I heard it through the…

Do you remember the California Raisins?  They were these claymated guys that sang all these motown songs.  They were around in the 80’s.   Nobody that I know of ever much contemplated the idea that once they were California Grapes.  Maybe they sang like kid’s lullaby songs or something before they dried out and grew up.

If they had ever made a commercial showing the grapes’ transition to raisins, it could’ve seemed pretty cute.  Big plump grapes all sunning themselves, or something.  Maybe they forget the sunscreen.  Slowly, they get all shriveled and raisinish.

If the destiny of those grapes had been a little different, there’s no way you could make a cute commercial out of them.

Imagine that the California grapes were destined to become wine.  Imagine that they all got smooshed together, bottled, and left to ferment.  It’s not likely they’d be singing too many songs in this scenario.

Wine is something that is important in the teachings of Jesus.  At his first public miracle, he turns water into wine.  I have been suggesting, in these last several posts, that this represents the change he wants to make in our lives.  Jesus is calling us to live more full and complete existences.

A wine-like life is not an easy one.  The process of making wine itself is instructive  in this regard.   There is meaning to the fact that the grapes are squashed, the very deepest parts of the grapes are brought out.  There is meaing to the fact that it is not internal forces alone which make wine, but also an outside, almost magical process.

Jesus was the original grape turned to wine.  And he expects us to follow his example.  More on this coming soon.

Wine

Wine is many things.    Boring is not one of them, generally.

I might go so far as to say that wine is the opposite of water.

An entire profession is built around growing the grapes.  Another around making the wine.   It’s this almost mystical skill to pair the right wine with the right food.  There are critics and magazines dedicated to this one little drink.   Entire books are written about it.  Bottles go for thousands, and tens of thousands, and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Can you imagine this much of a to-do around water?  “Hello, I’m the water critic for the L.A. times…”  “Would you recomend the Poland Springs be paired with the Salmon, or the Evian?”  “We’re putting a new water cellar in the basement.  It’ll keep the water chilled to the ideal temperature and monitor the humidity.”

In a film, the guy holding the wine glass is the one who enjoys all the best things out of life.

And this isn’t all just perception: I am quite the opposite of educated in areas around wine.  But I tell you something: when I’m drinking a glass of reasonably good stuff, there is nothing quite like it.  It seems to do different things to different parts of my tongue.   It’s like there’s so much going on, even though it’s just one thing (and a liquid at  that) it’s like a medley: a bite of good salad, or a forkfull of stir fry.  It takes the edge off my day.

Having said all that, I do wish to clarify a few things: Lots of evil has resulted from alchohol.  Drunkness is not a good thing.  I am not advocating that anybody get drunk, nor am I suggesting that everybody should drink wine.  These warnings aside, what I’m really trying to say is that wine is the opposite of water.

Jesus: Sarcastic? Yes. Coy? Not so much.

There’s some things that are strange and surprising about the following:

3When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

 4“Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied, “My time has not yet come.”

 5His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

 6Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.[a]

 7Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

 8Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

The most noticeable wierdness is the transition between verses 4, 5, and 6.  It’s clear that there must be something going on between the lines of the text.  Because if you just read the words themselves, they don’t really connect.

In verse 4, Jesus seems to indicate that he won’t be doing anything to solve the problem.  In verse 5, Mary seems to ignore the content of Jesus words and seems to believe that he’s going to do things despite his words.  In verse 6, Jesus proves Mary right: despite his apparent words to the contrary, Jesus provides more wine.

The more I think about this, the less it lines up with everything we know about Jesus based on the rest of scripture.  Suggesting that Jesus was somehow guilted into this by his mom, for example, is questonable.  It implies an error in judgement on Jesus’ part.  Similarly, the idea that he was being coy just doesn’t work either.  It’s hard to imagine Jesus words being said in a wink-wink nudge-nudge kind of way.  Though he often uses sarcasm, irony, and crazy reversal of expectations elsewhere, this example isn’t like anything else in the bible.  The reversal is just so straightforeward.  The sarcasm is so obvious.  I don’t think that there is much hope in the idea that Mary said what she did to the wedding staff in the mere hopes that Jesus might change his mind, either.  If she did this, it’d be a manipulative set up.  If Jesus did nothing, then everybody would have been let down by him, after Mary’s implication that Jesus could do something if he wanted.

This all brings us back to the question: what’s going on?

One possibility is that Jesus is speaking metaphorically and that Mary is speaking quite literally.   But I’ve been trying to keep these posts short.  So I think I’ll say more about that next time.

A wine-y (but not whiney) life

The fact that we long for more than we have says some things about us.  The intensity with which we long for it, this  says some things too.

Not of all of the things that our longing says are things to be proud of.  There is the implication that we’re spoiled and whiney, for example.

But there is something else about the fact that we have this belief that things are not the way that they were meant to be.  And while this maybe isn’t something to be proud of, it certainly isn’t something to be ashamed of, either.

We have this feeling that we were made for something more!  Have you ever stopped and thought about that?  On the whole, I’m skeptical of blindly following feelings wherever they may take us.  That’s not what I’m advocating here.

