In a recent trip to the mecca of the 19th century American wine universe, Hermann, Missouri, I retraced the history of that Vatican of the grape world. Imagine, a German transplant culture town with 60 wineries in the town limits and thousands of acres of vineyards. It is the number one wine producer in North America and third in the world. Until 1919, that is, and prohibition. Suddenly, as though overnight, the town’s economy was crushed as grapes in the press. It all came to an end. The vineyards were burned, casks destroyed, and wine poured out into the streets. A way of life came to an end.
This, for a town dependent on producing wine, was the beginning of their great depression. It continued the great decline right on through that time, through the 1st and 2nd world wars and didn’t come out of the shadows until the end of the 1950s. Decades after the land went dry there was a renaissance and vineyards – seven of them – were back.
The great reminder for me was the way in which huge forces beyond our local control often dominate and change life forever. This happens as no direct result of our own efforts. The Tsunami rolls in and the game changes forever.
I once heard someone say that we often find ourselves trying to seal the leaks in our basements only look out and see that the whole neighborhood is flooded. Something much bigger than our own situation is at work and it’s affecting everyone. For those of us in the religion world that has been especially true. The context has changed radically and, as Phyllis Tickle has been fond of saying (The Great Emergence), every 500 years or so the church has a mega yard sale and everything is out on the church lawn on tables. Some items will be discarded while other things kept, recycled and used. But the sale is on. It has to be for life to go on … transformed.
We can concentrate on shoring up our own house, but prohibition has been declared and the game changer put in motion. The neighborhood is flooded. It’s more than any one church, any one denomination. And the ones that seem to be flourishing today will, in the relatively near future, be experiencing the same kinds of things.
What I love about Jesus is how his spirit survives all the twists and turns. He moves against the grain, swims against the current. And just when you think you have him all sewn up he escapes your attempts at domestication so he can be relevant to the next generation.
God is. Jesus speaks and does. Faith receives. Love triumphs. And there is a cup of wine in the center of a circle with bread resting beside it. Stop for a minute. It’s enough.