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Then and Now

Tonight Bill and I begin a new series called Wine and Word. We have never done this, so who knows how it will go. I figure if we start with the wine the word is bound to go better …

For someone who grew up in the Methodist church in South Georgia, it is funny to use wine deliberately as a way of getting people to come to Bible study. I know those of you who grew up in the North or in California may have a different relationship with alcohol. Roman Catholics and Episcopalians often did, even in the South. (We called them “Whiskeypalians.”)

When I first began in the ministry as a United Methodist, clergy were expected to abstain from alcohol and tobacco, and they could not be divorced. I know it makes me sound as old as God, but that really wasn’t that long ago. Tonight, in the fellowship hall of a former Southern Baptist church, a former United Methodist from South Georgia will teach an introduction to the Bible, and his husband will teach an introduction to the art of wine … and the world won’t end.

As I write this, I am trying to imagine what the world will be like in 40 years if my daughters see as much change in their lifetimes as I have seen in mine. What do you think? What things are we so certain of today that the world will completely change its mind about by then? Smoking is frowned upon today as strongly as it was back then. Now, however, it is for health reasons; then it was because it was a sinful pleasure. Can you imagine if churches today excluded people who enjoyed a glass of wine or craft beer? And divorce … even though those words are in red in the Gospels, we still have found a path of grace to interpret what Jesus meant.

Maybe those are all ways that God has been speaking during the past 40 years, but what is God saying now? I wonder if we haven’t let go of most of the easy and superficial hypocrisies of the church, and now must hear the relentless cry of the Spirit for justice, equality, and peace. God is still speaking about some things that I suspect God has been speaking about since time began … and we still are finding other things to focus on.

Blessings,

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Rev. Michael Piazza

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