A Great Lake of Beer

Celtic poem from 10th century Ireland:

I would like to have the men of Heaven
In my own house:
With vats of good cheer
laid out for them.

I would like to have the three Marys,
Their fame is so great.
I would like people
From every corner of Heaven.

I would like them to be cheerful
In their drinking.
I would like to have Jesus too
Here amongst them.

I would like a great lake of beer
For the King of Kings,
I would like to be watching Heaven's family
Drinking it through all eternity.

* * *

Many would cringe at the thought of associating beer with Jesus. The Irish Celts didn't. In fact, one of the highest forms of celebration they could conceive, was to offer "a great lake of beer, for the King of Kings" and to watch "Heaven's family drinking it through all eternity."

I grew up in an alcoholic home, so I understand the damage that drinking can do. Nevertheless, I think it's pretty clear that the Bible does not prohibit drinking. There's many passages to choose from, but one of my favorites is from the Psalms:

[God] makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate -- bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart. (Ps. 104:14-15 NIV)

Endless turf wars arise amongst Christians concerning drinking, and I have no intention to start one. However, it's pretty clear God condemns "drunkenness" not "drinking." Where drinking leads to drunkenness and a life consumed by it, it is sin.

But to me, the issue goes deeper than alcoholic beverages. The verse above says that "wine... gladdens the heart of man." When Scripture speaks of drinking, it often connects it with gladness and celebration. For instance, Zech. 10:7 says that when God saves His people, their hearts shall be glad as with wine. Ecclesiastes 9:7 says "Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do" (NIV). And of course, Jesus turned water to wine at a party (Jn. 2). In the simplest sense, God gave us wine so we could laugh.

I've come to believe that Christians have as much problem with laughter as they do with drinking. So it's no wonder the two are connected. During the "Holy Laughter" phase of the charismatic movement in the early 90's, I visited several services where the phenomenon was supposedly ocurring. Holy laughter was believed to be a spontaneous outbreak of unbridled joy, usually accompanied by... laughter. Riotous laughter. Unfettered laughter. Tears-streaming-down-your-face, side-splitting laughter. Many of the services were quite chaotic. Whatever you happen to believe about this stuff (and there's many good reasons to be skeptical of it), I happened to believe that Christians need a good laugh, so I was a tad less critical.

Down through the centuries, Christians have frowned on laughter. By the 4th century, church leader John Chrysostom declared that Jesus never laughed. This is why many medieval paintings portray Jesus as serene and always sober. Christendom's sense of humor didn't improve much over the next millennium. In the 1400s, the Council of Constance decreed that any minister or monk who spoke "jocular words such as to provoke laughter" would be damned to hell. Wow! This laughter is serious business.

Seems laughter has always carried a stiff sentence in the Church. Charles Spurgeon was often criticized for his use of humor. On one occasion, he answered one of his critics by saying, "Ma'am, if you knew how much I held back, you'd commend me." But the Church is still full of gloom-inducing Pharisees. H. L. Mencken once defined a Puritan as someone with the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy. It's sad, but many still view Christians as sourpusses -- stern, cheerless guardians of the stiff upper lip.

A Gallup poll once found that half of all Americans thought that Jesus was not fun-loving. There is considerable debate, as to whether or not Jesus really laughed. I mean, the Bible never says He did. But then the Bible never specified a lot of actions Jesus did. Did He ever trim His nails, wash behind His ears and cut His nose hairs? We know Jesus liked to party -- and parties are usually about... laughter. His first miracle not only involved alcohol, but it occured at a party. I cannot imagine the Son of God sitting there stone-faced, can you? He frolicked with little children (Matt. 19:13-15), something which is hard to do without, at least, a giggle. In his 1964 classic "The Humor of Christ," Elton Trueblood suggests that we cannot begin to understand Christ's life and teaching, without acknowledging the joy and wit and humor He brought to this world. So great was His mirth and celebration, Jesus was accused of being a glutton and a drunk (Luke 7:33-34).

