Wine and the Kingdom of God

I hope you don’t mind if I talk about wine. We had one full day in Serbia, which probably meant I’d have one glass of wine, which meant I needed to read an article to learn about my options to make the most of our one lunch. In the end, thanks to my somewhat lazy decision to show up in Serbia knowing no Serbian, I have no idea where the good wine in my glass came from—Serbia, Portugal, or, for that matter, the Yakima Valley. It came in a tiny carafe, and I did not understand the menu.

Nonetheless, I’ll fondly recall the meal, and the wine article will stick with me:

Serbia…lies between the northern latitudes of 41 and 47 degrees, placing it comfortably within the “Wine Belt”—the latitudes within which quality viniculture is deemed practicable. In Western Europe this location corresponds to the area bounded by France’s Loire Valley in the north and Spain’s Duero in the south…

Serbian wine is not often seen on international markets, although there is no question that it has the potential for high-quality viniculture. The over-riding factor in this is the political and cultural unrest that has been so persistent in this region for centuries. War and instability do little to encourage winemaking; not only do they make vineyards appear as risky, long-term investments, they also dull the inspiration required to tend vines and turn their fruit into wine…

Most wine literature focuses on the natural forces involved in wine: the climatological (temperature, sunshine hours, wind, rain), the geological (topography, aspect, soil composition) and the biological (vine characteristics, varietal qualities), but very little examines man’s relationship with wine and the vine at its most basic level. Without stability and creative freedom, wine production rarely progresses beyond the limits of necessity. This is borne out by the disparity between the ancient and modern winemaking activities in Serbia, and across the Balkan states. When a workable solution is found for the political situation in this region, Serbia may well emerge as one of Europe’s great wine regions.

“Serbian Wine,”

Now, I know we hope for more acute things. We hope for no more attacks on trains, no more attacks with trucks, no more attacks by police, no more attacks of police. However, we also hope for this: Not just the end of the bad but also the flourishing of the good. The richness of the God’s Kingdom will often emerge in excellent ordinary things.

Here’s what strikes me about Serbian wine: The climate is right, the soil is right, the heritage is there. The problem is what people have done to this region. It reminds me of a key passage in Romans 8:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

-Romans 8:18-25

The Wine-Searcher author hopes for “a workable solution…for the political situation in this region.” A workable solution may develop quickly, but an ultimate solution is only promised and sure in the future reign of Jesus Christ. Much will be transformed; yet, as N.T. Wright argued in the passages from Monday’s blog post, this world is the world that God will renew. These vines will learn to flourish again, these cities will be put back together, these people will be raised from the dead, these peoples will be reconciled. Our hope is not alchemy, that all the wine in God’s Kingdom will be turned to $1000 bottles at the touch of a magic wand. Our hope is King Jesus, who will restore a world in which there’s time for long-term, risky investments and space for inspiration.

“Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

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