Wine plays a prominent role in the Bible. It is mentioned over two hundred times. Jesus used analogies involving the grapevine and branches. He talked about the wine making process and the harvesting of the grapes. His first miracle was changing water into wine. And finally, at the last supper, He took the cup of wine and declared it to be the blood of the covenant, shed for the forgiveness of sins. Today, I will explain why the art of drinking wine is an important metaphor for Christian life. Please read more.
This past weekend’s Gospel story came from Mark 10:35-45. In this story we read the account of James and John, coming to Jesus with this request, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” They said to Him, “We can.” Jesus’ reply to them included this verse, “The cup that I drink, you will drink.”
Much has been written about the exchange between these two brothers and Jesus. Many of you, no doubt, heard a sermon about this passage this past weekend. In today’s message, I want to focus in on this idea of drinking the cup. I will be drawing heavily from the book CAN YOU DRINK THE CUP by Henri J. M. Nouwen. But before I do, let’s take a closer look at the art of drinking wine.
The serious wine connoisseur knows that wine drinking has much more to it than just pouring wine into a glass and drinking it. To begin with, they know there is an endless number of varieties of wines. Each has its own characteristics. Red, white, rosé, and sparkling wine are each unique. They each should be poured at the correct temperature and into a specifically shaped glass to bring out the unique flavor of each wine. Swirling the wine plays an important role. It allows the wine to oxygenate, and it brings out complex aromatics. Finally, there is a proper way to hold each style of wine glass and a proper way to raise the glass to taste and drink the wine.
Just like there are many varieties of grapes, each of us are uniquely different from one another. In his book, Nouwen compares our life to the art of drinking wine. Imagine holding a cup, and in that cup is your entire life. As Christians you and I are called to take a critical look at our life. We begin by holding our cup. We swirl the cup of our life and look at our joys and sorrows. It takes courage to do this. With billions of lives in the world, we each only get one. We can’t drink someone else’s cup, and no one can drink ours. Henri tells us that we must say, “this is my cup that was given to me.”
After examining the contents of your cup, in many cultures, it is customary to raise your cup of wine in a toast with others. Some might say “cheers,” other say “salute”. It is said best in Hebrew. A cup is raised to the words “L’chaim,” meaning “to life.” As Christians we are called to live in community with one another. We each raise our glasses together. Nouwen says, “The wounds of our individual lives, which seemed intolerable when lived alone, become sources of healing when we live them as part of a fellowship of mutual care.”
Eventually it’s time to drink the wine in our cup. Looking at the contents of our life in the cup we may be inclined to protest saying, “Why do I have to be this person?” As to our cup, we might say, “I didn’t ask for it and I don’t want it.” Nouwen goes on to say, “As we gradually come to befriend our own reality, to look with compassion at our own sorrows and joys, and as we are able to discover the unique potential of our way of being in the world, we can move beyond our protest, put the cup of our life to our lips and drink it, slowly, carefully but fully. Drink to the dregs!”
Jesus understood that James and John would indeed have a bitter cup of wine to drink. He knew life for His followers would not be easy. He knows the same is true for us. As Christians, we should prepare ourselves for trials. We must remain sincere of heart and steadfast, and we cannot be impetuous in times of adversity. We must always cling to Jesus and never leave Him. If humiliation should come our way, we must be patient and trust in our Lord. Gold is tested in fire; wine is perfected in fermentation. We are tested in the adversities of life. The Bible assures us that those who trust in the Lord, will not lose their reward.
Let’s be there to support one another in times of trial, and let’s raise our glasses and say, L’chaim!
Heavenly Father, thank you for the life you have given me. Sometimes life tastes sweet, sometimes it taste bitter, but it is the only life I have. Help me to embrace the life you gave me, and to always follow closely in the footsteps of your Son, Jesus. My Hope is in Him. Amen
For the Greater Glory of God
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