One of the greatest days in Church history, was the day God's people were accused of being drunk. The Holy Spirit descended and a party ensued (Acts 2); thousands of new Christians "broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people" (2:46-47). Amidst the tongue-speaking, foot-stomping, rip-roaring revival, the only possible explanation was, "They have had too much wine" (vs. 13). I wish Christians were accused of being drunk more often -- so full of the Spirit, that laughter and joy and mirth flowed from our homes and churches, into a broken world, making people scratch their heads... and yearn to join in. As the band Delirious puts it in their song, Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble:

Open up the doors and let the music play,
Let the streets resound with singing;
Songs that bring Your hope
Songs that bring Your joy,
Dancers who dance upon injustice.

Sorry, but I'm with the Celts on this one: I would like a great lake of beer for the King of Kings, and I would like to be watching Heaven's family drinking it through all eternity.


Heather Smith said...

My grandpa often puts humor into his sermons, and we have one little old man who'll put in funny little comments now and then. Laughter is such a common occurrence at my church that I often forget that its not really the norm. Then I go to sing at other churches, where it seems they're afraid to smile, and I wonder if they've ever heard of the "JOY" of the Lord. Being a Christian isn't a life of sadness and woe. It's a life of joy unspeakable and full of glory.

Gina Holmes said...

You just don't shy away from any topic do you? Hah. A lake of beer in Heaven. As long as its Guiness... ;)

I truly believe Jesus smiled a lot. At least I'd like to think so. When we really consider what we have to look forward to or how much we've been pardoned, what's not to smile about?

Mike Duran said...

A lake of Guinness? Now that's heavenly!

Ame said...

Gosh, I am SO with you on this! My counselor often said over the couple years I spent in his office that my sense of humor and ability to laugh at life kept me sane - I think he's right! And I often see Jesus laughing and dancing with me!

This was a HUGE divisive issue with my ex-in-laws, retired, career, SBC missionaries. I finally ended one "discussion" where I thought he might stand up and hit me or have a heart attack with, "Well, you're not gonna change my mind and I'm not gonna change yours, so let's just end it!" And I left . . . he wasn't happy :) They also added dancing and any kind of positive compliments to the same mix. UGH! And they are the most bitter and mean and double-minded people I know.

I, too, understand the alcoholic thing, but I am certainly intelligent enough to distinguish between alcohol and drukeness; dancing for fun and pole dancing in a bar; sex within marriage and sex outside of marriage; and sincere, earned, and appreciative praise over oozing false lies.

I believe God credits us, His creation, with a great deal of intelligence here, too!

michael snyder said...

Wow, if I could conjure the requisite brain cells, I'd memorize this post.

Brilliant, methinks. And I don't even drink.

But there's nothing funnier (sadder?) than watching grim-faced worshipers sing about wonder working joy when they look like they're in line for an enema.

Mike Duran said...

AME, I hear ya. I recall hearing a recovering Pharisee say his church was SO down on dancing, they taught that pre-marital sex was wrong because it might lead to dancing. And Mike, the only thing more difficult for Christians nowadays, is the offering plate. Praise the Lord and pass the enema!

Dineen A. Miller said...

No enemas for me, thank you very much!

I believe Christ laughed, and I mean really laughed. I think he enjoyed the people around him. I believe he had humorous moments with his desciples and that they saw an intimate side of Christ. Jesus was a man of deep emotions. Very deep. Laughter had to be one of them.

Ame said...

Oh, my . . . I must have been taught all wrong! I was taught that dancing would lead to pre-marital sex! HAHAHAHAHA

Dave Wallace said...

As the instant step father to 3 children that have a biological father that is an achololic, "I" made the decision to never give them a chance to say, "Well, I saw you doing it" as an excuse for them to use later in life. Notice that I used the word "I" in the decision making process. I did not have a brilliant beam of light and the sound of many waters impart this conviction to me, "I" made the choice to not drink any longer and God has honored that decision. Besides, I have given my kids plenty of other vices to imitate from me,one of them being not controlling my laughter / humor at appropiate times. I remember getting so tickled in Church service (Your Church) that I had tears running down my face and even passing a little gas.
As far as dancing goes, if you ever saw me dance you would rule out the sex thing under the influence or not.

Mike Duran said...

Dave, before your post, I thought I was only responsible for my own gas.

