Note: This blog is not intended to offend those of my friends who are of a different denominational persuasion and who believe that drinking alcohol at any time is sinful. I respectfully disagree.
Every once in a while, I run across someone who shows amazement when the see me with a beer in my hand or enjoying a mixed drink--especially if they know or come to find out I am a pastor.
"You drink?" they ask.
"Hey, I'm Lutheran, " I reply. "It makes a big difference."
Yes, we Lutherans have been known to enjoy our beer, our wine, and other spirits. We started out in Germany after all. Martin Luther once remarked that his wife Katie made "the best beer in all of Germany." Indeed, when we read the story in the Bible of Jesus turning water into wine and saying, "Party on!", we say, "Hell yeah!"
Now, there are many who disagree with such an interpretation. These folks also have ways of getting around St. Paul's admonition to Timothy in 1 Timothy 5: 23, "No longer drink only water, but take a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments."
I personally believe that reading the Bible shows that drinking alcohol isn't sinful; however drinking alcohol to an excess definitely isn't such a good thing. Don't believe me, take a gander at what happened to Noah and his daughters when too much alcohol became involved (if you thought Jerry Springer was bad, you should actually read the Bible sometime.).
As I have gotten older, I have come to appreciate the value in a little bit of alcohol. When I was younger, I hardly touched the stuff. If my high school buds were honest, they would tell you they never saw me take a drink--ever. My college buddies will tell you that I rarely took a drink. Never went to any frat parties, and was never drunk. In fact, I have never been drunk. Been buzzing a couple of times, the last one after drinking a margarita at Rita's on the Riverwalk. Didn't anticipate how big it was going to be, and I darn sure was going to finish it after paying six bucks for it! I tend to take a page out of Louis L'Amour when his characters say, "I figure I can handle pretty much any situation when I'm sober."
But one or two drinks can be good for one's body and psyche. Physicians have discovered the amazing capacity of red wine to lower cholesterol and keep arteries clear. Alcohol does relax the body, and it also is a diuretic--helping the body eliminate liquids.
And there is nothing, and I mean nothing like drinking an ice cold beer after a hard day's work. My favorite place to get a beer is a little joint called Pilzner's Place just outside of Columbus. You can have your choice of bottled beer there, but they only have one beer on tap: Budweiser. Even if you don't like it, I highly recommend getting it. You will never have a colder, more refreshing beer. When they bring it out to you, there are ice crystals in the mug. It is cold enough to make your teeth hurt and your taste buds celebrate. (I'm getting thirsty thinking about it, and it's not even 8 a.m. yet.)
During my most stressful days, I have been known to head down to the local tavern, Crossroads, and drink a beer with everyone there. It's a rarity, but when someone who I am close to dies or someone gets a serious illness, I'll stop in before heading home. Honestly, it's not the beer that is important at that moment, but there is something healing sitting at the bar with others and talking with them and having them pick you up.
I remember clearly the day a little three year old girl was life-flighted into Houston with a mystery disease. That little girl was sick. Desperately ill. I met with the family at the local hospital, and my heart went out to them. My own daughter was barely a year older than this little girl, and there was a connection. It's a parent's worst nightmare to see his or her kid lying in a hospital bed, barely responding, and throwing up blood and mucus. It's a parent's worst nightmare to be told they have to transfer you to another hospital because what is happening is beyond their ability to heal. It's a parent's worst nightmare to stand in that different hospital with doctors examining your child right and left and having no idea what is going on. It's a parent's worst nightmare to have those doctors tell you they are placing your child in critical care for an undetermined amount of time. You get a sinking feeling in your stomach when at that moment they turn to you and ask you to pray for their child and for them. It's frustrating as hell knowing you can't make them feel better. You can't take away any of their pain. You can't tell them everything is going to be o.k. because you just don't know a damn thing at that moment. All you can do is ask God to be with that little girl, place His healing hand on her, and give the parents strength. You would love it if that little girl jumped up and was immediately healed after you laid hands on her. You'd fall on your knees thanking God for His healing, but that's never happened to me. I don't have that gift of healing--maybe my faith isn't strong enough. But after such an experience, I needed a drink. I needed healing myself.
Crossroads Tavern was on my way home. A church member owns it. Several members frequent the place, and I was all too happy to see them. To my friends who are not clergy and who are members of churches, please know that at such times, you are a blessing to your pastors. When you talk with them and show that you are just as frustrated as they are; just as hurt as they are; and just as concerned as they are, it means a lot. You bring healing to our emotional and spiritual wounds at that moment. If you see your pastor dragging and having a hard time, offer to drink a beer with him or her--if alcohol is prohibited...well...um...take them out to dinner?
In my community, I think it's healthy for me to set an example of how one should drink. When at a wedding or other celebration, I make it a point to drink a beer. Only one. Usually, I drink it before eating so folks can see me. I have a lot of fun at this point by telling them before we pray, "I've had a beer already, so if the prayer goes on and on and on, I apologize now." Or, if I've only drained half, I say, "You're lucky, I've only had half a glass so the prayer will last only five minutes instead of ten." Laughter is good, but I think when folks don't see me grab another beer, that's even better. They see me drink in moderation. They see me try and set a good example that one can enjoy alcohol without going to excess.
It's all in moderation. Like with so much in life. Tonight, I'll be enjoying a little concoction I put together in an attempt to help my wife stomach the taste of alcohol. She can't stand the taste because it's too bitter. Took one part vanilla rum, one part grenadine, and one part Sprite and blended it. Very sweet. Delicious. My wife was able to stomach it, and she enjoyed it. Did I mention that she is getting over a cold and was having trouble sleeping. Her throat wasn't doing so well, and she couldn't relax. The drink coated her throat, relaxed her tremendously, and she slept like a baby. All in moderation folks. All in moderation.