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Monday, January 17, 2011

Quality, Not Just Quantity: The First Recorded Miracle from Jesus

One of the best parts of the human experience is the marvel of good food. The rich variety of experiences possible with food and beverage, in my view, goes far beyond what can be accounted by evolutionary pressures to survive. The same applies for the visual and musical arts. Next time you are enjoying a perfect strawberry, a crisp apple right off the tree or perhaps the garlic-basil-infused eggplant in my baked pasta specialty, ponder the improbability of achieving such experiences through random mutations helping one caveman spread his genes more successfully than the guy in the cave next door.

The first recorded miracle of Jesus was a food miracle (1 John 2). Well, a beverage miracle, turning water into wine and adding to the success of a wedding feast that was important to His family.

I'll mention two lessons of the many one can draw from this event. Lesson one is that we should not be derisive about the small miracles of God. Ever hear this? "I'm sick of hearing testimonies about how God helped some lady find her car keys. How can God be concerned about finding keys when thousands are dying every day in war, in natural disasters, and in cancer wards?" And yet the Master of heaven and earth, the greatest Healer of all, the One who would heal the blind and the lame, began His ministry with what many would mock as a "trivial" miracle. Big, bad things like death are going to happen to all of us eventually, but along this brief mortal journey let us welcome God's tender mercies in whatever form He occasionally greets us with, whether it's a miraculous answer to faithful prayer in finding something lost (while at the same time our cancer or heart disease continues its course), the miraculous joy of a bowl of fresh strawberries served by a kind friend when we are feeling down, or something huge like the rescue of a child who was lost. Big or small, be grateful for all.

Lesson two is that Jesus didn't just increase the quantity of wine available at the feast. He increased the quality. The governor of the feast was surprised when he tasted the newly provided wine, wondering why the best had been saved for last, contrary to custom. The wine Jesus made was truly excellent. Ah, the miracle of excellent food and drink, able to lift spirits, strengthen the body, and show love and kindness to others. Maybe we would do well to strive to up the quality of what we serve. In an era of mass produced food and plenty of junk on the shelves, it's not always easy, but it can be done.

Getting closer to good food can help us better appreciate the marvels of the Creation--even if it has to be alcohol-free food for now under the LDS Word of Wisdom. Such a shame? No, just be patient. With the enhanced palette of the resurrected body, we'll have plenty of opportunities later on to explore the full range of unimaginably good food and beverages of all kind. For now, the abstinence from wine, tailored to the pressures of the modern era, gives us a chance to show our willingness to sacrifice, and is part of how we can "present [our] bodies a living sacrifice" (Romans 12:1).

27 comments:

Jared said...

Great post but I thought Jesus' first recorded miracle was creating the earth (well, universe really). ;)

Papa D said...

Now I'm hungry.

Great lessons, btw.

velska said...

Thank God for small miracles!

In D&C 59 the Lord explains how he's given all this for our enjoyment—he doesn't want us to be miserable.

Patrick said...

To witness the next miracle in culinary arts visit "Elote Cafe" in Sedona, Arizona.

The chef is serving up gastronomical wonders based on simple Mexican dishes. My Oaxacan wife felt like she was in heaven.

For dessert try the cinnamon tamal with tres leches ice cream.

Sherry said...

I think Jeff probably meant the first miracle Jesus performed in the New Testament.

Jeff, thanks for clearing up the puzzlement on my part of Jesus's first miracle as opposed to the Word of Wisdom. That was always a sore spot of mine. Most missionairies said that it wasn't really wine back then, but just grape juice. So how did people become drunk?

You basically said hat the reason to abstain is to prove that we could hold out (very similar to fasting the first Sunday of the month) makes perfect sense to me for the first time. Thanks so much for your insight and wisdom.

Sherry

Sherry said...

I think Jeff probably meant the first miracle Jesus performed in the New Testament.

Jeff, thanks for clearing up the puzzlement on my part of Jesus's first miracle as opposed to the Word of Wisdom. That was always a sore spot of mine. Most missionairies said that it wasn't really wine back then, but just grape juice. So how did people become drunk?

You basically said hat the reason to abstain is to prove that we could hold out (very similar to fasting the first Sunday of the month) makes perfect sense to me for the first time. Thanks so much for your insight and wisdom.

