In Bottle Shock, a film based on the events that led up to the 1976 Judgment of Paris where California wines beat French wines in a blind taste test and shot Napa wines onto the world scene, vintner Jim Barrett (Bill Pulman) is explaining to grad student Sam (Rachel Taylor) how good wine is made:I really liked this scene in Bottle Shock because it made me think about how Jesus talked to his disciples about vines and bearing fruit—and as I read over his words again, it made me think that perhaps Jesus knew more than a thing or two about growing grapes.
Jim: Well, Sam, this is where wine is made, the vineyard. And the vineyard’s best fertilizer is the owner’s footsteps.
Jim bends down to get a handful of dirt.
Jim: It’s alluvial, sedimentary, volcanic soil.
Jim: Right. You want to limit the irrigation because it makes the vines struggle, intensifies the flavor. A comfortable grape, a well-watered, well-fertilized grape grows into a lazy ingredient of a lousy wine.
Sam: So from hardship comes enlightenment.
Jim: For a grape.
The vineyard Jesus talks about is one where the Father’s footsteps imprint the dust in great faithfulness, attention and love. And great and unbelievable care is taken to produce a good grape, a grape that can’t be too comfortable:
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.There is no life apart from the Vine—and while that life may not always be the easiest, it is the best and most abundant life: "When you're joined with me and I with you," says Jesus, "the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant” (John 15:5). This is the way we were intended to be from the beginning, in an "intimate and organic" relationship with God, living out of his Spirit, bearing the fruit of his Spirit. And that Spirit is not lazy or comfortable, but intensely full of life, always moving, convicting, expanding and creating.
Jim’s description of growing a good grape to make a good wine also deepens my understanding of how God uses the suffering and struggle that is part and parcel to this broken world to bring life and glory. That what darkness means to use to hurt or destroy us can be used instead to deepen, transform and grow life and love is something that always leaves me awed. The power that it takes to overwhelm evil with good like that is mind-boggling.
And all this makes me think about our lives together, too. Jesus is inviting us to think of ourselves as branches of a vine that produces amazing fruit (like love, exuberance about life, serenity and all those other things Paul talks about here). So, I wonder if—even as we are called to be the salt of the world—we could also think of ourselves as called to be a wine of the most intense and amazing flavor, made from the fruit of a Vintner whose footsteps saturate every inch of his vineyard.
Just a thought.