Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Fruit of the Vine...

Today, I ask that you read all the way through before you pass judgment. Just saying.

I took the day off yesterday. Well, not totally, but I was out of the office and away from the laptop. I drove up to our house in Graves County because I still had a few odds and ends type things to do so we can get our final inspections and close on the construction loan. I took some time to clean out my garage while I was there, mainly because it's a 30 by 30 garage and you couldn't walk through it with all the construction mess I had going.

While I was cleaning, I ran across some of my Granddaddy's things that I had picked up when my Grandmother had their sale. I saw one of Granddaddy's old toolboxes there against the wall, and started going through it. I only bought it because I saw his old tobacco spike laying in it at the sale, and thought that I must have it. As I was looking through his old toolbox yesterday I came across a little bag of corks. Not fishing bobber corks, but wine bottle corks.

You see, my Granddaddy and I used to spend a lot of time together. With the exception of my father, there will never be another man in the world that I would ever be closer to. We fished together, hunted together, farmed together, and sometimes, did absolutely nothing together. But there was this one thing that we did together, and not many folks know about it. Now, before I continue and make some confession that will land me in front of a judge, I have checked the federal laws and think I'm good to go.

My Granddaddy taught me how to make wine. Never more than 5 gallons a year. In fact, I still have one of his last 4 bottles and have no intention of ever opening it. The summer I turned 21, under his supervision, I picked, washed, mashed, and fermented a lot of blackberries. My knuckles were bloody from the thorns, but the time we spent together that summer was great. Now, that was a long time ago, and I haven't made any since way before he passed away, but here's what brought this to mind this morning.

I was reading Deuteronomy 32 this morning and Deuteronomy 32 contains the "Song of Moses." Moses is describing all that God has done for Israel. In verses 12-14, Moses says this: "The LORD alone led him; no foreign god was with him. He made him ride on the heights of the land and fed him with the fruit of the fields. He nourished him with honey from the rock, and with oil from the flinty crag, with curds and milk from herd and flock and with fattened lambs and goats, with choice rams of Bashan and the finest kernals of wheat. You drank the foaming blood of the grape."

The foaming blood of the grape. Now there's an image. That image brought to mind one of the oldest arguments that I can think of about anything in scripture, that being this..."Did they drink real wine?" The short answer would be, "Yes." If you have ever watched the fermentation process, there is a part of that process in which it really does almost look like foaming blood. It's the first fermentation stage. The fruit is mashed and water is added, then it's allowed to work, and as it does it foams. You can't stop it. It's going to happen. Anything with sugar in it will ferment if nature is allowed to take it's course.

And here is why I brought this up. You already know I'm an "outside the box" kind of guy. I see things differently than many folks, I think differently than a lot of folks, and I make no apologies for that. But when I think about all of the time and energy that has been spent in the argument over "real wine verses juice," I immediately begin to wonder if it really even matters, and how much could have been done for the kingdom in the same amount of time. Moses said they drank the foaming blood of the grape. Sounds like a done deal to me. Now, granted, that foaming blood of the grape would have probably been diluted with water, maybe even up to 1:20 ratio, but to me, it's one of those things that, in the grander scheme of things, really doesn't matter.

I'm all for theological debate, don't get me wrong, in fact I love it. I also, however, have a pretty good list of swords I'm willing to fall on, or hills I'm willing to die on, and this just isn't one of them. Let's discuss how Jesus is present at the table instead, or what his resurrection means for us and for the folks of the first century. Let's sit down over a cup of coffee, good coffee mind you, and talk about what Paul was saying in the 13th chapter of 1st Corinthians, and if he was talking about the love between a man and woman or between Creator and created.

We have this habit of getting tripped up over the details while missing the point of the larger story...the proverbial forest for the trees thing. What if, and I'm just thinking out loud, what if we stopped that? What if, instead of arguing over whether or not Jesus and the gang drank real wine or even whether or not we have a glass with dinner, we took a look around us at those neighbors who need to hear that the gospel message is real? And that it's not about getting caught up in the minutia, but that it can be life changing?

Now, I certainly don't expect you to agree with me, and I respect your opinion. This is just mine. And I guess what I'm saying is this, as you look at the words in our scriptures, my hope is that you see the entire forest instead of just one or two trees.

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