Sherry

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Patrick, you just made my day. I'm headed to Sedona in the near future, with my wife, and will visit that cafe. Let me mention that we've both been to Oaxaca, love it, and miss the food. And cinnamon is one of my favorite of all spices. In fact, just this week I went to Penzeys and bought 3 4-ounce bags of three different kinds of cinnamon: Ceylon, Indonesia Korintje, and Vietnamese. Man, is that Vietnamese cinnamon a thrill - 6% cinnamon oil. Whew!

Anyway, your comment is much appreciated! Can't wait to visit that cafe.

SilverRain said...

From what I understand, "new wine" was like grape juice. "Wine" was still wine.

It is a powerful example that shows that abstaining from alcohol is not an eternal principle. Sacrifice and self-control, however, are.

Mateo said...

While I think you are creating a bit of strawman with that first statement you made (that naturalistic explanations can't be used for things like, love, or the pleasure we can partake in small details of culinary expertise.) but aside from that it was an awesome post.

Good food, and the fine little details in life are very much worthy of attention. Heck, being thankful for as much as possible in life is always a great idea and helps me enjoy life more, be more caring of others and just generally makes me happy. :)

If there is a god then I would definitely be grateful for the chance to experience it all. As it is I'm just happy to be able to do so.

Mateo said...

Jeff. Just a question because I've always wondered it, but what is the church feeling on meat consumption. It's in the word of wisdom but it doesn't seem to be taken all that seriously by most members I meet. Is that one considered more of a guideline then a rule, or is it just because of the vague way it's described. (How much is "sparingly")

It's interesting because during WWII when there were strict rations on meat and dairy we saw a rather decent health increase in the US, and unfortunately due to heavy lobbying by meat and dairy industries the health benefits of reining in our consumption of this sort of thing has been downplayed quite a bit.

I never understood how people could be temple worthy members when they were taking so little concern for their health and what they were eating, but would turn around and self righteously condemn those around them that drink socially or responsibly.

I'm not saying the church should start being lenient on alcohol. Just that it seems like it should be seeing unhealthy eating habits as equally against the word of wisdom if the idea is to respect the bodies that God gave people and prolong life as much as possible. Any thoughts on this?

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Mateo, I agree with you on the Word of Wisdom. I think there is neglect of the counsel on meat and feel many shorten their lives by failing to heed that kind nugget of wisdom.

dovh49 said...

From my reading of the WoW (D&C 89:17 - and for mild drinks, as also other grain) it seemed that light grain beer was good for you. It wasn't until President Grant came in that it was banned.

There's a hard core raw vegan guy (Dr. Cousens) that lives in Patagonia, AZ that says fermented vegetables are good for you. It's interesting in his cook/health book "Rainbow Green Live-Food Cuisine" he mentions Joseph Smith and how he and some others would go on all fruit diets in order to come closer to God. I didn't provide a source for his assertion though, it would be interesting to know if it were true.

Jeff, what are your thoughts on light beer and fermented vegetables?

C T said...

Mateo, There are plenty of LDS people who try to eat meat sparingly, just in times of cold and famine. I know because I'm one of them. ;) Everyone applies those words differently because they're all in different situations. For example, I'm a nursing mother in Colorado in the winter, so I eat chicken daily right now. In the summer, though, I'm just as happy to get my protein from milk, cheese, nuts, and grains and skip the cooking. Thanks to artificial home cooling (which I don't have) and office ACs (got to keep those computers cold and cubicle dwellers awake), a lot of people are cold now for much of the day during the summer.

Carey said...

This discussion demonstrates why it is difficult to codify moderation. I'm not sure the Lord is patently against all forms of alcohol, but if He had said "Drink alcohol sparingly" then that would become as meaningless as the "eat meat sparingly" rule and the "weakest of the saints" would not be protected by the law.

The meat thing is interesting in that "sparingly" is pretty subjective to start with. So it seems clear to me that the alcohol, tobacco, and "hot drink" rules mean more to the Lord than does meat.

In old testament times, the people were prohibited from eating pork, not because pigs were evil, but more likely because they could not sufficiently manage the sanitation of pork.

