Every Sunday since we started the church we have always gone to the pub after our service (sometimes before too!) First it was Crowbar, then it was Sweetmans and now it’s The Bleeding Horse. And each Sunday we get anywhere between 10-35 people and it’s great craic.
So why do we go to pub each week? Why is it so important to us? Let me bring a few reflections that will feed into the short video we recently made with Ben, Chloe & William.
(1) The Son Of Man Came…
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. (Luke 19:10)
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Luke 10:35)
The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ (Luke 7:34)
Now we may know the first two very well, but number three is often missed out. Tim Chester helps us understand the three statements when he says:
The first two are statements of purpose. Why did Jesus come? He came to serve, to give his life as a ransom, to seek and save the lost. The third is a statement of method. How did Jesus come? He came eating and drinking.
Now he must have been enjoying his wine and good food to get a reputation as a drunkard and a glutton. Why were food and drink so important to him? Because they demonstrated what the kingdom of God is like… a feast! And it’s a feast in which everyone is invited… especially the sinners, prostitutes and tax collectors.
(2) Our Reputation
I wonder what the reputation of Christ City Church is to people in Dublin? You see Jesus divided opinion. To the religious inner circle, the ‘morally upright’ who did all the correct religious rituals, Jesus was a threat. He disturbed them. He didn’t play by the rules… he broke the rules. He hung around with the wrong people, did the wrong things and seemed to offer out forgiveness and mercy all too easily!
However to those who were not religious, who knew their lives were not ‘morally upright’ and hadn’t performed any of the correct religious rituals, he was a breath of fresh air. As he invited them to eat and drink with them, they realised that this was a sign of friendship and acceptance.
I hope that as a church we have the same reputation… that religious people find us disturbing but the average Dub who has turned their back on religion finds us a breath of fresh air.
(3) Enjoying Creation
[he made…] wine that gladdens human hearts, oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains their hearts.
We must always remember that pleasure was God’s invention, not the devil’s, and certainly not mankind’s. It was God’s idea to give us food and drink, sex and relationships, work and play. He wants us to enjoy all these things and find satisfaction in them. So God wants us to enjoy and celebrate beer and wine and to celebrate them in community (next point)…and The Bleeding Horse has a great selection of beers in particular… so do come and check them out!
Jesus didn’t expect people to come to him; instead he spent time where people already were. A classic example is the wedding at Cana. He is on someone else’s turf, enjoying the party, and when the crisis happens (they’re out of wine!) he performs a miracle to save the day but also to demonstrate what God’s kingdom is like.
So it is with church. We’re supposed to demonstrate what the kingdom of God is like… and that it is good! Church was never supposed to be about attending a meeting; it was about being part of a community. I am not sure there is a better way to form community than around a few pints and if you don’t believe me then just go out into Dublin on any night of the week… People gather in pubs! They gather together to watch sport, to catch up, to do business, to relax, to switch off, to connect, etc etc.
(5) Filled with the Spirit
Of course, there are huge dangers when it comes to drinking… and Ireland knows those all too well. Some people must now totally avoid alcohol to stay in control of their lives. On the whole though, instead of shunning drink outright as a church, we must model what it is to enjoy God’s gifts without finding our ultimate joy and refuge in them but also heed the warnings of scripture when it comes to drink. For example Proverbs 20:1 says:
Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.
So we must be wise and we must not be led astray when it comes to alcohol. But practically how do we do that? Do we focus on the negative (avoid getting drunk) or focus on the positive (finding our ultimate joy and refuge in God)? Well, as we all know, whilst prohibitions (e.g. “don’t get drunk”) have their place, ultimately change comes as we desire something else even more (e.g. “In Jesus I can find lasting joy and an unshakeable refuge”). That’s the secret to growth in the Christian life! Paul in Ephesians 5:18 counsels the Christians in just this way; starting with the prohibition, but leading to the positive:
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
So being excessively filled with wine is contrasted to being filled with the Holy Spirit. Being filled with the Holy Spirit means being filled with joy, peace, love and a whole host of other wonderful things. So Paul is saying that if you want true joy, peace and love… it won’t come through getting drunk (though Friday nights in Dublin show you that people do think this is the case), but through being filled with the Holy Spirit.
(6) Stimulant vs Depressant
However, there is something else we must see. Before he became a famous preacher David Martyn Lloyd Jones was a physician. In fact he was nicknamed ‘The Doctor’. When speaking on Ephesians 5:18 he helpfully highlighted the difference between a stimulant and a depressant. He says:
Wine – alcohol – … pharmacologically speaking is not a stimulant – it is a depressant. Take up any book on pharmacology and look up ‘alcohol’, and you will find, always, that it is classified among the depressants. Further, ‘it depresses first and foremost the highest centres of the brain… They control everything that gives a man self-control, wisdom, understanding, discrimination, judgement, balance, the power to assess everything; in other words everything that makes a man behave at his best and highest’. What the Holy Spirit does, however, is the exact opposite.
And then he says:
If it were possible to put the Holy Spirit into a textbook of Pharmacology, I would put him under the stimulants, for that is where he belongs. He really is a stimulant… He stimulates our every faculty… the mind and the intellect… the heart… and the will…
Too much alcohol makes you less human, whereas the Holy Spirit makes you truly human. Too much alcohol and you become less aware of reality, more of the Holy Spirit and you become far more attuned to reality.
So I hope this reflection helps you understand why the pub (and eating together regularly) is so important to us.
- We want to emulate Jesus.
- We want to ensure the ‘non-religious’ Dubs feel welcome.
- We want to enjoy creation
- We want to build community
But I also hope you see how ultimately our joy and refuge is in God and it’s as we’re filled with his Spirit that we can avoid the folly of drinking too much.
Enjoy the video!