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By Ted Schroder, Pentecost,
June 4, 2017

"Some made fun of the Christians and said, 'They have had too much wine.'" They're drunk! Can you imagine that being said of most Christians today? What characterizes those who have over indulged? Are they loud, making too much noise? Have they lost their inhibitions? Are they drawing too much attention to themselves? Are they dominating the conversation? Are they excited and full of enthusiasm? Some people think that Christians should be reserved.

Jesus was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard (Matt.11:19). God's love is interpreted as being more delightful than wine (Song 1:2). We are invited to "Come buy wine and milk, without money and without cost... and your soul will delight in the richest of fare"(Isaiah 55:1,2). The Gospel is described as new wine that requires new wineskins (Matt 9:17). "The worldly mind regards Christianity as drunkenness." (Soren Kierkegaard)

In 1967 an oilman in Texas, Keith Miller, experienced a profound spiritual awakening. He wrote about it in a bestselling book entitled, The Taste of New Wine, which went on to sell two million copies. What does this description of the work of the Spirit have to say to us today?

When St. Augustine wrote in 400 A.D. about his own conversion to Christ he entitled it Confessions. He began it with his famous prayer:

"You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.... Who will enable me to find rest in you? Who will grant me that you come to my heart and intoxicate it, so that I forget my evils and embrace my one and only good, yourself?" He went on to reference his mentor: "The eloquence of Ambrose ministered to your people the sober intoxication of your wine [i.e. the ecstasy of a knowledge of God lying beyond reason]."

There is a human yearning for final or complete fulfilment in life, for true happiness. This yearning makes all people fundamentally restless. The human condition without God is restless, like the ocean, always moving. "They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind...they are wild waves of the sea" (Jude 12,13). We are not at peace and seek tranquility through sedatives. We find comfort through food and drink. Obesity and alcoholism are symptoms of our dis-ease, lack of ease. Chemical tranquilizers soothe our pain and anxieties. Wine makes us feel better. It gives us a sense of wellbeing. It relaxes us.

When the Holy Spirit comes into our lives and fills us with the goodness and love of God as revealed in Jesus Christ, we are, as St. Augustine expressed it, intoxicated. We embrace the source of true happiness, the goodness of God flows through our being to renew us. "God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us" (Romans 5:5). He pours it out, as we pour out the wine into a glass. We are the vessel, the cup, into whom he pours out his love to inebriate us with his grace. When we have a personal relationship with God in Christ through the Holy Spirit we experience the love of God. Christianity is an experiential faith not just an intellectual belief. It is a subjective experience that is full of passion.

Jesus gave a sign of this revelation of his glory in his miracle in Cana. He was at a wedding with his family and his disciples when the wine ran out. He told the servants to fill six jars with water and serve it to the guests. The water had turned into wine. The master of ceremonies said, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink, but you have save the best till now" (John 2:10).

Jesus turns the water of our restless lives, the wild waves of our passions, fears, and guilt into the wine of his love, goodness and peace. While we may begin our lives with restlessness, with the coming of the Holy Spirit, we find our rest in God's grace. The new wine of the Spirit intoxicates us, inebriates us, with the beauty of God revealed in Jesus Christ. As St. Augustine writes,

"Who then are you, my God? What, I ask, but God who is Lord? ... Most high, utterly good, utterly powerful, most omnipotent, most merciful and most just, deeply hidden yet most intimately present, perfection of both beauty and strength, stable and incomprehensible, immutable and yet changing all things, never new, never old, making everything new.. always active, always in repose, gathering to yourself but not in need, supporting and filling and protecting, creating and nurturing and bringing to maturity, searching even though to you nothing is lacking...But in these words what have I said, my God, my life, my holy sweetness? What has anyone achieved in words when he speaks about you?"

Has he had too much wine? Has the Spirit loosened his tongue so that he cannot stop speaking about his experience of the filling of the Spirit? Has he so forgotten his sins that he helplessly wallows in the wine of the baptism of the Holy Spirit? He is forgiven, he is welcomed, and he becomes the guest at the wedding feast. "Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. So they began to celebrate" (Luke 15:22-24).

We have much to celebrate. Our worship is a celebration of the power and beauty of the Gospel of Jesus. The love of God is poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given us. The bread is broken and the wine is outpoured at the marriage feast of the Lamb. We are invited to partake. We are encouraged to eat and to drink. We are given the new wine of the Spirit. We pray that God will come to our hearts to intoxicate us with his love and mercy in Christ. Then we will find the rest of the people of God. "Now we who have believed enter that rest...let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest" (Hebrews 4:3,11).

1. We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender!
We go not forth alone against the foe;
Strong in Thy strength, safe in Thy keeping tender,
We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.
2. Yes, in Thy Name, O Captain of salvation!
In Thy dear Name, all other names above;
Jesus our Righteousness, our sure Foundation,
Our Prince of glory and our King of love.
3. We go in faith, our own great weakness feeling,
And needing more each day Thy grace to know:
Yet from our hearts a song of triumph pealing,
"We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go."
4. We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender!
Thine is the battle, Thine shall be the praise;
When passing through the gates of pearly splendor,
Victors, we rest with Thee, through endless days. (Edith Cherry)


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