I started drinking when I was about seventeen years old. After graduating from high school, I spent the summer living with a family in Pfronten, Germany – working a job that my Uncle Wayne had secured for me. I made precision drafting instruments for the Teledyne Post Company, headquartered in Des Plaines, IL. Uncle Wayne was the President of the company and although I had been invited to go on a class trip to France during my senior year, Mom thought it would be safer for me to work while I was abroad.
I was fortunate to see London and Paris, boat on Lake Zurich, see the Passion Play at Oberammergau (only performed every 10 years) and experience numerous other things that a teenager would love to have the freedom to do. I remember the Haf family that I stayed with – my room and board was $3.75 US per night and that included breakfast. I earned $.97 per hour at the factory job I had, which was considered women’s wages, as it was unlawful for me to work and take a job away from a “man.” My, how far we have come in the last 48 years.
The water wasn’t all that safe to drink and it was common for the factory workers to have a bottle of beer at lunch with their meal. It would be hard to imagine that in this country, OSHA would allow something like that to happen, especially working around power equipment.
It was there that I started drinking, in the Bavarian Alps, during the summer I graduated from high school. And each evening, I had to walk several miles to the local discotheque where I had a hamburger for dinner – along with vodka and Sinalco, a well known soda drink.
When I returned to Chicago, I drank here and there, but years later I really started to drink to excess. I never passed out or had a car accident, but it was clear that I looked forward to the next time that I could have a drink. And I started to order my life around that ritual after work. Eventually, it became evident that I had a problem. Thank God I was smart enough to decide that I was going to stop this dependence on alcohol. So I quit – cold turkey – on March 24, 1993. That’s twenty five years ago yesterday – a full quarter of a century.
Yes, I miss it from time to time, but I also know that starting to drink again would open up a problem that I just don’t wish to deal with. And I know that there are many people out there who have tried to quit and just can’t seem to do it. I was fortunate – I have never relapsed – at least, not yet…
The Bible is full of references to wine and alcohol. Most of the verses have to do with being drunk or the bad judgments made when one has consumed alcohol. Of course, Jesus is reported to have had wine on different occasions throughout His ministry, including the Last Supper before He was crucified. And there was even the report that the soldiers offered Him a form of wine, mixed with gall, on the cross. After having tasted it, Jesus refused to drink it.
There are some very conservative Christians who believe that the wine Jesus drank throughout His ministry was unfermented wine – absent of alcohol. Since most of the miracles of Jesus dealt with the compression of time – think of healing, etc. – is it possible that the water that was turned into wine at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee was alcohol free? I guess this side of heaven we won’t know.
What we do know is that very little good happens when alcohol is consumed in volume. It’s difficult to even watch television without seeing somebody under stress reaching for a drink as a matter of habit. Depending on a drink to take the edge off has become an acceptable form of life balance and we are teaching our children a poor way to live.
Our verse for tonight is from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. In fact, the verse this evening is one of the ones that really stuck in my mind as we translated it into English from the Greek during my seminary years. Paul tells us, in Ephesians 5:17-20, ” Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. ”
In other words, we are to turn to the Holy Spirit for our “high” and we are to honor one another even with the way that we sing! My encouragement is that God wants each of us to have the best possible life in Him. My prayer is that each of us will choose the option of being filled with the Spirit rather than turning to our man-made alternatives. During the last 25 years, I can tell you that following God through the Holy Spirit is much more rewarding that finding false courage in a bottle. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…