Sharing Saliva with Others

The idea of a common cup during communion is a bit freaky to me. All those germs from all those mouths are a bit unsettling, but after reading Swine Flu and the Common Cup over at the Gospel Coalition blog, I’m beginning to think there’s something beautiful that happens when we indiscriminately share the cup.

Here’s an excerpt:

Often I’ll preach in churches about the Lord’s Supper and will call on congregations to go back to using a common loaf and a common cup. I’ll challenge the churches to recover the sign of bread being torn, not daintily picked up in pre-fabricated bits. I’ll call the congregations to drink the wine, together, passing along a common cup.

I’m not offended by people disagreeing with me on this. I’m just stunned by the reason they most often give for dismissing this ancient Christian practice: germs.

The common cup is, well, gross to many Christians because they don’t like the idea of drinking after strangers. That’s just the point. You’re not drinking after strangers. You’re drinking after your own flesh-and blood, your family. And the offense is precisely the issue. You’re recognizing Christ Jesus, discerning his Body, in the “flesh” of his Body the church around you. If drinking after your brothers is “disgusting,” then how much more eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood. That was disgusting to an assembly a while back as well.

Now, I’m not calling on churches to pick up the common cup and the common loaf in the middle of a swine flu pandemic. That wouldn’t be prudent. But maybe now’s the time to start thinking about how our hyper-hygienic American culture might be leading us toward cleanliness and away from Christ.

I have been at services where we’ve literally torn from a loaf of bread before passing it. It adds a much more communal atmosphere to the ritual and I think gets closer to what Jesus and the disciples first experienced.

What about you? Does your church use a common cup?

4 Responses to “Sharing Saliva with Others”

  • Jo Jones Lewis says:

    My Church uses the individual cups and the little wafers however I do agree that passing a communal cup and loaf would more in line and of the spirit of what Jesus did with His disciples did. Now would I be willing to risk “catching germs” from brother or sister, I DON’T know.

    • Mike McLeod says:

      Most people who are “contagious” are not attending church. If one knows that they have a medical problem they can simply cross their arms over their chest and receive a blessing rather than the “body and blood of Jesus”. Lastly, one may choose to dip the bread in the wine rather than drink directly from the communal cup if you”DON’T Know” that you are willing to share the sacrament of the Lord’s supper with your brothers and sisters of God as it was done in Jesus’ time.

  • I grew up a Methodist and communion was individual cups of grape juice and Styrofoam tasting wafers. I became an Episcopalian at age 33 and have been one for over 30 years. I have never heard even a rumor of anyone becoming sick from sharing a communal cup. I don’t understand the hypocrisy of those who say “We must do it just like it was done in the Bible or it is not truly Christian” when they will not partake of the Lord’s Supper as it was originally performed in the Bible. (All versions I believe share this in common) I also take this to mean that we should break real bread and drink real wine from a communal cup just like Jesus and his disciples did.

  • We use a common loaf, sometimes cut, sometimes whole, and share the blood of Christ by intinction. It has been a change from the individual cup and plasticized wafers, but one that the congregation has embraced. Maybe someday common cup will be the norm, but small changes are encouraging.