Q: I have a spiritual and physical concern of serving 18% alcohol as communion wine to young boys and girls! Don’t you feel that is too terribly strong? I feel that the adults can handle that strength but that children and young adults can’t! What is your opinion?
A: I have no problem with the wine you mention. First of all, people of a similar age drank similarly strong wine through much of the time recorded in the Bible. God commanded the use of wine in the Passover celebration and Israel normally used three full cups during the dinner for all the participants. Then we consider that the amount consumed in communion is very small.
What bothers me more is that the taste of some of the cheaper wines I’ve received at some churches risks chasing the young (and others) away from the altar. This last leads me to the heart of my answer: It’s not the alcohol content, nor our feelings about it, that matter; rather, it’s what Christ says He gives us as we receive the cup.
The wine is not a concern because in Holy Communion, it is the blood of Christ given for Christ’s people (see Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; and 1 Corinthians 11:25. It is only when they neglect it, despise it, or misuse it that they bring trouble on themselves. No responsible pastor is going to give enough to children of twelve or thirteen years to intoxicate them.
If we are overly worried about the alcohol, then perhaps we are not concerned enough with the real issue; that is, that the bread and wine are the body and blood of Christ. That’s why, on several occasions, various members of congregations which I’ve served who have struggled with alcohol abuse still regularly commune: Their focus is on receiving what Christ offers in the cup, not on the wine which is the means by which they receive. They don’t drink to meet a physical craving but to satisfy a spiritual desire.
If the members of the flock are properly instructed by their pastors, there should be no problem. After all, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? (1 Corinthians 10:16)”
Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.
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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.