Sermon Illustrations on Wine
Christian Culture Concerning Alcohol
In the excellent book, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes, Brandon J. O’Brien shares a helpful illustration of how different churches deal with alcohol very differently:
When I (Brandon) was growing up, pastors in our Christian tradition preached often on the evils of alcohol. We were frequently reminded—from Scripture—that “wine is a mocker and beer a brawler (Prov 20:1). Thus, we learn, “Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper” (Prov 23:31-32). It seemed clear enough to me.
So when I visited the house of a friend, a Christian of a different denomination who had recently moved to town from another state, I was shocked to discover that his parents had a wine chiller engraved with a different Bible reference: “Use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake” (1 Tim 5:23 kjv)! I began to suspect that my tradition’s view of alcohol consumption was at least as cultural as it was biblical when I spent a semester in Edinburgh, Scotland, where I attended a church of my own denomination. My first week in town, I was invited to a deacon’s house for dinner. He offered me a drink when I arrived.
“What do you have?” I asked.
“Anything you want,” he answered. “We have lagers, ales, stouts, pilsners, sherry, whisky, port…”
Taken from Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien Copyright (c) 2012 by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com
If we are honest with ourselves, for many of us who celebrate the sacraments on a regular basis, at times we take them for granted. We lose sight of their nature to inspire and remind us of our covenant relationship with the Triune God. Thankfully, there are examples, especially from Missionaries to remind us of just how significant they are to those who get to experience them for the first time. Take for instance, the example of John Paton, a missionary in the 19th century to a cannibalistic tribe in the New Hebrides archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean (modern day Vanuatu):
For years we had toiled and prayed and taught for this. At the moment when I put the bread and wine into those dark hands, once stained with the blood of cannibalism but now stretched out to receive and partake the emblems and seals of the Redeemer’s love, I had a foretaste of the joy of glory that well-nigh broke my heart to pieces. I shall never taste a deeper bliss till I gaze on the glorified face of Jesus himself.
James Paton, ed., John G. Paton—Missionary to the New Hebrides: An Autobiography (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1891), 376, quoted in Philip Graham Ryken, Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2005), 915.
The Perfect Soil for Winemaking
My first call to ministry was in Eastern Washington state. It turned out to be one of the most prolific winemaking regions in the country. One of the things I learned from a local winery was really quite fascinating. But let me back up for just a moment. When it comes to soil for growing things, whether it be flowers or vegetables, trees or shrubs, generally speaking you want a rich, fertile soil. Lots of organic material like compost or manure provide the nutrients necessary for the plants to grow in abundance.
But apparently, with wine it is quite different, if not the opposite, from other plants ideal growing conditions.
The perfect soil for winemaking is actually quite low in nutrients. In our area, there was a vinicultural heritage site, in other words, a place set apart as an ideal location for growing wine. Interestingly enough, it was almost entirely made up of sand, which as any gardener will tell you, is devoid of the kinds of nutrients we would expect to create the perfect grape for wine.
But just as interesting is why wineries prefer soils with such low nutritional value: when this is the case, the majority of the nutrients go, not to the vine, or the leaves, but straight to the grapes. What a great metaphor for our lives.
Sometimes we need to go to desolate places, not the lush, green landscapes of an Eden, but rather, to the wilderness, where there is so little life, where pain and suffering are intrinsic to the experience, in order to really “bear fruit,” if you will allow a little pun. It is often in the wilderness that we learn the most about God, about our own sinfulness and need for repentance.
But it is also out of such a place that the best of us: a newfound humility, a greater capacity for compassion and love. A deeper reliance on the “vine,” that is God’s sustaining us over the comforts of this world can take place. So perhaps, when God plants you in a desert, devoid of most nutrients for healthy production, he is actually doing something spectacular to help you grow a deeper understanding of yourself, and more importantly, a deeper love for Him.
Stuart Strachan Jr.
A Toast to a Radically, Perpetually Unnecessary World
In this short excerpt, Robert Farrar Capon makes a toast to the fact that all of creation, including our food, are in some sense superfluous. That is to say, God did not have to create anything, including the food that tastes so delicious, but God did, and in so doing, gives us, on a daily basis, the opportunity to experience joy and pleasure when we eat:
To a radically, perpetually unnecessary world; to the restoration of astonishment to the heart and mystery to the mind; to wine, because it is a gift we never expected; to mushroom and artichoke, for they are incredible legacies; to improbable acids and high alcohols, since we would hardly have thought of them ourselves; and to all being, because it is superfluous.… We are free: nothing is needful, everything is for joy. Let the bookkeepers struggle with their balance sheets; it is the tippler who sees the untipped Hand. God is eccentric; He has loves , not reasons. Salute!
Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection (New York: Modern Library, 2002 ), 85–86.
The World of Wine
The world of wine expertise is a world of its own. The number one wine critic in the world, Robert Parker, insures his nose for $1 million. The world’s biggest auction market for top wines is no longer London or New York City but Hong Kong, where three bottles of wine (1869 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild) recently sold for $230,930, each, and where bottles of Chateau d’Yquem go for $75,000 each. …
Currently the best wine in the world is an 1811 Chateau d’Yquen—a bottle purchased for $120,000 and which the owner claims will be opened and drunk in 2017 (with some foie gras—goose livers—eww!). But the best wine ever made was actually served at a wedding in Cana around 30 CE. And its vintner did not have a great horticultural history.
Leonard Sweet, The Bad Habits of Jesus: Showing us the Way to Live Right In a World Gone Wrong, Tyndale House Publishers, 2016.
See also illustrations on Alcohol, Bread, Communion (The Lord’s Supper), Drunkenness
Sermon Illustrations on Wine
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