Tag Archives: Wine

Two Sides of Jesus

Two Sides of Jesus (CaD John 2) Wayfarer

“Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing…”
John 2:6 (NIV)

In yesterday’s opening chapter of John’s biography of Jesus, I shared that identity is a core theme of John’s narrative.

  • John identifies Jesus as the embodied, eternal Word through which all things were created, whom John himself saw glorified.
  • John identifies Jesus as a spiritual bookend to Moses; The law came through Moses, while grace and truth came through Jesus.
  • John the Baptist identifies himself as not the Messiah, but one who “comes before” and “a voice in the wilderness” preparing the way.
  • John the Baptist identifies Jesus as “the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
  • Jesus identifies his first disciples and gives Simon a new identity, as “Peter.”

In today’s chapter, John chooses two episodes to begin introducing the reader to Jesus. I couldn’t help but recall John’s words at the end of his narrative:

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

John 21:25 (NIV)

So why did John choose these two episodes? First, Jesus acts out of His divinity. He gives in to His mother’s request to salvage a wedding feast for the host by miraculously turning water into wine. In the second, Jesus acts out of His humanity at the Temple in Jerusalem. He overturns the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple courts and creates a small riot.

I spent some time meditating on these two stories, and I found them to be a fascinating contrast which identifies two important aspects of Jesus’ person. Jesus channels divine power to extend compassionate generosity to a common, everyday person stuck in a very human social dilemma. John doesn’t even identify the bride, the groom, or the family who found themselves on the cusp of social humiliation by running out of wine for their guests. What a very ordinary human dilemma for Jesus to solve by miraculously producing 180 gallons of wine (and not just your average table wine, He produced the “good stuff”).

In the second episode, Jesus sets Himself against human corruption that polluted the religious institution and Temple system. The leaders of the Temple had a racket going. They extorted money and lined their pockets from poor religious pilgrims who came from all over the world to offer ritual offerings and sacrifices, forcing them to exchange Roman or other currency into Temple currency (plus taxes and fees, of course). No miracle here. Jesus very humanly channels His inner challenger to fire a shot across the bow of the powerful, religious racketeers. It is the opening shot of a three-year conflict that will end with the racketeers’ conspiracy to commit the legally sanctioned murder of Jesus.

Miraculously divine compassion for a common, everyday nobody.

Courageous human action against a corrupt “kingdom of this world.”

And even in the water-to-wine miracle, there exists a powerful metaphor that connects these two episodes. The “six stone jars” Jesus had the wedding attendants use were intended to be used by the religious leaders for their “ceremonial washing” water. The religious leaders will later accuse Jesus of refusing to follow their prescribed ritual “washing.” They will also accuse Jesus of being a drunkard. Jesus uses the water jars used for the religious leaders’ hypocritical cleansing to produce 180 gallons of “new wine.” And, I also can’t forget that there were six jars, and the number six is identified in the Great Story as “man’s number.” Man’s institutional religious hypocrisy is transformed into divine kindness and compassion for a nameless, poor commoner.

  • Fruitful acts of divine love and compassion towards others
  • Bold defiance of institutional corruption and hypocrisy

In the quiet this morning I find myself desiring to embody these two characteristics that John identifies in Jesus.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Poured Out, Changed, Improved

“Moab has been at rest from youth,
    like wine left on its dregs,
not poured from one jar to another—
    she has not gone into exile.
So she tastes as she did,
    and her aroma is unchanged.”
Jeremiah 48:11 (NIV)

Wendy and I enjoy wine with a good meal. We’re not experts by any stretch of the imagination, but I have learned some of the basics of pairing a wine with the food we’re eating and getting the most out of the wine we drink. Just last night I put a couple of beef filets on the grill and Wendy made some sweet potato medallions. We opened this big, bombastic Spanish red wine, a Cariñena. It was aptly named El Bombero, and its bold flavor was a wonderful compliment to the richness of the steaks.

One of the things I’ve learned about wine is that it changes after you uncork the bottle. In fact, some of the experts I’ve read believe that almost any wine will taste better if you “decant” it, or transfer it to a glass decanter, and let it breathe for an hour or so before you drink it. Wine often has an initial sharp taste from being shut up inside the bottle for a long period. That sharp or sour taste smooths out, and the true flavor of the wine opens up when it’s transferred to another vessel and oxygen has a chance to work its natural magic.

Today’s chapter of Jeremiah’s prophetic works is a message of condemnation for the ancient nation of Moab (located just east of the Dead Sea). Moab’s mountainous regions were known for their wine and vineyards, so Jeremiah leverages their wineries for the purposes of a word picture. The Moabites had not changed and had not been “poured out” into exile as other nations in the region had. But, Jeremiah’s prophetic word tells Moab she would be “decanted” when the Persian army came through.

