In February, we will begin to use wine (in addition to grape juice) in our celebration of the Lord's Supper. Following is a statement from the Session explaining this change, written by Ruling Elder Craig Stephenson:
In our church tradition, gospel preaching and the sacraments form two vital and necessary pillars of public worship. As you know, we preach during each worship service; however, we don’t always celebrate the two church sacraments – baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We baptize children of believing members and professing adults as they present themselves. And we celebrate the Lord’s Supper on the first Sunday of each month.
During the past year, the Session has explored how members of Peace might more fully enjoy and appreciate the real spiritual benefits contained in these sacraments. As part of this exploration, Cole preached a three-sermon series in early 2016 on the Lord’s Supper. And this fall we conducted an adult Sunday School class on the topic of worship with emphasis on the mystery, background, and goodness of the sacraments.
In their work the elders also had considerable discussion of the elements we use in the Lord’s Supper. Since its founding in 1980, Peace has used juice for the cup in the Lord’s Supper. In Session’s renewed consideration of this sacrament and of how we might make better use of it, we have concluded that we will begin offering the option of real wine for the cup.
For most of its history the Church of Jesus Christ has celebrated the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper with wine. The gospel accounts of the institution of the Lord’s Supper in Matthew 26, Mark 16 and Luke 22 clearly indicate the use of wine in the Passover meal. The apostle Paul also makes clear in I Corinthians 11 not only the regular practice of the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament church, but also confirms the elements of the Supper commissioned by the Lord Himself.
The use of juice in the sacrament began in American Protestant churches during the late 19th century as a response to and concern for the cultural sin of drunkenness. Many congregations, like ours, have continued this substitution of juice for wine into the present day.
As the elders deliberated on this change, we came to realize that the complexity and fullness of wine can, for some, capture more of the depth and beauty of the riches of the new covenant that are represented in the cup. It is our prayer that this elemental change will cause us to reflect more carefully on the mystery of grace conveyed in the sacrament of the Lord‘s Supper. And for those whose consciences direct them to consume non-alcoholic grape juice, that option will also continue to be offered. And of course, communicants under 21 should respect the wishes of their parents in selecting a cup.
Like baptism, the Lord’s Supper is a glorious mystery. Both sacraments strengthen our faith. And both provide visible signs of invisible grace to those who believe the gospel. There is nothing contained in the elements themselves that provides grace. But we do believe that in partaking of the Lord’s Supper God confirms to us and seals in us the promise of new life made ours through the resurrected and ever living Lord.
We will begin this practice of offering both wine and juice for the Lord’s Supper on the first Sunday of February 2017. The clear cups in the outer ring of each tray will contain juice. The tinted cups in the inner rings will contain wine.
If you have questions about the sacraments in general or this transition to using both wine and juice for the cup, please feel free to speak with Cole, Doug, or any member of Session.