St Helena United Methodist - Crush
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From vine to wine – Harvest and Crush

The fruit is finally fully ripe; time for harvest, then sorting and the crush to make wine.

Here we have some grapes- ripe, lovely, concentrated, rich and dark. Great fruit, full of flavor, sugar, acids, color and tannins, the stuff that brings structure and texture and agebility to wine. When we crush these grapes, the juice is pale yet shows a trace of color on the edge, that gives one a sense of how mature this fruit really is. Taste one, feel its texture, its flavor, the hardness of its seeds and the way the skin seems to slip off the flesh of the grape. Like much of the fruit harvested in Napa, these grapes would seem overripe to some growers today and to most growers of an earlier era. Yet there is a lesson here too. Is over ripe fruit a bad thing? NO if you want to produce wines that are darker, sweeter, more alcoholic and more concentrated. YES is you want wines that are lighter, less aggressive, less hot, more vinous and less porty. Wines have to be balanced but there is balance like a nice bowl of chicken soup and then there is balance like a deep, heavy bowl of borscht. What are you looking for these days?  What style or type of wine is your type or style?

Heavy or light? White or red? Crisp and refreshing or weighty and powerful?

Each of us are harvested at a different time, each with a unique flavor, texture and character, just like the grapes we see harvested all around us.

But all are carefully picked and sorted all are treated as very special guests, who only come by once a year, whose gifts and talents are deeply appreciated, as the raw ingredients from the vineyard are carefully brought to the winery for crush. Crush is when, after sorting, after making sure that only the best fruit, ripe and clean and whole, are then carried into the crusher/ de-stemmer, where the grapes are broken, and the stems removed before all is placed in tank- berries, seeds, skins and all, to wait and steep before fermentation starts.

Not dissimilar to when Jesus was flogged, then stripped, then nailed to the cross. Or when Osiris was killed by his brother Set, torn into 14-36 parts and thrown into the Nile, only to be resurrected by the other gods, as a symbol of regeneration and renewal. Osiris is seen as the god of the underworld, of the Nile and of wine and beer too. For crush is the time when the grapes are sacrificed for the creation of wine, as the barley is sacrificed for the creation of the beer, as the Nile floods, bringing destruction to those who live on or near its banks, yet the life-giving nutrients are then dispatched and spread more widely as a result of the flood. As the hymnal says, spirit of the living god, fall afresh on me, break me, mold me, fill me, use me….it is how creation works, each of us must be crushed before we can be made whole as a new being.

It is a messy business, life and death and everything in between. But this is why we were brought here, called here, given this opportunity. To be fully and unapologetically alive. Here and now!

John 15 The Message (MSG)

The Vine and the Branches

15 1-3 “I am the Real Vine and my father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.

“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.

5-8 “I am the Vine; you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.

Ripe fruit, harvested, brought to the cellar, where it is sorted, de-stemmed, then crushed, before going to tank to sit and steep in its own juices. This process is painful for the grapes but necessary for the wine. Our lives transform us, often against our will, in ways we cannot predict or protect ourselves from. This is the action of God the winemaker, perfecting us, making us more whole by casting off the unnecessary bits, the stems, the MOG, the mildew and rot and mold and leaves that get in the way, then crushing us so that our lives break and become transparent, renewed and reborn in our own suffering and wonder. Step by step the divine transforms us into a something new and eternal, a soul, fully, deeply and eternally one with God.