When the word of wisdom was given, there was no refrigeration, so when you butchered a cow, you either had to eat the whole thing, waste half of it, or process it in a way that is likely unsanitary. So by instructing the early saints to eat sparingly or in winter, it saved a lot of waste and disease.

So, it is my opinion that the church does not place a lot of emphasis on eating meat "sparingly" for 2 reasons:
1. Since "sparingly" is not defined, it is up to individual saints to seek inspiration as to what that means for them.
2. Most of the health hazards of eating meat are now mitigated through modern technology and safe food handling practices.

Mateo said...

"2. Most of the health hazards of eating meat are now mitigated through modern technology and safe food handling practices."

While it's true that the pevalence of getting sick from eating tainted meat has decreased, the dangers of eating as much meat as most Americans do is still as high as ever. In very small amounts it can be fine, but shoving as much beef and cheese down one's gullet as possible (which is VERY prevalent amongst many church members that I have met) is still every bit as damaging to a person's health as it was in older times. It's not an issue of sanitation in my opinion.

Basically my question is, "what is the reason behind the WoW?" If it's about being healthy then many members are not following it very well. If it's not about that then what is it about? While there are plenty of dangers involved in alcohol consumption it's also a substance that isn't that hard for many people to be extremely moderate about in their consumption. Some of the healthiest people I know are occasional drinkers. Not that this makes them healthier, but I'm just saying that the way many members follow the WoW is not giving them the ability to "run without becoming weary".

Sorry for all this. It's just that when I was a missionary this is one of the doctrinal points that never made any sense to me. When people would ask, "Why is alcohol against the word of Wisdom? Is it because it's unhealthy? Why can't mormons drink coffee (this one is even more confusing since it's not specifically caffeine as near as I can tell. What about energy drinks?)

The only thing I could ever tell them was, "well it's because god commanded it for some reason, but hasn't really stated it." Sure there's a lot in there that's good for a person to follow healthwise but I don't understand why it's a rule laid down by god when it doesn't seem to follow any particular rhyme or reason. Is this just a "god said so" sort of thing or am I missing something?

Mateo said...

@CT,
Sorry. I really didn't mean to insinuate that ALL LDS members eat a lot of meat. I realize that some of them do not. I was basing my question more on the general LDS population that I've encountered which (in Oregon at least) seems to eat as much or more meat products compared with their non-LDS neighbors. If the WoW is serious in this statement (as it has yet to be revised I would assume it still stands) then it seems odd that there isn't more of a disparity amongst LDS vs non-LDS populations in this venue.

C T said...

I think Carey hit the main reason--it's hard to codify moderation. As to why the Lord commanded the Word of Wisdom, I think the text of D&C 89 talks about the revelation being given because of conspiring men in the last days. There really are numerous people working together to get as many people hooked on their habit-forming merchandise as possible. While they look like normal businessmen, not Gadianton robbers, and use Super Bowl ads, focus groups, and carefully calculated formulations rather than daggers, I think they still qualify as conspiracies to harm their fellow man in pursuit of Mammon. Rather than fight the conspiracies on issues like tobacco, alcohol, and meth, the Word of Wisdom takes us out of the arena completely. Pity there isn't a similar way to protect practicing LDS people from prescription drug problems....or meat overconsumption, for that matter.

Mateo said...

There's no way to be a regular American citizen without promoting shady people. It's not just alcohol and tobacco that are guilty of this. While I agree that it's dangerous I wouldn't slump meth in with tobacco and alcohol.

While it's certainly true that mind altering chemicals of various forms get their fair share of pushing from corporations it should be noted, in the interest of fairness, that Alcohol is popular without snazzy marketing campaigns. It's been a part of humanity since the beginning of human history. While it can certainly be abused and lead to negative things it isn't inherently evil nor is occasional consumption all that dangerous. In our modern societies we consume all numbers of chemicals and additives on a daily basis that may turn out to be extremely harmful and are making people rich.

Narcotics (things like Marijuana) are ridiculously popular without any sort of large scale corporation pulling the strings behind a curtain.

