The Bible verse I have chosen for this edition comes from the principal reading for the Feast of Pentecost. It is one of my favourite Bible verses! You might think that a bit odd but let me explain. To put the verse into context, the disciples have left the safe space of the upper room and gone into the streets telling people about Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension. If that wasn’t hard enough for the townsfolk to get their heads around the disciples were proclaiming this message in a wide variety of languages – it must have been a babble of noise, a cacophony of sound. Luke (who wrote the Book of Acts) records two very different responses by the people on the streets. The first response is what we might expect: ‘What does this mean?’ Here we perhaps detect awe, wonder – a desire to understand: all the things we might expect. The second response is different: ‘They are filled with new wine.’ This may remind you (as it does me of Beaujolais Nouveau – and the annual festival when the new wine arrives) but it doesn’t really help us to get to grips with what was really implied. A good English colloquial translation might be to say that they have ‘had a skin full’ – in other word s they were drunk. The fact that it was ‘new wine’ implied that it was unmatured hence sweet and easy to drink and drink to excess before you realised how much you had drunk (perhaps not so dissimilar to the Beaujolais Nouveau festival I went to a few years ago!) Just in case his readers hadn’t got the point Luke tells us the people who said this also sneered.
The reason I love these verses is that they say so much about humans – they remind me that we haven’t changed much over the last 2000 years. Over the last few weeks we have seen this dual response time and again: some people stick rigidly to the lockdown guidance whilst others sneer and flout the rules assuming it doesn’t apply to them. Some believe we are all doomed whilst others believe it to be a great conspiracy theory. Some do all that they can to support the NHS (clap on Thursdays, sew scrubs or face masks; others act recklessly putting greater strain on health services (this week mountain rescue teams have been called out to numerous incidents involving climbers or mountain bikers who injured themselves in the hills).
It is so easy to sneer or ridicule. Is it any wonder the disciples hid away in the upper room for fear! Who would listen? Who would take them seriously? But perhaps the reason we sneer or ridicule is that we don’t want to listen, for if we listen we might be challenged about the way we think or live. For many this period of isolation and lockdown has been a time of re-appraisal; a time to reconsider our priorities about what is important, a time to look at the world around us through fresh eyes. As we begin the long, slow journey out of isolation it will be so easy to be cynical about what we can or cannot do. When we do feel like that let us remember those who sneered at the early disciples and take a second look at ourselves.