I’m not saying that the fact of our longing must mean we have a right to more.  I’m wondering why we feel this way at all.  When we watch the news and watch the terrible unfairness, the rampant unjustness.  When we end a long, thankless day, so very bone-weary, but so far from soul satisfied.  When we do the right thing, and then get burned for it. 

We know it’s not supposed to be that way.

On the other hand, there are times when everything just falls into place.  Some times it’s not something we even can put words to, or explain why.  Often times we chase after recreating these times, losing track of the fact that the spontaneity is what made it so amazing in the first place.

We get this sense, some times, that this is how things are supposed to be.

This is different than greed, entitlement, and materialism.  When life is not good, it is like water.  And when it at it’s best, it is like wine.

Wine…

Wine is many things.    Boring is not one of them, generally.

I might go so far as to say that wine is the opposite of water.

An entire profession is built around growing the grapes.  Another around making the wine.   It’s this almost mystical skill to pair the right wine with the right food.  There are critics and magazines dedicated to this one little drink.   Entire books are written about it.  Bottles go for thousands, and tens of thousands, and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Can you imagine this much of a to-do around water?  “Hello, I’m the water critic for the L.A. times…”  “Would you recomend the Poland Springs be paired with the Salmon, or the Evian?”  “We’re putting a new water cellar in the basement.  It’ll keep the water chilled to the ideal temperature and monitor the humidity.”

In a film, the guy holding the wine glass is the one who enjoys all the best things out of life.  

And this isn’t all just perception: I am quite the opposite of educated in areas around wine.  But I tell you something: when I’m drinking a glass of reasonably good stuff, there is nothing quite like it.  It seems to do different things to different parts of my tongue.   It’s like there’s so much going on, even though it’s just one thing (and a liquid at  that) it’s like a medley: a bite of good salad, or a forkfull of stir fry.  It takes the edge off my day.   

Having said all that, I do wish to clarify a few things: Lots of evil has resulted from alchohol.  Drunkness is not a good thing.  I am not advocating that anybody get drunk, nor am I suggesting that everybody should drink wine.  These warnings aside, what I’m really trying to say is that wine is the opposite of water.

And if water is a metaphor for what our lives are at their worst, then wine, I’d submit, is a metaphor for what our lives are at their best.

A watery life

Water is boring.  And life… Life can be boring, too.

The problem runs deeper than boring.  That word triavilizes the whole affair. 

Life can seem empty.  It can seem pointless.  It can seem tastless colorless and stale.

There are times when it just seems like a vicious circle: We have a car in order to get to work and go to work in order to pay for the car.  We work so that we can live and we live so that we can work.

There are times that everything we’ve worked for, everything we have once believed in, everything that once seemed so very precious… It’s just suddenly rings so hollow.

Thousands of years ago, Solomon said:

I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
       I refused my heart no pleasure.
       My heart took delight in all my work,
       and this was the reward for all my labor.

 11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
       and what I had toiled to achieve,
       everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
       nothing was gained under the sun.

Hundreds of years ago, Shakespeare put Hamlet through this experience.  One modern language version puts it like this:

I have lately, but I don’t know why, lost all my joy,
given up my customary activities, and indeed, things are so heavy on
my mind, that this grand place, the earth, seems to me to be a
barren promontory, and this wonderful canopy, the sky – look
at it – this splendid firmament above us, this majestical roof inset
with golden sunlight, why, it only looks to me like a foul
and diseased condensation of vapors. What piece of work is a
man? How noble his reason, how infinite his faculties. In form and
motion, how expressive and admirable in action! How like an angel, in his apprehension, how like a god! The beauty of the world, the
paragon of animals. Yet to me, what is this quintessence of
dust?

Today, we speak of our existential angst, our depression, our sense of meaninglessness.  I am not suggesting that these experiences are the same thing.  I am suggesting that their is this common thread.   On one level, we know that in the abstract, things are enjoyable.  But we just can’t find the joy in them. 

There was a time in my life that I had lots of freedom.  A time I allowed myself to do some things I probably should have not been doing.   I fufilled all sorts of appetites.  I had my share of excesses.

And for a while… it was enough.  Fun was enough.  Fun was great, in fact.  I thought I’d want to live my whole life that way.  And then…

Then, it wasn’t enough anymore.  I needed something more.  All these things that I was doing, they had their price.   Once they had been vibrant, ecstatic even.  But eventually… eventually they were like water.  Odorless, colorless, joyless.

We all know that when the old thrills stop be thrilling we have two choices.  The first is to step things up a notch.  The second is to shrug our shoulders, give up…. And just go through the motions.

We can live off water.  But who would want to?  Sometimes, in life, it’s like our whole diet, our whole world is boring, room-temperature water.

Rain

The blue

burned

out of the sky.

It left this terrible emptiness

this dead pale emptiness.

And I imagine the processional;

The only way out of the dust bowl

was up Jacob’s Ladder.

Each of them Joad’s

stood for a million and a million

displaced dispossessed

with no way out

but up

and only at the end.

I wonder if the damp

felt like an alien on the skin

or if it felt like home

or if it felt like both

I wonder, if they ascended

into a rain

into the blue

if their hard stoic, blood shot eyes

leaked in sympathy

as if to urge onward the rains.