I know people, they talk to me. I read things; learning is an ongoing process. One subject that has been brought to my attention from half a dozen directions is that of intermittent fasting. Probably the first time I considered the idea (though he didn’t use the term) was in Robert Capon’s book, The Supper of the Lamb, as he counseled a man who was serious about his eating and his weight not to eat for a while rather than eat/nibble health junk food, you know, something like rice cakes. There is at least anecdotal if not researched evidence stressing the benefits to the body of not eating for intervals of time. It not only makes you more hungry when it’s mealtime, it also teaches your body to use the energy it’s already got stored.
Which comes first? Eating in order to work to get hungry, or working and getting hungry so we want to eat?
There’s a sense in which we could think about the Lord’s Supper as intermittent feasting. There is a week between each time at His Table. Do we eat this food for sake of our faith and love so that we can go work, or do we work so that we’re eager for more food? It’s both, no doubt. And there is something about worshipping on the first day of the week that energizes and propels us into our responsibilities, and that’s good.
But for sake of our meditation, consider: when was the last time that we came hungry to His Table? When was the last time that we spent ourselves by faith in love on behalf of others? When have we come desperate, not doubtful, but desperate for this feast to replenish and restore and renew us?
It is more than possible that at least some of the Corinthians had participated in the worship of Dionysius, also known to the Romans as Bacchus. Bacchus was the god of wine and festivity and fertility, a god well known and served for centuries before Christ came. In the name of Bacchus men and women became drunk and in many cases caused destruction through frenzy and ritual unrestraint. Some of the Corinthian Christians may have brought this baggage with them to their fellowship meals.
Paul went out of his way in Ephesians 5:18 to contrast being filled with the Spirit to being filled with, another way to say “controlled by,” wine: “do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).
But it is interesting to see the results of that Spirit-filling: “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:19-20). This does not sound like the death of Bacchus, it sounds like his salvation and submission to Christ. The opposite of Dionysian madness and indulgence isn’t commiseration, but melody and thankfulness.
Worshipped as a god, everything brings damnation. Seen as a servant of God, all lawful things are good for God’s glory. So were the Corinthians behaving inconsistently at the Lord’s supper? Absolutely. What would have made it consistent? Consistent would not have been misery instead of revelry, consistent would have been loving God and others joyfully in remembrance of Christ.
Over her Christmas break from college, Katie Herrington came to our Life to Life group after one of the messages on worship. The question for discussion related to any general thoughts on our Sunday morning liturgy. Katie said that while she enjoyed having communion each week, and while she appreciated the glad attitude we bring to it, she also had a difficult time not imagining us lifting our cups toward each other and saying “Cheers!”
There are differences, to be sure, between men in a bar clinking glasses for another round, or guests at a wedding reception toasting the couple, and the ordinance of communion. The difference is that it is okay not to be truly glad in the bar or at the reception. We will be judged for being half-hearted in our joy at this Table.
We won’t start saying “Cheers!” as part of our liturgy, but can we not look around when we drink the cup that shows the price of our freedom from sin and think, “Be cheered, soul! Be cheered, neighbor! Be cheered, little Christian!”? All of our true cheer, all of our lasting happiness originates in the grace of God, and that grace radiated most clearly at the sacrifice of God’s Son on the cross.
Be cheered, believer! He has accomplished Your redemption and will finish the good work He began in you. That is something to eat and drink about.