Gina Holmes said...

I guess when I open "Gina's Enema World" I'll be looking elsewhere for clients. I thought that idea was golden too. Oh well.

1 L Loyd said...

Wandering through the net I found this post and it left me chuckling. Oh no =D.

The drinking issue was the first one where I realized the Bible said one thing and many of my IFB brethren said it said something else.

As for laughter, Jesus was all man; men enjoy laughing. Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit, so doesn't a lack of joy indicate a lack of Spirit? Nehemiah told the people the joy of the LORD is your strength. (8:10) Shouldn't we be like God and have joy?

Pedro said...

damn you, Mike. I told you I get burnout from blogging and yet here I am. A recovering blogger led astray by a charismatic preacher on a post about the non-evils of alchohol. Ironic or not ironic?

True story. Baptist blood in me. I'm in tryouts for deaconhood at the local church. I'm the youngest (by a mile). All gray-hairs. The pastor gets to the part in training where we're covering qualifications as listed in Timothy. Get to, "not given to much wine."

I can't help myself. "umm...I drink an occasional beer and glass of wine. Is this a problem?"

Silence. Then, story after story on evils of alcohol and how they "gave it up." Finally, one of them quotes a verse in Proverbs and says, "So the way I see it, the only person who'd drink is a fool."

Silence. Me - "Alright, then, moving on."

True story. And I couldn't be more thankful that it happened.


Kelly Klepfer said...


You did it again, you rabblerouser.

You are correct - across the board. Has any mentioned cards as being dangerous or evil? (No, not Hallmark)

I don't drink, because my loving and amazing husband is recovering.

The Conservative roots run deep. Guilt, shame, legalism are the best joy quenchers.

My DH and I belonged to a dance club, a bunch of Christian couples who danced. It was so much fun. Then a well-meaning, bound up little friend told me how much it stumbled her to know my Hub and I danced. : ( . Ya know, I haven't been able to get my dancing joy back yet.

If Song of Solomon is a picture of God's / Jesus passion for us, wow.

Would more people believe if they could actually fall in love with Jesus instead of the cardboard cut-out the church presents?

Ame said...

I don't think my in-laws ever forgave me for not encouraging my ex-husband to become a deacon :-) My experiences with the Baptist church can make me involuntarily vomit at the thought of them!

My ex's paternal grandparents were very much against cards, so I guess that his parents "dropped" cards from the "Do Not" list was a move up? AND, his grandmother, a woman with a master's degree in education who played basketball in college and lived to be 99 yrs old, gave his father a spanking every day because she figured he needed it. SICK people!

I have a mentor who spent a year and a half going thru the book of Galatians with me, verse by verse, to un-learn all the legalism that had been pounded into me - the best spent year and a half of my life. NOTHING like Freedom!

Gina Holmes said...

I think we need to be careful. The worst persecution of Christians seems to come from other Christians on both sides of an argument. And that's a sad, sad thing.

Mike Duran said...

Goodness! Y'all been busy. Okay, for the record: This is not a tract FOR drinking. The Apostle Paul wrote, "Everything is permissible -- but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible -- but not everything is constructive" (I Cor. 10:23 NIV). The Bible teaches we are not under a yoke of bondage, a tedious set of rules and regulations. This includes the use of alcoholic beverages. "But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature" (Gal. 5:13). So there's a tightrope: We may drink, but we must be cautious -- (1) Lest we abuse our freedom and (2) Lead others into sin. Comprende?

Second: I would concur with Gina, that we exercise grace in discussing the Church. It's been said, the Church is like Noah's Ark -- if it wasn't for the storm outside, you couldn't stand the stink inside. Listen folks, I pastored a church for eleven years. I know the Church can stink. And so do you. There is tremendous hurt and abuse and manipulation done in the name of Christ, as many of you have mentioned. But there's a storm outside, and everybody in this Ark has been purchased by a great price and is deeply loved.

And while I'm at it, please don't miss the point of my post: Joy and laughter and mirth is one of the greatest commodities of Christianity. Let us drink in that beverage deeply and daily. Peace.

Ame said...

You're right, Mike. I'm sorry.