Ballad of the Common Cup

Grace CRC, some years ago,
served wine at its Lord's Suppers.
They passed a cup from hand to hand,
for they were "common cuppers."

The young resented cups from hands
still stained from greasing tractors;
some said their appetite for wine
was spoiled by such factors.

If work-stained hands did not offend,
long whiskers did much quicker;
for wine like pearls of blood would stick
to whiskers dipped in liquor.

Yet old folks loved the common cup—
the supper was their mecca.
Jan Klinker, having sipped his wine,
would whisper loud, " 'Smaakt lekker."

But lo, a preacher came to town
whose wife was somewhat spiffy.
He said some habits would be changed
in what he called a jiffy.

He lectured his consistory
on germs and all diseases;
He said a fly could put a germ
on anyone it pleases.

He said a kiss imposed a threat,
a real though hidden danger,
especially from the lips of one
who could be called a stranger.

Whenever pigs would die, he'd say,
"The germs have been invadin'."
Soon fear began to rise in hearts,
and elders said, "Ach heden."

And so since lips had deadly germs,
as preacher had been noting,
they asked the people to decide
and waited for their voting.

Alas, the vote was tie that day,
for older folks insisted
tradition shouldn't be changed for germs,
and sternly they resisted.

They told the elders they believed
that God ordained their sneezing.
If germs in fact were on the cup,
he gloried in their wheezing.

The elders sensed theology
too deep for them to touch—
so deep it couldn't be explained
unless one spoke in Dutch.

Alas, the preacher's Dutch was weak
in terms he sorely needed.
He knew he wouldn't convince a soul
no matter how he pleaded.

"They'll never change their minds," he said.
"They see like old Cyclops.
No heads in all the world are like
the ones we call Frieskops."

So since he couldn't wrench these folks
by force from their tradition,
he planned a skillful strategy
to win by sure attrition.

He stopped his arguing at once;
he vowed he wanted peace
(but casually noted that his wife
thought common cups were vies).

The statement stabbed them to the quick,
though some were quite offended.
But then he offered them a plan
that everyone commended.

"We'll offer wine in common cups
to you who love tradition.
You'll choose the kind of cup you want
by choosing your position.

"Those on the right, appropriately,
get wine from cups prodigious;
but larger cups cannot be said
to mean you're more religious.

"Those on the left, you may have guessed,
with fingers youthfully nimble,
will get their wine in little cups
no larger than a thimble.

"But they mayn't think that dainty cups
make holier Lord's Suppers.
Nor should they brag because they are
the only bottoms-uppers."

The elders sensed some wisdom which
the church so badly needed,
but thought the preacher somewhat weak
in having so conceded.

"Won't strangers think we're odd," they asked,
"with cups of different sizes?"
One thought perhaps Leviticus
had banned such compromises.

The preacher said such difference
could well be overlooked,
but elders said, "Theology
should save us from such drukte."

But soon they sensed the preacher's plan
though earlier confusing;
he knew the flu could make them choose
for cups no one was using.

So through the years the thought of germs
and long untrimmed mustaches
moved nearly all conservatives
in silent, beaten batches.

From thimbles then one Sunday morn
two hundred people sipped;
around the rims of dinky cups
their mouths were tightly lipped.

But from a cup ten times the size— with others slightly jealous—
a lone man drank communion wine
from one big silver chalice.

Jan Klinker was the man who drank
in swallows long and easy.
The elders thought his attitude
was just a bit too breezy.

Said one, "We shouldn't have given in,
for now we pay the price.
We give the man ten times the wine
for being eigenwijs."

The preacher had been pleased because
his plan to change some drinking
had changed, without an argument,
some quaint, outdated thinking.

But when he served Jan Klinker wine,
his joy was somewhat muted;
his plan in Klinker's stubbornness
seemed oddly now refuted.

So soon the preacher hoped (in guilt)
Jan Klinker would catch cold
or flu or whooping cough and then
get prematurely old.

Jan Klinker died a ripe old age,
a chalice in his hand.
He said he'd drink from it in joy
in heaven's promised land.

But when Jan Klinker breathed his last,
the preacher, with some malice,
put in his hand a tiny cup
and took the silver chalice.

"If heaven has the common cup,
you won't need this," he sighed.
"You'll drink from golden goblets then
and never be denied."

The preacher spoke quite warmly, but
his thoughts were more malicious.
A puny cup in Klinker's hand
brought feelings quite delicious.

"Big cups," he said, "will always stand
for antiquated people
who worshiped in a wooden church
with one old-fashioned steeple."

But when he died, his heirs passed 'round
a common cup for drinking;
and they were praised for love and warmth
and innovative thinking.

Mike Vanden Bosch is a professor of English at Dordt College, Sioux Center, Iowa.


Reformed Worship 7 © March 1988 Worship Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church. Used by permission.