What a Cold Pint of Beer Can Tell Us About God
Picture: Stephan Geyer (Flickr, creative commons)
I’ve never had much of a taste for beer. I know some see beer as such a societal menace, it’s not worth talking about either. But keep this in mind: the first breweries were started by Christians to provide a healthy alternative to either drinking dirty water or getting drunk on gin, and the very existence of beer speaks of the generosity and creativity of God. I explored this in a BBC Radio 2 Pause for Thought segment recently. Take a listen.
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Pause for Thought: Harvest
As a city boy, I’ve never given much thought to harvest time. Like most of us, I’m used to tinned, washed, hygienically-sealed food, not seeds, crops and tractors. It was only a couple of years ago that I experienced my first harvest festival. It was a memorable one.
The festival was run at a local pub by a small, experimental church in Oxford called Home. Around 50 of us packed into a barn behind the pub. All adults soon held beers, and a table at the front held tomatoes, zucchinis, broad beans and other fruit and vegetables.
The festival began with a folk band cranking out Bringing in the Sheaves. Prayers were offered, thanking God for the harvest. Homemade bread was passed around. At the back of the room were large piles of rice, portioned to represent the number of people in the world lacking the basic staples of life. The produce on the table was later donated to a food bank.
A jug of beer was on hand to refill empty cups and the ‘sermon’ of sorts was given by an avid home-brewer named Joe, who lifted a pint into the air as he began to speak.
He said, “When we make and drink beer, we celebrate the grain and fine fruit of the field. We celebrate the miracle of hops, and the magic that is yeast.” Joe had my attention. I’d never heard a preacher extol the virtues of alcohol before.
He said, “When we make and drink beer, we also celebrate God’s creativity. God doesn’t make beer for us, but invites us to collaborate with him to make something new.”
Then Joe said, “And beer is best when it’s shared. I would rather drink a pint with a friend in a pub at three-times the price than drink it by myself.”
Home-brew Joe acknowledged that beer can also bring harm when it’s abused. Drinking responsibly is key in all this. He summarised his message by saying: “Beer reminds us to celebrate the fruits of God’s creation, to collaborate with God to make something new, and to share it with others.”
I don’t think I’ll see beer the same way again. Harvest reminds us to be grateful for the food on our tables. And if home-brew Joe is right, a good pint is a reminder of the goodness of God. To that one can only say, “Cheers!”
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