Over the years, the miracle that is called wine has become woven into the fabric of my Christian calling.
Wine is truly unique, both divine and human. At its best – and when consumed properly – it can be a honeyed elixir that soothes our spirit after a long day.
For me personally, wine is cerebral and sensuous, secular and sacred, historic and modern, seductive and destructive, civilized and edgy. Over time, I have also discerned that my personal pursuit of oenology (the study and science of wine) in turn revealed so much more – about my faith, myself, my relationships, and God’s creation.
Maybe this is not surprising, because wine, like good works of art, can provide us with clues about how to live a Christ-filled life. Reflect on the complexity and artistic challenge of tending the vineyard, the miracle of the cycles of the seasons, and the craft of the winemaker in fulfilling her God-given vocation. The art and miracle of wine, coupled with the rich Biblical imagery of the vineyard, open a lens into God’s rich and abundant grace and in turn, into our own lives.
The Good Book and the Grape
Wine is deeply rooted, metaphorically and literally, in the Old and New Testaments – mentioned a total of 521 times! The inspired scribes who wrote the books of the Bible were artists in their own right, employing the vivid imagery of the vineyard as instruction for every chapter of life – birth, sickness, health, romance, hope, despair, death, damnation and the resurrection.
Christ uses the imagery of new wineskins to describe the uniqueness of the Gospel that cannot be confined to old forms. He uses the metaphor of the vine to describe the relationship between himself and us, “I am the vine, you are the branches.”
Song of Solomon sensually links wine to courtship and marriage. “Let us go early to the vineyards to see if the vines have budded, there I will give you my love.” These are words very similar to the ones recently voiced by my wife when she learned I had a speaking engagement in Napa.
The Psalmist imagined that a cup of wine signified God’s wrath. “You have given us wine that makes us stagger.” In contrast, the prophet Isaiah described the future banquet of salvation that we have to look forward to: “a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine, well refined.”
And of course there is the wine of the Lord’s Supper, the holy event of highest significance for the Christian Church. Shortly thereafter, Jesus, nailed to the cross, is given a sponge soaked with the cheapest of common wine after crying out in agony, “I thirst.”
A Symbol of Our Daily Lives
Wine can also be used as a metaphor for living the Christ-filled life. For example, my wife Laurie and I both favor any wine that expresses its flavors and aromas distinctly and with clarity.
So it is also with our Christian faith. Like a fine wine, we are called upon to declare, through the impressions we leave behind, to be distinct and stand out in a crowd. This seems to become more difficult as we live out our lives in an increasingly post-Christian world.
The question becomes: Will our lives reflect the artisanal quality of our Creator and the clear call of our baptism? One ritual that gives me the strength to live this Christian life of clarity is to “taste” God’s Word like we might a fine wine. Think about how a wine expert notices the depth of the wine’s color, sniffs the cork, carefully pours and swirls the wine in the glass, takes a deep whiff to experience its “nose,” and finally savors it in his mouth.
As I created a similar ritual in my own life, “tasting” the Scriptures, pondering deeply over each verse and parable, through the Holy Spirit I rediscovered that only God’s Word can satisfy our deepest needs while drinking deeply of His wisdom, commands and promises.
This is a reminder, in the words of the Psalmist, that “Our soul thirsts for God and only God’s Word can satisfy our deepest needs.” I learn anew that like the Good Samaritan I am called to cross geographical, cultural, and religious boundaries to care for our hurting neighbor.
For me, my dance with God’s gift of wine has become an elegant window on my soul. It has enriched my gratitude for all of life as it lubricates my faith, marriage, family life, friendships and work.
Living the Christ-filled life is to be intoxicated with the Gospel. Even the finest Bordeaux can never truly satisfy. It is only through Christ that we can discover true peace, the peace that transcends all understanding. Then we can say along with the Psalmist, “My cup runneth over” – spilling recklessly, lovingly, into the lives of others.
*Dr. Kurt Senske, CEO of Upbring, is a resident of Austin, Texas, and author of “Wine and the Word: Savor & Serve.”