As I pondered Jeremiah’s word picture this morning I meditated on my own life journey. One of the unexpected realities of my own journey is how much change I would experience as I reached this stage of life. When I was young I had this notion that a person sort of reaches maximum personal maturity somewhere in early adulthood and then just maintains. To be honest, I have observed fellow adults for whom this appears to be their reality. I had no idea how much, in my experience, the spiritual process of being poured out, matured, and changed is cyclical and perpetual.

Wine that stays corked, bottled up, and unchanged retains a sharp and bitter taste. I’ve observed that humans are much the same way. There is a benefit to wine being poured out, decanted, and allowed to patiently sit so that change can bring out the blessings of maturity and aging. So my spirit  benefits from a similar process as I continue on life’s road.

Valentine’s 2017

Wendy and I enjoyed an extended Valentine’s Day celebration this year. This past Saturday our friends Matthew and Sarah invited us to join them and two other couples for a Valentine’s dinner of special magnificence. I don’t want to know how much time, effort, and resources went into the five-course meal they prepared for us.

The table was beautifully set and there were four different wine glasses at each table setting. Even before we sat down we enjoyed drinks with an appetizer of various kinds of cheese. The first course was a cream of leek soup paired with a Cabernet. Next came a luscious salad that blended a host of flavors and was accompanied by a wonderful white Riesling. We finished the white wine with a baked salmon filet. As if we weren’t already stuffed, the main course of Beef Wellington was served with an exquisite French red. We enjoyed conversation and let things settle while the chocolate soufflé was baking. Dessert was paired with a sweet dessert red. After dinner the men excused themselves to the deck for Cuban cigars and a sip of single-malt Scotch while the ladies continued to chat around the dinner table. It was a six-hour, five-course love feast.

Of course, while the food and drink were excellent it was the love, laughter, and conversation among good company that made the meal.

Valentines Day itself was a low-key affair for Wendy and me, as it usually is. We decided to stay in to make and enjoy one of our favorite meals together. Wendy made homemade bread during the day which we used for garlic bread. I made Filet Mignon in a dark chocolate balsamic and red Zinfandel glaze and Wendy made some of her amazing sweet potato medallions. A little sea salt caramel gelato was our after dinner treat. A romantic meal for two right here at home.

A Table Prepared for All

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
    a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
    the best of meats and the finest of wines.
Isaiah 25:26 (NIV)

I love a great dinner party. We have become such a fast food, quick serve, grab-a-snack culture that it’s rare to really enjoy a feast any more. I had a friend tell me that she and her family finished Thanksgiving dinner in 10 minutes. There’s something wrong with this picture.

A great dinner party starts early with a drink and an appetizer. People mingle. There’s light conversation. Guests begin to unwind. It moves on to a table that’s prepared. Things are laid out. Everything you need for the evening is set before you. The plates, knives, forks, spoons, and glassware are a road map to the feast. There is salad and/or soup before the main course. The main course follows after and is perfectly proportioned with complementary dishes. There is an aperitif to cleanse the palate before moving on to dessert. And, there are wines served to compliment each course. By the time dessert is served you have been on a journey. A feast is to be savored, en-joy-ed along with the company and conversation around the table.

I love that God’s word picture of what’s-to-come is a feast. It’s the word picture He gave Abraham when first introducing Himself in Genesis 18. It’s the word picture Jesus gives in Revelation of the relationship He desires with every one. A dinner party. A leisurely meal with good food and good fellowship around the table.

I am struck this morning that Isaiah’s prophetic feast is for all people. So often the image of God we project to the world is that of a miserly monarch condemning the many to save the exclusive few. But Isaiah’s prophetic image is a feast of salvation for all people and all nations. When Jesus picked up and riffed on this word picture in his parable of the wedding feast he speaks of inviting those who you’d least expect to have a seat at the table, the master’s servants grabbing anyone and everyone off the street and ushering them to the table.

This morning I’m thinking about dinner parties, feasts, and a God who desires the communal oneness that is experienced with good food, good wine, and good relationship around a table well prepared.

chapter a day banner 2015

Status Quo

source: pictoquotes via Flickr
source: pictoquotes via Flickr

They said, “What will we do with them? For it is obvious to all who live in Jerusalem that a notable sign has been done through them; we cannot deny it. But to keep it from spreading further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” Acts 4:16-17 (NRSV)

Along life’s journey, I have had the opportunity of finding myself in leadership of different groups and organizations. As a leader, I am always looking for ways that things can be improved. I want to be effective and for whatever I’m involved in to have a positive and lasting impact. Often, this means I have to fight against the entrenched attitudes of others.

