Lutherans/Communion Wine -- Heart Patients
I read the blog about DILUTED wine
instead of regular grape juice)
or recovering alcoholics or patients
I know of Cardiac patients who are
instructed by their Cardiologists
not to drink alcohol because will
interfere with their daily medication.
(They also cannot drink Grapefruit juice)
= Will such a TINY amount (either one
sip from a common cup or small
thimble-size individual cup) really
interfere with medication ?
In our Lutheran Church (LCMS) the cups are so
small they are the size of a sewing thimble.
- Hardly enough to even go down the throat.
== Has the Lutheran Church discussed this
with Doctors ?
Thanks for your question. This is a concern pastors often must address, not only for heart patients, but also for pregnant women as well as people recovering from drug or alcohol dependence.
I'm not sure of the synod has officially consulted medical professionals about the amount of communion wine that is safe for heart patients. It wouldn't surprise me if they had done so at some point in their research, but none of the documents I have reviewed state that they have done so. I will, however, give you some information on the broad variety of alternatives available for pastors and congregations to offer in such circumstances.
The foremost concerns in evaluating these alternatives is whether we are consistent with Jesus' institution of the Lord's Supper, and that we avoid causing doubt in the minds of the communicants concerning the validity of the Lord's Supper they are receiving.
This is why the alternative of grape juice at the Lord's Supper is typically considered unsatisfactory--because it has the potential to go against both of the above concerns. There are, though, several other alternatives available.
The most ideal of these is the use of the common cup at communion. This allows a communicant to merely touch the wine with his lips without "drinking" a significant amount, thus typically avoiding complications that might be caused by alcohol. In all but the most extreme circumstances, this option would be satisfactory for the communicant's needs. This method has been known to work very well for both heart patients and alcoholics alike.
Intinction, the dipping of the bread into the cup and receiving the two elements together, has also been suggested at times, but has some baggage concerning whether Christ's institution requires the elements to be received in separate acts, and therefore is not as desirable as the former method.
A third method that retains faithfulness to Christ's institution while accommodating the communicant's needs is to provide individual cups which contain primarily water along with a very small amount of wine (sometimes as little as a few drops) in it. This allows the communicant to receive the appropriate element, but eliminates the dangers of the alcohol. This is also historically consistent, since at various times in history, the Lord's Supper has been celebrated using wine diluted with water.
A final method is not as ideal as those previously mentioned, but still more ideal than resorting to grape juice. This is "alcohol-free" or "alcohol-removed" wine. These wines have either been fermented under conditions which prevent all but a very small portion of alcohol from forming, or they are fermented normally, after which the majority of the alcohol is distilled out, resulting in a true wine that lacks most of the alcohol.
In a small congregation, the adaptation would most likely be able to be worked out individually between the pastor and the communicant, and they can discuss the best alternative for their individual circumstances. In a larger congregation, a blanket alternative would usually be provided for all the variety of needs, and the alternative chosen will likely depend on the spiritual and theological maturity of the congregation and the communicants impacted.