Friday Greetings — January 18

Dear Centenary friends,

Ever wondered why we use grape juice at Holy Communion, while other Christian churches use wine?  The history of Methodism is intertwined with numerous "discussions" (many of them heated!) about whether "real and natural wine" or unfermented grape juice was a better symbol of the blood of Christ.  These arguments raged particularly hotly during the second half of the 1800's, but they were a feature of Methodist life well before that era, and have continued even into the present day.  Some (though not all) of these debates have centered around the first miracle of Jesus at a wedding in Cana of Galilee.  Who are you gonna call when the wine runs out?  Jesus's Mama knew.  It's all right there waiting for us in the second chapter of John.

So, come to worship scripturally prepared!  This Sunday's Bible readings are Isaiah 62:1-5 and John 2:1-11.  Our preacher this Sunday is the Reverend Rick Moser, so you'll want to read his worship preparation pointers below.

The old Methodists in this country saw the devastating effects of alcoholism.  They saw families torn apart, violence, spouse and child abuse, and damaged health.  We are responsible for grape juice…for pasteurizing the juice so it did not ferment.  In the old Methodist Hymnal it specifically says that, for Communion, we shall use “the unfermented juice of the grape.”  Those effects linger on.  Forget the dividing aspects of the human sexuality debate.  If you would divide the United Methodist Church, serve wine instead of grape juice for communion and then watch in horror what we would do to one another. 

Even so, if you ask a typical, deep-seeded, long-term United Methodist person to name a miracle of Jesus, invariably the first thing that pops out of their mouth is “turning water into wine.”  This miracle is only in John and it’s the first miracle he has in his gospel and he says it is the first of Jesus’ signs that “revealed his glory.”  I find this fascinating and, I hate to tell you this, but Biblical scholars have likewise found this fascinating.  So we will explore this fascination on Sunday.  I know, I know, it doesn’t sound that fascinating to you.  It’s just another story.  But, alas, it isn’t.  So it is:  No wine.  Whine.  Wine.  As Jesus’ mother said, “Do whatever he tells you.”  As my Dad always said, “I’ll see you in church.”

Opportunities to see the signs of Jesus's presence and to be a sign of His presence come to us moment by moment; but there's no better time to celebrate the One who IS God with us, than when we're in worship together.  See you on Sunday!

Grace and Peace in Christ,

Pastor Susan