C.S. Lewis is a favorite author of mine, both for his fiction and his serious writing. Among my favorite of his works, and one that doesn’t get a lot of play, is “God in the Dock,” a collection of essays that in many cases summarize in a few pages each, thoughts that elsewhere he spends a whole book on (available at Amazon, also on Google Books).
This is an excerpt from his essay entitled “Miracles” and has meant a lot to me since I first read it. Here Lewis is explaining and riffing off a teaching he found in Athenasius:
“There is an activity of God displayed throughout creation, a wholesale activity let us say which men refuse to recognize. The miracles done by God incarnate, living as a man in Palestine, perform the very same things as this wholesale activity, but at a different speed and on a smaller scale. One of their chief purposes is that men, having seen a thing done by personal power on the small scale, may recognize, when they see the same thing done on the large scale, that the power behind it is also personal – is indeed the very same person who lived among us two thousand years ago. The miracles in fact are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see. Of that larger script part is already visible, part is still unsolved. In other words, some of the miracles do locally what God has already done universally: others do locally what He has not yet done, but will do. In that sense, and from our human point of view, some are reminders and others prophecies.
God creates the vine and teaches it to draw up water by its roots and, with the aid of the sun, to turn that water into a juice which will ferment and take on certain qualities. Thus every year, from Noah’s time till ours, God turns water into wine. That, men fail to see. Either like the Pagans they refer the process to some finite spirit, Bacchus or Dionysus: or else, like the moderns, they attribute real and ultimate causality to the chemical and other material phenomena which are all that our senses can discover in it. But when Christ at Cana makes water into wine, the mask is off. The miracle has only half its effect if it only convinces us that Christ is God: it will have its full effect if whenever we see a vineyard or drink a glass of wine we remember that here works He who sat at the wedding party in Cana.”
Now partly I appreciate this quote because I genuinely love a good glass of wine, particularly a good Shiraz, Zinfandel, or Cabernet. I confess I have yet to fully discipline my mind to remember Jesus as Lewis admonishes in the last sentence, though I do think of it more frequently than I might otherwise. But this passage resonated anew with me one day when I read Matthew’s account of the Last Supper:
26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matt. 26:26-29, ESV)
What struck me about this was Jesus saying this was the last glass of wine he would enjoy until the “wedding feast of the Lamb” (boy, talk about a dry spell!). He is not only (or at all?) instigating a sacrament here…he’s telling his friends to remember him–and to look forward to his return–when they lift a glass. Sounds rather like a wake in some ways, to me.
So one thing I have done, ever since I discovered this connection, is that I have approached the celebration of communion differently. When I take the cup, I raise it, and either silently or in a whisper, offer the toast “Till He comes” before I drink. Some day, I’m going to encourage a group to do the same.
Till He comes. . .