Flashbacks: On Religion

Religious choices are a personal decision. Although I’m a regular church attendee, I try to be respectful to all. Enjoy, visit as many as you want, and I hope you comment on the post you visited.

On a Church Wine Group

WineToastPeople are generally surprised when I mention that our church has a wine tasting group. Interestingly, the group is not only successful, but it also is one of the longest-running groups at the church.

I’m not sure when the group actually started, but being one of the founding organizers and prime movers, my best guess is 12-15 years ago. We are a fun and fellowship group that uses wine as the vehicle to drive the event.

The following are the basics for our group:

  • Meet 3-5 times per year
  • Volunteers offer to host the event
  • Organizers set the theme, which may be countries, regions, wine types (varietals), or something quirky as numbers, animals, or colors – and something to accommodate red and white wines
  • Attendees sign up in advance, bring a bottle of wine (per couple) within the theme and an appetizer to share

Like any organization, he had growing pains. On the other hand, because we pioneers wanted to be an official church group, we quickly adjusted. Here are some of the finer points that I have learned.

  • We went to the pastors first with our idea to get their permission
  • As attendees arrive, the host provides inexpensive starter wines
  • Using nametags is important
  • Incorporate a “program” within the event – we include a welcome, thanks to the hosts, introducing first-time attendees, a prayer, something informative about the wines/theme, and reminders about the group’s purpose
  • After the program, the remaining time is for fun and fellowship

Additional tips

  • Have a set of wine glasses for the group (they don’t have to be fancy)
  • If the wine runs out, so be it – thus the host does not supplement
  • Know the communication guidelines within the church as newsletter and weekly bulletin submission requirements and deadlines
  • Remind attendees not to fill the glass so everyone gets a chance to taste

Given our longevity, our group has been successful. During our years, I have no doubt that 400 different people attended our functions … thus I wonder how many people would I not know if it wasn’t for our church wine group.

By the way, in this past post, here’s a prayer I put together about wine, The Spirit of Wine. Plus, enjoy some of our home decor done with corks.

On Enlightening Light

CandleburningLight is many things as it can be a noun, a verb, an adjective, and even be transformed into an adverb.

We can apply different definitions to light in terms of physics, nutrition, religion, knowledge, burden, illuminations, and being less encumbered.

We think of natural light, artificial, black light, grow light, infrared, visible, incandescent, fluorescent, LEDs, fog, flood, spot, ambient, task, direct, backlighting, and countless more that I won’t try to mention.

Yet, on this day, I honor the celebration of light. I’m not Jewish, but as a Christian, I look for parallels. Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. In this hectic time that approaches Christmas, Happy Hanukkah to those in the Jewish faith – especially Shimon, a kind and wise man who visits here.

Shimon, I know this post doesn’t give your celebration justice, so I hope for dignity.

Two minutes to help one understand this holiday

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One+ minute for the beauties of the Hanukkah bush

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Two minutes to visit the Menorahs around the world

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Two minutes to see Jerusalem’s Festival of Lights

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This pop song and video makes me smile

On the Spirit of Wine

Mentioned on more than one occasion on these pages, our church has a wine tasting group. Our practicing mantra is a group for fun and fellowship with wine as vehicle. I know keep saying this, but I need to write a post about this group because others may want to try it.

One part of the event is a devotional, something that I had to do at the last event. I search the net and put together the following words. (Before starting, I asked participants to have some wine in their glass for a toast.)

Our wine, which art in heaven, hallowed by thy legs.
They will be drunk, I will be drunk, at home, as in thy cellar.
Give us this day, our daily glass, and forgive us our spillage, as we forgive those who spill against us.
And lead us not to incarceration, but deliver us from hangovers.
For thine is the Chardonnay, the Merlot and the Cabernet. Forever and ever. Amen. [Posted 8th August 2011 by Lynfred Winery (Illinois)]

Wine is a symbolism of life.

