Waterloo Chalice & Beer

In the past, I’ve shared about Belgian culture – some of the good or interesting products that come out of the land I now reside in. Most know Belgium as the land of wafels, chocolate, fries and beer. And, in true form to the small things of life that I enjoy, I posted an article about the beer here in Belgium, and particularly one of my favourite beers coming out of the Chimay Abbey.

Ever since I realised there were a lot of beers in Belgium – over 600 of them – I thought it might be interesting to try as many as I can in my time here. I don’t search out a new beer to try each and every week. And most of the time I simply stick with my favourites – Maredsous, Leffe, Chimay. But over the 4 years that I’ve now been here, I’ve had the privilege to try about 40 or so of the varying kinds of beer. I also tend to collect a bottle of each new one I try.

And, so, yesterday was a venture in trying 3 new beers that I’ve not yet had. Continue reading

Fermented Beverages – Option #4

I’ve written before on my theology of beer. But, with a recent post on a blog I frequent, in discussing varying views on alcohol, one commenter said his pastor preached a sermon where he offered these 3 positions (backing it with the listed passages of Scripture below):

  1. Prohibitionist – all drinking is a sin and alcohol is evil (Eph 5:18; Prov 20:1; Prov 23:29-35).
  2. Moderationist – drinking is not a sin and Christian conscience must guide each person (Psalm 104:14-15; John 2:1-11; 1 Tim 5:23; Matt 11:19)
  3. Absentionist – drinking is not sinful but choosing to avoid it is the wisest choice (1 Thess 5:22; Matt 5:13-16; 1 Cor 3:16-17)

While the prohibitionist view espoused above wrongly uses the verses referred to in coming to such a conclusion, I actually believe all 3 views miss something in the bigger picture. Continue reading

Some Thoughts on the Rescuing of the Chilean Miners

Many are aware that today is the day of rescue for the 33 miners in Chile, having been trapped for some 69 days underground. You can watch live news updates just about anywhere, but here are links to CNN and the BBC.

My words in this post are not so much about what would have been going through their minds as they awaited rescue for over 2 months, being underground since 5 August. Rather, my thoughts come in regards to the post-celebration of the event of their rescue. In the CNN article, I was specifically gripped by these words below:

In the capital Santiago, hundreds wept and embraced as they watched the rescue on a flickering big screen TV set up in a square. Corks popped and champagne flowed at the Chilean embassy in Washington, D.C.

For some, the second half of this statement might be words of a mere ‘secular’ world celebrating, marked by the phrasing of ‘corks popped and champagne flowed’. But I believe these are important words at a time like this. These are not simply the actions of an ‘ungodly people’, nor are they simply descriptive words with little importance. I believe they are an appropriate response to the situation of real life. And, even more, I see these as an appropriate response able to teach the people of God about celebration.

I love the direction of the Lord in Deuteronomy on how to celebrate the tithe. In advance of entering the promised land, the people of Israel were instructed to bring their tithes of grain, wine, oil and the firstborn to the place where the permanent structure of worship was to be set up (see Deut 14:22-23), that later becoming the city of Jerusalem. But, if they could not make the trip with all of their necessary tithe because of the extreme length of travel, God directed them to sell what they did have and bring the money with them to the place of worship. It continues on with these specific words:

24 And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the LORD your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the LORD your God chooses, to set his name there, 25 then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the LORD your God chooses 26 and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household. (Deut 14:23-26)

Did you get that? Bring strong drink. I am thinking this is not unfermented stuff.

Celebration was to be celebration, which includes celebrating with a meal capped off by strong, or fermented, drink. From a biblical culture, it was part and parcel to celebration. Roast the best lamb, bring out the best wine, and gather the community of people together!

Or what about these words following the rebuilding of the walls of the city of Jerusalem:

9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. 10 Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Neh 8:9-10)

Absolutely fantastic! The holiness of the Lord and celebration connected together in such a unique way. God’s holiness does not always call for a response like that of Isaiah’s, as we read in Isa 6:1-5. At times, it certainly does. But at times, even when we catch a glimpse of God’s complete holiness and otherness from His creation, it calls for us to celebrate. And, again, we see both good food and good wine involved. Are we seeing a biblical pattern here?

