Friday, September 16, 2011

Into the Crusher

We are picking grapes at the winery this month. From the top of the first hill, rows roll out with regimented precision in every direction, vines fully leafed and hanging heavy with fruit. Soon after dawn on every harvesting day, hands reach beneath the leaves to grab clusters greedily up and drop them into first small bins that hold only thirty pounds, then into larger ones that hold a thousand and more. They line up, bin after bin, until ton upon ton of grapes crowd the crushing shed, the literal fruit of long labor, the promise of next summer's wine.

I like to stand in the crushing shed on those days and, ignoring thieving bees, long to plunge bare arms into expectant fruit, feeling their slick juice, inhaling their tart fragrance. I could stand there forever sometimes, just marveling at the sheer quantity of them, trying to record a moment of this to bring out later when snow and grey skies cover the hills. Surely this is something only You could have done. No combination of my efforts, or indeed of any man, could have caused this plenty, this extravagance. You conceived this harvest from the beginning and as such, it reflects Your grandeur.

But the harvest is not a stagnant thing. If the grapes sit there long enough, they rot. If they are to serve any good purpose, we have to crush them. And so You do with your own harvest....Your harvest of men. Your promise for men does not end with the fruit, either. You want to make us into clear, sparkling wine.

I will put my Spirit in you, and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. I will save you from all your uncleanness. You will remember your evil ways and wicked deeds and you will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable practices. I want you to know that I am not doing this for your sake. The nations around you that remain will know that I, the Lord, have rebuilt what was destroyed and replanted what was desolate--Ezekiel 36:27,29,31

You crush the fruit of Your own hands. You make men face their shame, their faults, and we are destroyed before You. Then you take our juice, the clear result of Your refining, and make of it something new and beautiful, rich and full of perfect flavor. We come through your winepress changed, clear and holy, and You offer us the brimming cup of what You have made of us, a drink we can share.

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