The Sacrament of Beer with Friends

I belong to a pub group.

I say ‘belong’ loosely since there is no membership as such, just a few mates who get together every other week to have a beer and talk about anything and everything.

We’re all bruised and battered from bad religion and could collectively talk your ear off about how some church or church leader failed us and those close to us in the past. Overall, I think we’re pretty much on the level now and are optimistic about our individual places within our own worshiping communities. (You would correctly assume that we all are professing Christians, though I would suggest that we are all in different places on our journey and across the conservative-progressive spectrum.)

I also listen religiously to Homebrewed Christianity and love Chad’s and Trip’s take on things.

That’s where I came across Michael Camp’s great new book Confessions of a Bible Thumper. Conversational. Nostalgic. Relational. Straightforward. Michael takes us down his own path from being a somewhat-reluctant Jesus-freak to following a more progressive spiritual path. And how could I relate to his experience!

One thing that stood out to me in the podcast where Michael is interviewed [listen to it on iTunes] was the phrase he used ‘The sacrament of beer with friends.’ That use of the word ‘sacament’ bounced around in my head for a while. It often seems not quite right to put a deliberately ‘sanctified’ word alongside something that, in some of our growing-up stories, was presented as being so unholy and demon-like.

In reflection, I came to see how what we do every few weeks truly is a sacrament.

The word ‘sacrament’ has several similar definitions, some of which are outright religious in nature, and refer to observances such as Holy Communion or Baptism. But there is an underlying meaning along the lines of ‘Something regarded as possessing a sacred character or mysterious significance; a sign, token, or symbol.’

That is our pub group. It’s not, as our partners may think, some sort of male-bonding time or mutual back-slapping and high-five-giving session. No, we’re not even out to make our get-together a religious experience. Rather than a deep conversation about the nature of the trinity or the theories of atonement, you’re more likely to hear talk of interest rates, new building designs, or how bad the Crows are playing. But yet there is a sacred character to it (beyond the holy ‘spirit’ of a good brew!) It is a place that has a degree of significance in our own lives. It is a sign or a token which says that we see the need for sharing our journeys, unloading our hurts, and encouraging one another. It is sharing the sacrament of beer (preferably a Toohey’s Extra Dry) with friends.

And, while we don’t consciously remember Jesus in bread and wine, it is Communion in the truest sense of the word–a sharing of our time, our stories and our lives, even if it is only for an hour or so on a Tuesday night in a room full of pool-players and dart-throwers.

I’m really enjoying Michael Camp’s new book and I’m sure you would too. You can read an excerpt here, or check out Michael Camp’s book website here. But most of all, I’m gaining a new appreciation of the everyday joy of sharing with friends. As Bryan Berghoef writes in his (also excellent) book Pub Theology:

“. . . good things happen when we sit down at the same table together and talk honestly about things that matter–and frankly, having a beer doesn’t hurt.”

Amen!

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