Here is the thing. I am not sure we know how to celebrate. I don’t know how to celebrate. I mean really celebrate like we read in the two examples above. And those words are there for our instruction, are they not? (See Rom 15:4.) I suppose that is why Richard Foster lists celebration as one of the disciplines in his book, Celebration of Discipline. We almost have to discipline ourselves to properly celebrate.

Now, I am not saying celebrating is intrinsically tied into the strong drink of our choice. But celebration, as I understand it, allows for the eating of good things from God’s good creation and the drinking of good things from God’s good creation. And that includes grapes that have gone through the press and left to ferment, as well as the fermentation of malted barley. Those are good things from God’s good creation. And they should be celebrated as good, while also assisting us in the act of celebrating.

So, today is a day of celebration as 33 lives are spared after an extremely long period of waiting underground. I cannot imagine what these past 69 days have held for them. And with the popping of corks, I think our God smiles upon such methods of celebration. My hope is that we, as the people of God who have everything to celebrate, would learn just a little from the response to this day of celebration in Chile and abroad.

The Beer That Changed The World

Some will know that I am a beer lover. No, I’m not an alcoholic and I believe in being faithful and responsible in our consumption of alcoholic beverages. But, I cannot deny that I have a great love for beer. And I am in the right country as a beer lover – Belgium. I’ve written a previous article on my theology of beer.

What many don’t know is that there is an interesting story behind the Irish beer Guinness. I came to know of the story via Os Guinness’s book, The Call, a remarkable book by the way. In an almost C.S. Lewis-esque style, Os Guinness shares deep and stirring thoughts about our calling, both in a primary sense to follow Jesus and in a secondary sense unique to each person. By far, I recommend the book.

In The Call, Guinness shares briefly how his great-great-great grandfather, Arthur Guinness, came to the Lord. And it was Arthur Guinness who invented the ever-popular beer, Guinness.

Well, recently, author Stephen Mansfield has just put out a book, The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer that Changed the World. This book shares the more detailed story about the Guinness family and the Guinness beer. So, check out the book and if you want to know a little more about it, you can view this short video below.

Time Away and the Chimay Abbey

This past week, I had a wonderful opportunity to go away for a few days. I didn’t go far from my Brussels-area apartment, driving only some 90 km to the little town of Froidchapelle in the French-speaking part of southern Belgium. But the reality to get away was a treat. We rented a nice, cozy house. It needed to be cozy as it was cold and snowy all week.

Such time away allows for extra reflection, rest, reading, prayer, listening to God and just simple relaxation. Of course these things are a plus! And every time you have an opportunity to enjoy a few days like this, you always have high hopes of doing it again within the next few months. But so many things pop up, extra finances are not always available, and you just feel you need to get on with ‘the list’. So my prayer is that we take the opportunity again soon.

While we were away, we took a visit to the Scourmont Abbey just outside of Chimay, Belgium. I’ve only had the opportunity of visiting one abbey so far, the Orval Abbey, which I enjoyed. But I was looking forward to visiting the Chimay Abbey since they are responsible for making one of my favourite beers – Chimay Blue.

I have shared in the past on my theology of beer. I like beer, and even as a church leader, I don’t mind revealing such. I am not given to drunkenness or any such thing. That would be unacceptable. But I do enjoy beer. And I can only imagine the graciousness of God in sending me to a land with such great beer, all 1,498 of them. And, no I haven’t tried them all, just maybe 30 or so.

But, I think we all need to admit that those monks do know how to make their beer. Chimay is specifically known as a trappist beer. There are only seven of these in the world – six in Belgium, one in the Netherlands. They are known as trappist beers because they are made by trappist monks, a specific order of monks originating from La Trappe, France. You can read more about it here.

The interesting thing as well is that these trappist monks, at least the ones of Chimay, are also known for making cheese. And, just as the beer, the cheese is mighty fine as well (though a bit smelly). Both of these are a delight to enjoy at the restaurant not even 1 km away from the abbey. Yet, they are also available throughout Belgium, a good thing for me.

So, the time away was excellent, as it was much needed. Hearing from God, prayer, studying, reading, sleeping in and enjoying some of the Belgian culture. There is quite a lot available in this small land. I’m glad I’m sitting right in the midst of western Europe to enjoy as much as I can.