I have found that there will always be individuals who are motivated by a need for a sense of safety and stability. These individuals can easily equate sameness with safety. If things remain exactly the same then the anxiety produced in their spirits by the fear of change is reduced to acceptable levels. Sameness becomes tradition which is zealously protected. When personal authority and power is attached to the tradition, the desire to shun change and maintain the status quo becomes even stronger.

I was amazed reading today’s chapter that the priests and temple leaders gave little thought to the fact that a well known person in their community, a man who had been lame his entire life, was healed and dancing in the streets. They were not the least bit concerned about the miracles which were taking place or the thousands of individuals in whom God was working with life changing power. Their only concern appears to have been maintenance of the status quo and their vice grip hold on power.

Today, I’m praying that I never become one who fears change. Jesus said, “you don’t put new wine in old wineskins, otherwise the skins will burst and the wine is lost.” I want my heart and mind to remain fresh and pliable so that any new thing God is doing will fill me with Life rather than cracking and bursting my spirit because of some false sense of security to which I cling. I want to be part of whatever new thing God is doing in our midst.

The Most Amazing Dinner

Table Set for ValentinesHere I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. Revelation 3:20 (NIV)

A few years ago a friend came over for dinner and made an interesting observation. “You guys are the only people I know who actually use their dining room regularly, even with your kids.” It’s true. Of course, part of that reality is due to the size of our house, which is small and affords little space other than the dining room for a group of people to eat. The point our friend was making, however, was that we attempted to make time and space for real meals around the dining room table. The television is turned off, though dinner music is usually on. It is quite normal for dinner conversations at our house to go on for hours.

As I read through this morning’s chapter, I came upon the verse above, which was one of the first verses I memorized when I was a kid. The voice is that of Jesus, who is dictating the message to the seven churches through John. The door of which he speaks is the door of the heart. When a person spiritually hears Jesus knocking on the door of his or her heart and opens their heart to invite Him in, Jesus enters and indwells that person.

Here’s where the perception goes wrong for so many people. When Jesus enters a persons heart, the result is an amazing spiritual feast complete with the most intense and challenging dinner conversation you’ve ever experienced. There is give and take. Relationship is established. Life flows like wine. You are constantly challenged and forever changed by the experience. And I have also found that communing with Jesus is like the many times that we and our guests have looked at our watches and discovered that it’s well after midnight and we’ve been at the table for hours. Time flies. It has been 33 years since I invited Jesus into my heart and life, and the spiritual feast is just starting to get really intense.

I love great meals with great friends, great food, great wine, and great conversation that goes on for hours. One of the reasons I love it so much is because it is a shadow and a taste of the spiritual meal I have been enjoying with Jesus for over three decades.

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Sensually Good

wendy vander wells chocolate truffle cheesecakeSolomon:
You are my private garden, my treasure, my bride,
    a secluded spring, a hidden fountain.

Young Woman:
Awake, north wind!

    Rise up, south wind!
Blow on my garden
    and spread its fragrance all around.
Come into your garden, my love;
    taste its finest fruits.
Song of Solomon 4:12, 16 (NLT)

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a true “foodie.” When I was a kid I drove my folks crazy with my narrow list of acceptable foods. My preferred menu was grilled cheese sandwiches, blueberry pop-tarts, eggo waffles, and Lucky Charms (are you noticing a sugary breakfast theme?) and pretty much nothing else. As I’ve gotten older my palate has expanded, but my preferred menu is still pretty narrowly defined in comparison to most people.

At the same time, I love food and have come to appreciate a good meal (not to be confused with a big meal) as one of life’s true pleasures. As an adult, I’ve also come to realize the sensuality of food and drink. I’ve learned that certain foods stimulate more than just my taste buds. I’ve realized that food and drink in certain combinations have a stronger affect than when they are consumed my themselves. I’ve even come to realize that certain foods create emotional and physical responses within me. Confession: I have found Wendy’s cheesecake to be, for me, such a sensual experience that at times it feels simply erotic.

How interesting to find in the lyrics of Solomon’s song these erotic references to gardens, fruits, food and the imagery of taste. There is a connection between our God given senses. God created our bodies to sense and experience a wide range of feelings and emotions and He called it “good.” To be sure, any sensual appetite can be taken to excess in all sorts of unhealthy ways, but the sensual experience is not in itself wrong of sinful. In fact, sensual experiences are natural, healthy and spiritually good when experienced in the proper context. How sad that the institutional church has, through the years, gotten so confused about this truth. In an effort to stamp out the excess of our sensual appetites the church often tries to deny, outlaw, and shame the senses themselves. I find this reactionary legalistic excess to simply be a mirror image of the excess indulgence they attempt to thwart. In reality, both extremes are equally sinful.

