper posture and it will remind me that I am helpless to do for myself what Jesus did for me. But I don’t think God really cares how I receive it – He just wants me to remember what He did for me.

      “When I was leaving the Catholic Church, this issue of transubstantiation was the most compelling and fearsome doctrine that held onto me for a long time.”

      What were you afraid would happen if you went to a church that believes it is merely symbolic of the body and blood?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Alma Mater says:

        I was afraid that I was turning my back upon Jesus, and replacing Him with a symbol. If Jesus is truly present in the Catholic Eucharist, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, then I would be walking away from the means of redemption that He had set up through His Church, and turning to a false church with a false Christ, and a false method of redemption. Eventually, I had to do it. I had to believe the Bible to be infallible, and the Pope’s teachings to be false. The Catholic Church believes the Pope to be infallible, and the Bible to be infallible only when interpreted through the Magisterium (Catholic Church hierarchy). I had been, in effect, brainwashed by the belief that my own reading of the Bible, if it contradicted the Church’s, was wrong. Only the Church’s interpretation was correct. It was a very scary place to be, stuck between these two worlds, and unsure which was true, my salvation hanging in the balance.

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        • Yes, that would be scary. I’ve had similar fears – not as intense – leaving what I am used to.

          The Truth is, God loves us and He is bigger than denominations and the church. The only thing upon which our salvation balances, as you know, is our profession of faith in Him. He isn’t going to let those of us who rely on Him accidentally make a fatal mistake.

          It kills me how the enemy of our souls uses those fears to paralyze us even as the Lover of our souls says, “Do not be afraid.”

          Oh and with regard to this: “I had been, in effect, brainwashed by the belief that my own reading of the Bible, if it contradicted the Church’s, was wrong. Only the Church’s interpretation was correct.”

          That belief is held by many Christians of many denominations – not just Catholic.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Alma Mater says:

            Oh, and I meant to say thanks for your kind thoughts, and for the link. I’m such an Aspie sometimes. I go straight to the meat of the discussion, forgetting the human part! I so appreciated your link, it made me feel your friendship and that you’d been thinking of me even though I haven’t been posting lately. I can’t believe I forgot to post that thanks in the last two comments now! Well, thanks, Friend!

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Alma Mater says:

    …put it in my mouth. waiting underneath the left to pick up the host and put it in my mouth, before walking back to my seat.It was all very carefully taught… and just as carefully learned.

    Although not so carefully typed! Sorry for my duplication of sentences!

    Liked by 1 person

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