Welcome to Wine and the Word Wednesday! Inspired by an experience I had several years ago (see my original Wine and the Word post for more on this), I am reading through the book of Luke, glass of wine in hand. My goal is to learn more about how Jesus lived His life so I can better reflect His image. So relax, settle into a comfortable chair and let’s see what we can learn about being a Christ follower. This week my glass is filled with a beautiful dry rosé from Provence. My favourite dry rosés come from Provence and this one is a great example. The colour is the soft rosy apricot of late afternoon sunlight in Provence. God created something something truly beautiful with that colour, and the winemaker has expressed his/her gift in capturing that colour in this wine. The taste is wonderful, too.
Today I’m reading verses 8-25 of Luke chapter 1, which continue the story of how Zacharias and Elizabeth came to be the parents of John the Baptist. The first thing I notice is, again, the level of detail Luke includes in his descriptions. He must have spoken directly with Zacharias and/or Elizabeth to hear the specifics of the conversation Zacharias had with the angel. He notes which side of the altar Gabriel appeared on. He records the detail that temple service activity was assigned by casting lots, which was similar to flipping a coin or tossing dice. Not every priest would have had the opportunity to fulfill the honourable role of burning incense on the altar. Casting lots was used to decide who would be assigned which responsibility.
Zacharias is going about his business in the Temple, chosen by chance, yet part of God’s plan. I say that he’s part of God’s plan because just at the time when Zacharias is before the altar, representing all of Israel, the angel appears and says his petition for a son has been heard and granted. Not just a son to care for him and his wife in their old age, but a son who will herald a new era for the entire nation.
Something else I notice is the description of community in this story. Zacharias wasn’t just presenting himself to God when he burned the incense on the altar, he represented all Jews. Luke describes the people waiting outside the holy area for the priest, Zacharias, to appear after presenting the incense to God. When they see him, they recognize that he’d seen a vision. Amazingly to me, after his vision experience, Zacharias completes his time of service at the temple. In other words, he completes his service to his community before he heads home to tell Elizabeth what has happened. This continues to reinforce for me the picture of Zacharias as a man who worshipped God and had a high regard for his role as priest, serving his community.
What can I learn from the lives of Zacharias and Elizabeth that helps me better reflect God’s image? They experienced years of unanswered prayers, and yet God and their community considered them righteous. They were facing old age with no child to care for them, yet they were considered righteous. Perhaps their prayers stopped when Elizabeth could no longer conceive, Luke doesn’t tell us. It doesn’t matter. God did what He was always going to do. This says to me that as a Christ follower I reflect God’s image well when I live my life righteously regardless of circumstances. Also, as Zacharias and Elizabeth experienced, there will be occasions when God’s plans intersect and interrupt my life with something beyond my ability to accomplish.
The question inherent in this is, of course, what does it mean to live a righteous life. Jesus said everything taught by the law and the prophets of God is summed up in these two things…..to love God with all your heart, soul and mind, and to love your neighbour as yourself.
I read a wonderful quote this past week that I think captures a flavour of what it means to live life righteously. The quote is from Jack Layton, who was the leader of the opposition in the Canadian parliament. He died from cancer a week ago and the country has been processing their grief at his loss. The quote which struck me was this, “I live my life as an act of worship.” What I see in this story is that Zacharias and Elizabeth lived their lives as an act of worship and I would do well to follow their example.