  • The twisted vines represent the strength we need in life
  • The roots anchor to the soil that is the source of stability and nourishment
  • The sun represents the power source carrying hopes of yielding good fruit
  • The grapes represent our childhood, our immaturity
  • Fermentation represents our challenges and struggles
  • Barrels carry our hope
  • The cup is the vessel we can hold in our hands for hope
  • The wine is the final product of the new life
  • The full cup of wine is an appreciation of the joys we hold
  • The toast is for the good in life

Wine is something we share.

  • Wine brings people together as it does here, at a wedding, and at the altar
  • Wine’s sweetness represents the joy of the occasion, the gladness in our heart, the mask of the bitterness in life
  • Wine is a symbol of friendship and love

Wine is symbolic with faith.

  • For Jews, red wine represents the blood on the door of the houses that protected them from the Angel of Death before the Exodus
  • For Christians, wine represents the blood of Christ
  • Jesus is the new wine – the good wine He provided at Cana
  • Wine is to bread as faith is to a full life
  • Filling the cup to the brim with wine represents the completeness that one’s commitment of life needs to be
  • Wine is symbolic of life

So tonight, as we share the cup of wine, we undertake the sharing of all that the future may bring.

Blessed art Though, Lord our God, King of the universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine. (a Jewish wine prayer)

And let us raise our glass to toast the spirit of wine.

On Free Will

Acts of God are acts of God. From time to time there are going to be things that can’t be prevented. (Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) regarding the gulf oil spill)

There are those who believe that the recent earthquake and hurricane along the US’s east coast is God’s sign that he disapproves Democrats in Washington. Then again, do the same people believe that the fires in Texas are God’s way of warning Americans about Texas Governor Rick Perry? At least he is out of the 2012 picture.

Last year I wrote this post about the burning of a large Jesus statue near Cincinnati. A friend of mine told me that it was God’s way of showing his disapproval of the statue; so, I respond of saying that is God’s way of wanting a newer and bigger statue. Of course, I could add numerous Rev. Pat Robertson examples to the above, but I will spare my readers. Interestingly, all this leads to the concept of free will.

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, Adam and Eve would be one of the first examples of free will in the Bible and Torah by demonstrating their free will by rejecting God’s will. To me, Adam represents all of humanity because of the free will we possess.

Life involving making choice – and no matter our choice – that choice leads to other choices. Regardless if the relationship is with a spouse, friend, neighbor, family member, co-worker, managers, or stranger, our individual choices affect our relationships. No matter the relationship, every choice one makes leads one makes leads them toward or closer to that personal entity.

For those of us believing in God, each choice we make leads us toward or away from God. Sure God has a preference, but we have a choice. However, no matter our choices, we still sin, we remain selfish, people die, and some do horrible acts on humanity.

As God gives us a gift of choice our own path, free will has consequences because the greatest freedom also leads us to unacceptable behaviors as abuse, murder, greed, deceit, evil, hate, and others lead to suffering. Free will is a gift, an opportunity, and a curse – thus how each of use it is a matter of individual choice.

God’s free will gift also extends to nature and the universe for they operate within the parameters natural laws. As with human behavior, this free also leads to abuse and suffering – such as, natural disasters, diseases, genetic disorders, and handicaps to name a few. Although the natural laws are not the same as human behavior, the natural world’s free will allows it to operate with ever-changing forces that work to maintain a steady state with benefits and consequences. Yet, Pat Robertson wants to use natural disasters as a way of God punishing people.

Human creations are subject to disasters as Exxon’s Valdez, Union Carbide’s Bhopal, coal mine explosions, and post-tsunami meltdowns of a nuclear reactor. Yet, Gov. Perry refers to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as an act of God that can’t be prevented.

Each of our lives are not pre-programmed with dates of birth and death, family information, interests, occupations, locations, and events; nor is God playing out the natural world as a video game. Just something to think about the next time someone makes a statement about God’s involvement in a natural disaster, a horrible highway accident, or a personal illness.

