wine picture

Reflections on the Sense of “Taste”

Pastor Erik’s Lent Reflections 2018 – Taste

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.      (1 John 1:1)

                Just a few weeks ago we celebrated the birth of Jesus at Christmas. Christmas is always a special time of year not just because of all the fun activities, but because we learn and remember that Jesus Christ arrived to us as a person- as human flesh. Jesus is both -100% God and 100% human being.  During Jesus’ earthly ministry there were many people who encountered him physically. The saw him, heard him, touched him and were touched by him. Today, we can also encounter Jesus physically. For example, many of you have already felt and smelled the oily ash that was drawn on your forehead in the shape of the cross on Ash Wednesday. In a few weeks we will smell the wonderful Easter Lilies, we will taste the Seder meal, and we will feel the weight of the cross as we place it on our backs and carry it during Holy Week.

John 2:1-11

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ 4And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ 5His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ 6Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. 8He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. 9When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ 11Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

1 Peter 2:2-3

2Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— 3if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Psalm 34:4-8

I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. 5 Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed. 6 This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord, and was saved from every trouble. 7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. 8 O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.

The book, “The Year of Living Biblically,” states that there are 247 alcohol references in the Bible. 59% of those references are positive, 14% are negative and 25% are neutral.[1]  Many of the positive references refer to the abundance of wine as a sign of God’s blessing. Jesus’ sign, his first in John, is an announcement to the disciples, wedding guests, and to the whole world that his time has indeed come. His time will bring fulfillment, abundance, renewal, healing and hope to humanity.

The wedding of Cana is one of my favorite Bible stories. I like it because I can easily imagine the scene and the dramatic events unfolding. I imagine the people, the mood, the music and beautiful clothes of the bride and groom. I think about the conversations that people are having as they sit and enjoy the afternoon. I would love to be able to see the look on the chief steward’s face when he takes the first taste of Jesus’ wine. I am assuming that this guy was probably a bit stressed. Here he was, overseeing a large wedding party. If you’ve ever been to or planned a wedding party you know how much work and planning went into it. And now, a very stressful thing has occurred –the wine has run out! With the wine gone, people will slowly begin to leave the party, and then more people will follow. The party is over. Most likely the people will think that the wedding host was stingy or didn’t put in enough effort in planning the wedding. Reputations are at stake! So, the steward probably had a nervous, desperate, maybe even frightened look on his face before he took that sip of that wine. Then, immediately his fear is gone. With just one sip he knows that everything is ok – more than ok. This wine was excellent and there was more than enough.

Tauna’s Uncle Ed and I brewed a half keg of Belgian White beer for our wedding reception. I can proudly and definitively say that it was awesome beer, and other people agree. They drank it all in less than 15 minutes, and they wanted more. They were heartbroken when they learned that it was all gone. From that night on, every beer would be compared to that one, but none of them would taste as good. I like to imagine that the wedding guests at Cana felt the same after they tasted Jesus’ wine. His wine set the standard.  From that day on, people knew what good wine tasted like and every time they drank wine they remembered how awesome that wedding wine was. Jesus’ goodness and abundance are at the very top. Nothing else can compare.

The thing about tasting, as 1 Peter and Psalm 34:8 describe, is that it leads to longing. When we experience and taste something amazing- we want it again and again. We search for it, yearn for it, and anticipate it. Having received a taste of God’s goodness, how can we not want more? Life’s joys and pains both can fuel intense cravings for the thing that fully quenches our thirst: the fullness of Christ. Every Sunday when we celebrate Holy Communion, I invite everyone up to the front with the words, “taste and see that the Lord is good.”

[1] Jacobs, A.J. The Year of Living Biblically. Simon and Schuster. New York. 2007