Grape Expectations

I have been known to partake of the product of Jesus’ first miracle. If you slept through Sunday School the first miracle was changing water into wine. (Note to spiritual hall monitors: I understand that not all share my freedom to partake and I am cautious about where I consume the fruit of the vine). In fact I began my journey in a church where drinking wine (and nearly everything else) would doom you to eternal hellfire. H.L.Mencken’s quote about Puritanism summed up our miserable little assembly.

“Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy”

I remember hearing a complete sermon dedicated to the theory that the wine of the New Testament was not fermented and therefore did not contain alcohol. That sermon led me to puzzle over Paul’s admonition to the church at Ephesus revised to reflect his view.

And do not be drunk with Welch’s Grape Juice, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit…

I could pound gallons of Welch’s and not get drunk. I might never leave the bathroom but I would not be drunk. So I couldn’t help but surmise that the water turned into wine was, in fact, wine. Look at my big brain.

I thought of that tortured sermon as I toured a beautiful winery near Seattle, Washington. As we toured the facilities of Chateau St. Michele Winery the guide explained where the vineyards are located. All of the grapes are grown on the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains. The mountain range shields the Columbia River Valley area from most of the rain so the vine must be irrigated to grow. But then she said something very interesting.

“They carefully control how much they irrigate the vines. The growers know that the vines need to struggle in order to send their roots deep. And when they struggle the fruit is better.”

I remembered Jesus teaching how He was the true vine that produced spiritual fruit.

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15, NLT)

I have been meditating on a couple of things since I returned to the August heat in Texas.

  1. I must remain in Christ to produce fruit. I can’t do it.
  2. I don’t want to run from the struggle. In the struggle my roots go deep and I will produce better fruit. The Master Gardener understands how I mature just like the oenologist knows how to grow the best grapes. The struggle is part of the process.

How encouraging to understand that even the struggle is valuable. I am learning to trust that truth.