Thursday, March 19, 2015

Lent, Beer and Other Festivities

Friday, March 20, 2015
 Don’t drink only water. You ought to drink a little wine for the sake of your stomach because you are sick so often.  1 Timothy 5:23 (NLT)
Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit,  Ephesians 5:18 (NLT)
Paul urged his young protégé, Timothy to use a little wine to help with his stomach ailments.  Some have offered the opinion that being a pastor is an open invitation to ulcers and other gastric woes.  Largely this isn’t true about pastoral ministry, but the thought is understandable; in every area of life there are difficult people that make a hard job harder.
On the other side of the wine line, in his letter to the Ephesian church Paul warned against using too much of the stuff.  Certainly we can understand the problem associated with public (or private) drunkenness!  Paul didn’t forbid the use of alcohol; he did require moderation!
And speaking of “spirits” – here we are, dead in the middle of the holy Lenten season, and my morning news carried the story of Starkbierzeit, which, in German means “strong beer season”.  It is actually the first of Germany’s spring beer festivals, and it focuses on drinks traditionally consumed during Lent.  The tradition was started by Paulaner monks in the 1600s, when fasting allowed the consumption of only liquids. They decided they could get nourishment through more potent beer.[2]
Isn’t that just grand?  Beer made these days has about twice the alcohol content of beer in the 1600’s, and I serve a church and denomination that honors abstinence from alcohol.  (It’s obvious Mr. Wesley didn’t agree with 17th century monks on this one!)
Well, strong wine or beer, verses medication for the tummy, what’s a Parson to do?
I don’t really know…other than to suggest another of Paul’s statements:
Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.  Philippians 4:5 (NLT)

And Solomon tells us why “moderation” is best:
Wine produces mockers; alcohol leads to brawls.  Those led astray by drink cannot be wise.  Proverbs 20:1 (KJV)

Who has anguish?  Who has sorrow?  Who is always fighting?  Who is always complaining?  Who has unnecessary bruises?  Who has bloodshot eyes?  It is the one who spends long hours in the taverns, trying out new drinks. Proverbs 23:29-30 (NLT)

And just for good measure, let’s throw in a little contemporary medical finding about the deceptiveness of alcohol.  You recall all those St. Bernard rescue dogs with the brandy casks dangling from their necks?  And did you ever hear any stories about ice fishermen drinking to keep warm?  Well, over in Sweden (a very cold place) medical research says this:

Alcohol is a dominant cause of death in urban hypothermia. Drinking alcohol gives a pleasant feeling of warmth….Longer exposure to colder environmental situations has, particularly with addition of strenuous exercise, revealed enhanced heat loss….[3]

So that first flush of alcohol going down warms you up, but only serves to hide the real effect it is going to have on your body – alcohol cools you down!  That sounds vaguely like what the writer of Hebrews said about all forms of sin…they are pleasurable for a season! (Hebrews 11:25)   And when the season is over…watch out!

For You Today

It’s hard to require total abstinence where alcohol is concerned.  But God has put common sense in our hearts and minds.
So, short answer:  read God’s Word; study and meditate on what is written and what speaks to your heart.  Balance that with the Church’s tradition, and what reasonable medical and scientific research has revealed.
And then act like a Christian who is concerned about his body (the Temple of God), his community (the people of planet earth) and his conscience; the integrity of a believer.

[1] Title Image: Coyau / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons
[2] ©NYTimesNOW daily briefing March 19, 2015
[3] Article: Alcohol and cold Department of Surgery, Karolinska Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden. (read here)0

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