To provoke them to fight, they showed the elephants grape juice. . . [I Maccabees 6:34]
Why the hell would they do that? Sure, show the elephants grape juice, that'll get them all revved up, ready to squash some near eastern foot soldier from the other side. And anyway, where did these elephants suddenly come from? I mean how is it they suddenly show up in the pages of scripture at this point. Donkeys we have, sure, lots of donkeys. Sheep, lots of sheep. Goats too. Even lions. Asps. But elephants? No wonder this book only got halfway into the bible.
They must have been liberal protestant elephants. Grape juice instead of wine. We only pretend its wine: "With these your gifts of bread and wine we celebrate. . ." And no one stands up and says "Wait a minute, that's grape juice . . ." No one says "grape juice doesn't really taste like the Lord. . ." We give it out in individual shot glasses and pretend its a common cup. Not that long ago the priests gave out only wafers, keeping the wine for themselves. They told people when they have the wafers, its the same as having the wine too. Communion in one kind is communion in both kinds. That's harder to swallow than transubstantiation.
The problem many people have with the church is that they feel the church has lied to them. And it has. And they feel hurt. Betrayed. Communion in one kind is communion in both kinds. Grape juice is wine. God is always there when you need him. If you are good, God will reward you. But God is not always there when you need him, sometimes when you need him most he withdraws, is nowhere to be found. Not always a very present help in trouble, sometimes God is the trouble. And does reveal the Word in 12 minute homilies once a week.
We're sick of the pretense, sick of seeing people hurt. We're sick of pretending we have it all together. We're especially sick of the smiling, pious faces, well scrubbed and american looking, mouthing pat answers, religion that dribbles over the chin, religion that hides our fears, hides our hearts from one another.
Jesus said it best: "I am the pathway, the sincerity, the life." He refused to lie. Even about being godforsaken. He loved too much too lie. The people have a right to truth, to be not lied to. And God has a right to be not lied about. And communion isn't giving the elephants grape juice on Sunday so they'll be all revved up and able to endure another week of darkness in their offices and on the streets, trampling sin underfoot. It's about having someone to cry with, someone to be honest with. It's looking into a cup together and seeing our deaths and our lives, our hurts and our loves, our connection and our alienation. It's deciding to not run from the pain, not run from godforsakenness, not run from each other. It's hands touching each other, holding each others' cup of blessing and pain.
We don't need to lie. God never asked us to. We don't need to lie to protect God or sell God. It hurts too many people. Lies always do that. They take big chunks of our souls and petrify them. And it was, in the end, our lies, our need to protect our religious illusions that crucified the one who cam being honest, being sincere, telling the truth.
We don't need them anymore, the illusions, the deceptions. We don't need to hurt any more people