Jesus said he came to give us abundant life. This includes a healthy appreciation for the breadth of senses God gave us to properly experience the full range of creation in its sensual glory.

The Good Stuff

Wine decanter and glasses.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chapter-a-Day 1 Corinthians 6

Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NLT)

Wendy and I like to entertain. We don’t do it as often as we’d like and, while we don’t go to extremes, there are evenings when we choose to get out “the good stuff.” Paper napkins are replaced by cloth. Plates are put on gold chargers. Because we are going to bring out the good wine, the nice wine glasses are placed on the table along with a special wine decanter for pouring, aerating and serving the wine. We recognize that our guests are honored when we make the effort to break out “the good stuff” for our dinner together.

Let me be honest. The verses above have haunted me for most of my journey. I have never been uber athletic. Running marathons, competing in triathlons, or getting involved in recreational athletics have never held much appeal for me. Okay, they’ve never held any appeal for me whatsoever. Like most Americans, I like to eat. While I have given regular and serious thought to my diet and to exercise (e.g. I think about eating better, I think about exercising, I contemplate the benefits of doing so), an honest audit of my behavior over time would reveal that I have had little or no discipline in this area. This past year has been one of two periods of my life in which I’ve dropped some serious weight. And yet, the verses still haunt me.

God’s Message clearly teaches that following Jesus means inviting Him into our hearts and our lives. There is something simple and mystical yet powerfully in the act of sincerely saying to Jesus “Come into my heart. Come into my life. Save me.” Elsewhere in God’s Message, Jesus says:

“Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you.” [emphasis added] Revelation 3:20 (MSG)

The night Jesus gave Himself up for us, He took wine and blessed it and said, “this is my blood.” When I read these verses from today’s chapter, what haunts me is this: when Jesus is invited into our hearts and our lives, our very own bodies become the decanter for creation’s most precious wine. Yet, the way I’ve treated my body most of my life is no different than welcoming my most honored guest and His gift of precious wine by grabbing a dirty, used styrofoam cup off the counter and telling Him to “fill ‘er up.”

Lord, have mercy on me.

Chapter-a-Day John 2

This image shows a red wine glass.
Image via Wikipedia

When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. “A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!” John 2:9-10 (NLT)

Over the last several years, Wendy and I have come to love a nice glass of wine with our meals. We are no experts and we never will be. Still, it’s amazing how your nose and taste buds can begin to tell the differences in varieties, how they pair with what you are eating, and how they can change with time and conditions. It’s always fun when we run across a wine that is so good, we are both similarly struck by it.

Reading the account of Jesus turning water into wine in today’s chapter was interesting to read from the perspective of one who appreciates a nice vino. When Jesus tells the servants to take a dipper  from the jar to the master of ceremonies he was following the same etiquette a good server will follow in a restaurant today by pouring the wine and letting the head of the party taste and approve before serving to the rest. The Master of Ceremonies knew his wine. He could tell the difference between a cheap everyday table wine and the good stuff. The wine that Jesus created was such a distinct contrast to what the party had been drinking and was so good that it moved the man to compliment the bridegroom on his choice.

I love that Jesus’ first public miracle was to provide the wine at a wedding reception. There’s nothing like a great wedding reception to celebrate the fullness of life and love. I love even more that the wine Jesus made was not a bottle of Three Buck Chuck but one that made the wedding guests sit up and take notice for its distinct quality. The wine Jesus made honored the host and esteemed him in the eyes of his guests.

The Creator makes good things on both the macro and micro levels. Along the journey I’ve come to appreciate that God pays attention to the details. Jesus said that He came to bring us life, and then He qualified that by adding the detail that He came to bring abundant life. How appropriate then, that He cared enough of to make sure that the wine He provided for the wedding reception was the good stuff.

Tom’s 30 Day Blogging Challenge Day 22

Test_only.jpg
Cheers! Image via Wikipedia

If you learned that you were going to die in exactly one hour, what would you do?

  1. Make love to my wife.
  2. With a slice of Wendy’s cheesecake (if there’s some in the fridge), I’d pour a glass of the best wine in the house. Then I’d make a run to Casey’s on the corner and enjoy another drink and a smoke with Wendy on our porch.
  3. Have a video chat with Madison, Taylor and Clayton – along with my parents & siblings. Ending in a prayer of thanksgiving and blessing.