Saturday, September 10, 2016

Partnership! by Linden Malki

Caring for a vineyard is work! Looking at the care required to produce a good crop of grapes, I got to wondering how the whole routine developed. If you were to ask a vintner, I'm sure that he would tell of his mentors, his boss, his fathers and grandfathers, those who taught him. It is amazing that this process has been going on not just for years, but for millenia. In Scripture, we have stories of vineyards going back for over at least three thousand years--and in other places, other histories, it's "always" been done this way. I can't help thinking that there is just more than mere accident going on here; at some points, possibly more than one time and place, people were inspired to do the things that grew into the settled routine that we now know. We were not created knowing everything anyone might ever need to know; we were created with the ability to learn. We have the capacity to learn things that our ancestors never needed; even isolated members of a non-literate culture can learn to read and write given the opportunity.

God created grapevines; by working in partnership with His creation and His inspiration, we have better grapes and more ways of using them than just picking wild grapes at random. I am constantly amazed at the variety--there are not only an incredible number of kinds of grapes, but how they are used makes different foods and a huge variety of wines. (Look around--there is incredible variety in everything!)

And it's not just grapes! Another basic food that comes from the same part of the world is olives. It's interesting to see someone who sees their first olive tree will pick an olive and discover that right off the tree it's inedible. What is amazing is here again, not only who first figured out how to efficiently extract the oil, and the useful things that it's good for; but also how to process the fruit into something that is not only edible but delicious? My in-laws are from a part of the world where olives grow, and I have learned some of the ways olives are processed for eating. Again, there has been inspiration at work; I would never have dreamed up how to do on my own.

My father-in-law, who grew up speaking Turkish, and had some familiarity with the Syriac version of Scripture, always insisted that the "land of milk and honey" was actually "yogurt and honey." It makes sense that Western translators, not familiar with yogurt in all its varieties, would translate mentions of what was probably yogurt as sour or curdled milk. Here again, who would think of using the intestinal contents of animals to extract cultures that produce yogurt and cheese? There is a legend of Abraham being taught this by God Himself; we know that in Genesis 18, Abraham served it to his mysterious visitors.

God doesn't just drop food into our waiting hands; yes, there are some things that we eat just as they grow, but so many of the things we eat and enjoy are a partnership between God's creation and inspiration, and our efforts and skills to make amazing and delicious foods! How many other things do we take as ordinary are really a partnership between God and His people, and people with each other?

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