The wine-making process begins with cleaning and sanitizing, not unlike the season of Lent in our church. On Ash Wednesday, we proclaim our need for repentance, mercy and forgiveness. We are invited to spend the season in self-examination, penitence, prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
Before we add anything to the wine, all the equipment we will use must be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. A solution of sodium metabisulphite in a spray bottle works well. Everything gets washed in soap and water, and then sprayed down with the sanitizing solution. Every time a piece of equipment touches the wine, it will be sanitized and rinsed to make sure the living culture that transforms the grape juice into wine is preserved.
Telling people to purify themselves and keep themselves pure for forty days is a little weird. “What kind of religious nut-bar are you?” But setting that aside for a moment, we can ask ourselves what it is it we are trying to preserve? In the case of our wine, it’s the living culture of yeast slowly turning sugars into alcohol. In our lives, it’s the living spirit of God working away on the good things we already have in us, empowering and strengthening us for the work of the kingdom. In both cases, it is possible that the transformation becomes contaminated by agents that would introduce other kinds of change. In and of themselves, the competing changes may not be bad — in some situations they may even be desired. For for the wine to be enjoyable, we must start with a clean slate.
Create in us clean hearts, O God, and renew a right spirit within us.
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