Monday, February 11, 2013

Praxis - Jesus and Wine

Wine is big. We have multiple stores devoted exclusively to wine. Restaurants boast extensive wine lists. Many of us are amateur sommeliers. Others believe in the health benefits of wine.
But then we remember: some drink too much, or for vexing reasons. Does booze become the secret elixir without which we cannot have fun? After a hard day do you "really need a drink"? Can you get to sleep without a glass of wine? Think of the freight our society piles on top of alcohol, like being hip, or a chic entertainer, or a business mogul. Marriages and families crash and burn - and doesn't alcohol too often fuel the explosion? Death claims too many who are too young because all of us buy the lie that is alcohol. When will we stand up and say "Enough!" or "God help us"?

All biblical people drank wine, including Jesus, Mary, Moses, Abraham. Wine was normal table fare; vineyards and the production of wine are used in some of Jesus' best stories, and by the prophets describing our life with God (Luke 5:37, Matthew 20, Isaiah 5, John 2). Paul recommended wine for its medicinal value (1 Timothy 5:23).

And yet the Bible, pressing not for abstention but for moderation, warns of the perils of alcohol. "Wine is a mocker; strong drink is a brawler" (Proverbs 20:1); and how observant is Proverbs 23:31: "You who drink will be like one who lies down in the sea; you will see strange things, and utter perverse things."

Alcohol seems to be this lovely gift, yet one replete with peril. Can we consecrate our drinking, or our lack of drinking, to God in some meaningful way? Am I willing to engage in some probing diagnosis of why I buy, drink, or serve what I do? Is some regular practice of fasting - just to prove I am not dependent - in order?

And can't the organization that meets in many churches, Alcoholics Anonymous, teach us much about how to be the Church? People who are broken, who know they are lost without each other and the power of God, meet, share, bolster, encourage, lift up, are brutally honest... Sounds like what Church was supposed to be.