Other posts done here about free will:

On Roots

Roots can have a variety of meanings:

  • The anchoring structure of plants or body parts as hair and teeth
  • The primary source of origin
  • The essential part or base element
  • Point of family ancestry
  • The note on which to build a music cord
  • The part of a word carrying the main meaning and forming the basis of the word by adding prefixes and suffixes

In our computerized world, root directories form the foundation of the operating system. When the power comes to the operating system, the computer begins to boot by looking for the primary operating directories – the root directories. Much like the trunk of the tree, the root directories lead to the subdirectories like branches of a tree. However, with the initial power source, these operating branches remain silent – actually lifeless.

The words Bishop Mark Hanson of the Evangelic Lutheran Church of America in this article sparked these thoughts and this post. (For the sake of disclosure, the ELCA is where my membership resides.)

Christians just began Lent – a season of reflection and renewal. With the Lenten season in mind, Bishop Hansen asked the following questions that (at least to me) are good questions for all – for theists, atheists, and agnostics – for Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and others.

  • Would you describe your life as rooted or rootless?
  • What are the signs for you that help discern whether we are rooted or rootless?

Opening image is the property of FractalAngel

On the Wall

Where in the Constitution is separation of church and state? There is no such thing … I mean it just doesn’t exist in America for a purpose, because we are a Christian nation.” – Christine O’Donnell

Although Christine O’Donnell said these words, she is not the lone voice regarding this matter. Her quote represents an example of the Tea Party’s affinity for revisionist history made to accommodate both political and religious ideologies.

First, these ideological zealots are correct – “separation of church and state” is not directly in the Constitution; however US Supreme Court, through its Constitutional powers, first applied the phrase in Reynolds vs. United States (98 US 154, 1878) and mentioned the phrase over 20 times ever since.

Secondly, since we hear Tea Party candidates frequently proclaiming the intent of our Founding Fathers, I thought it was time to research this group. Some were public about their religion while others were private. The vast majority were Protestant and Episcopalians, with the remaining being Roman Catholic, Unitarians, Dutch Reformed, Congregationalists, and even a variety of skeptics. Since many regard James Madison as the Father of the US Constitution, I set out to discover his view of the First Amendment, thus include some of his quotes below.

“Because we hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth, “that religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence.”

“The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate.”

“This right is in its nature an unalienable right. It is unalienable, because the opinions of men, depending only on the evidence contemplated by their own minds cannot follow the dictates of other men: It is unalienable also, because what is here a right towards men, is a duty towards the Creator.”

“Religion be exempt from the authority of the Society at large, still less can it be subject to that of the Legislative Body.”

“Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess and to observe the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us.”

“Are the Quakers and Mennonites the only sects who think a compulsive support of their Religions unnecessary and unwarrantable? can their piety alone be entrusted with the care of public worship? Ought their Religions to be endowed above all others with extraordinary privileges by which proselytes may be enticed from all others? We think too favorably of the justice and good sense of these denominations to believe that they either covet pre-eminences over their fellow citizens or that they will be seduced by them from the common opposition to the measure.”

“Because finally, “the equal right of every citizen to the free exercise of his Religion according to the dictates of conscience” is held by the same tenure with all our other rights.”

Let us not forget these Thomas Jefferson words in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Let us not forget that James Madison wrote these words in 1785, four years before our new nation submitted the Constitution to the states for ratification.

Let us also not forget that at the time of the Constitution’s ratification, several states had state-established churches.

Let us not forget that the US Supreme Court (in Reynolds) quoted Jefferson’s letter for the Danbury Baptist, who the state jailed for illegal preaching that was against the state-sponsored religion.

Let us not forget that In God We Trust first appeared on coins in 1864 as the country faced rebuilding from the Civil War; and the phrase didn’t appear on paper currency until 1957.

Let us not forget that Congress adopted In God We Trust as our country’s official motto in 1956.

Let us not forget that One nation under God was first used in our Pledge of Allegiance in 1948 and officially added in 1954.

Let us not forget that the 1950s marked a time when the world faced growing concerns about Communism.

Let us not forget that in this election season and beyond, that history can help us protect us from revisionists who seek to force their values on everyone.