[The following blog is reprinted from the Wheat Ridge Ministries website. As a guest blogger, Dr. Senske shared what his study of wine has taught him about a life of faith.
Wheat Ridge Ministries serves as a catalyst and vital resource for efforts by the Lutheran community to stimulate the initial development of sustainable health and human care ministries.]
The 5 Lessons:
For me the exploration of the art of making a fine wine has opened a window into the art of living the meaningful life. One unanticipated side effect of delving into the world of wine is that I discovered how lessons from the vineyard can provide direction in our quest to live the life that God has called us to live. The following are five such lessons:
1) What is Your Varietal Character?
Wine enthusiasts often assess a grape’s distinct varietal character in language that on occasion borders on the inane. Buttery, chewy, nutty, smoky, full-bodied, are just a few descriptors of a good Chardonnay. The question that you and I must wrestle with is, What is our varietal character? Would our descriptors include a whiff of self-absorption? Or, would our neighbors approvingly note that we possess a pleasing aroma of Christ-like service?
2) Staying Connected to the Vine
A branch doesn’t have to work very hard to grow grapes. However, it does have to stay connected to the vine. St Paul explains that this is because the branch doesn’t support the vine. Rather the vine supports the branch (Romans 11:18). We stay connected to the vine through prayerful study of God’s Word. Much like an old Zinfandel vine produces fine wine, staying connected to our Lord and Savior will also produce the miracle of bearing fruit as we worship and serve Him!
3) How Do You Finish?
Wine aficionados talk about a wine’s finish – the longer a wine’s flavors and aromas linger in your mouth and nose, the best the wine. We can also ask ourselves, “How do we finish?” How long and favorably do our words linger after a business meeting or after a conversation with our child? I am reminded of the words of St. Francis Assisi, who said, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”
A wine is integrated when its various components – its acidity, tannin structure, alcohol content, fruitiness, are so impeccably woven so that no one characteristic stands out. As Christians, we become integrated when all of our vocations become interwoven in service and worship to our Father. The Bible provides a great example of how to live such a life – the woman in Proverbs 31. Her husband has full confidence in her, her children call her blessed, her business colleagues recognize her as a wise investor and hard worker, she cares for the poor, and she buys a field and plants a vineyard!
Another way to judge the quality of wine is through its expressiveness. Does the wine communicate clarity and focus? Is there an aesthetic quality to the wine or is it merely another beverage? Similarly, the question becomes, how do you and I express our Christian faith? Like the Good Samaritan, we are called to cross geographical, cultural and religious boundaries to help our hurting neighbor. We are called to live lives that will reflect the artisanal quality of our Creator.
For me, my dance with God’s gift of wine has become an elegant window into my soul. Living the Christ filled life is to be intoxicated with the Gospel. It is only through Christ that we can discover true peace, the peace that transcends all understanding. Then we can say with the Psalmist, “My cup runneth over” – spilling recklessly, lovingly into the lives of others.
Dr. Kurt Senske is the author of four books including Wine and the Word: Savor & Serve. He serves as CEO of Lutheran Social Services of the South. For more information go to www.kurtsenske.com