If it's hard to codify moderation and god knows that most of his flock are not going to follow if it's given in a vague way then why put it in. It just seems weird that certain parts of the WoW are seen as things that MUST be followed and others are ignored almost unanimously. The church could definitely clarify what is meant by this if they chose to, similar to how originally the WoW was a recommendation and not anything that was dependent on a person's salvation.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

dovh49 asked, "Jeff, what are your thoughts on light beer and fermented vegetables?"

I love fermented vegetables. Sauerkraut, for example, is fermented cabbage, and I use it all the time in my specialty Reuben sandwiches with my amazing secret sauce made from my wife's homemade dill pickles. The fermentation in this case yields lactic acid, not ethanol. Lactic acid isn't the best stuff for your teeth, but the brew is supposed to have a lot of good health properties. I believe Korean kim chee is also a product of lactobacilli fermentation so it shouldn't have any alcohol in it (unless you're adding sugars). Not so sure it's a health food, but I like it in small quantities.

My thoughts on light beer are pretty much the same as my thoughts on heavy beer: choose tomato juice or ginger ale instead. Or why not some fresh mango nectar or my favorite Brazilian drink, suco de abacaxi com hortela (fresh pineapple with mint)? After the resurrection, or maybe even in the Millennium, beers and ales may be on the approved menu, but for now, not for us. Patience. Somehow I think we're not making that big of a sacrifice, in spite of what our microbrewery friends say.

dovh49 said...

@Jeff,

Yeah, I'm not real interested in drinking any alcoholics drinks. It's more of an academic exercise for me to look at D&C 89 and see that it says one thing but our leaders today teach a different thing. Which is fine there can be other reasons for being strict on certain issues (of course, you have to be careful of not becoming a Pharisee, worshiping the rules more than God). I read one book where the gentlemen opined that we shouldn't drink alcoholic drinks now days because of all the chemicals that are in them. Don't know but it's interesting.

Cindy said...

Thanks for your thoughts. While I agree that we reap the natural physical consequences of what we eat, Christ seemed to believe that what comes out of us is more important than what goes in:

There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man. 16 If any man have ears to hear , let him hear . 17 And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable. 18 And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive , that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; 19 Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats? 20 And he said , That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. (Mark 7).

Mark Jensen said...

I learned something about the Miracle of changing water to wine when I was serving as a Bishop. I had always wondered why Christ would waste his talents changing water to booze. When I was struggling with an issue, I read the miracle more closely.

Consider what water was like in Israel at the time. Water was often stored in Cisterns. We have all seen the algae, bugs, and garbage that can inhabit water in the desert in the summer.

I was reading in Helaman 12:4 - 17 and I realized that when the Lord does any of these things he changes the nature of them. He makes mountains flat, water dry etc. We read the "Natural man is an enemy to god and has been since the fall of Adam, and will be until he yeildeth to the inticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the Natural Man ...

I realized that this Miracle was a foreshadowing of his ministry, that whatever was turned over to Christ, he would change the natue of it.

Our hearts, our marriages, our relationships. It is interesteing to note that the wine was the best wine. Better than man can create.

No matter the bugs or disease in our lives, no matter the pain or contempt, when we turn things to the saviour he will change their nature and make them better than we or anyone in the world can.

Papa D said...

Great thought, Mark. Thanks for sharing.

mkprr said...

While we are on this subject, how about eating blood? I haven't heard anything in recent times about eating blood, but I do recall reading about it from early church leaders. And it of course was decided against in Acts. Now, blood isn't particularly something that I crave on a regular basis, but there are a few traditional foods in Europe that have it as a main ingredient. Does anyone know of any recent advise from the brethren on this?

Mateo said...

@mkprr,
Good question. I know I don't feel "right" at night without knocking back a few pints of it. /Sarcasm. ;)

Anonymous said...

On the farm last week I overheard two pigs having a conversation. The first pig said to the second: I wish all humans were Jewish.

SeeMeRememberMeBuyMe said...

When I read this, "For now, the abstinence from wine, tailored to the pressures of the modern era," I thought about how the things the Word of Wisdom strictly prohibits are also very social foods. Sharing alcohol, cigarettes, tea, coffee, are each strong social experiences. I have often wondered if the Lord chose those based on what would " show our willingness to sacrifice"