Tending the Vine

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.” – John 15:1-2

The story of scripture, Old and New Testament, is the story of people and their relationship with God. It’s also the story of people and their relationship with the earth. God promised the Land of Israel to Abraham, Moses and their descendants, a land flowing with milk and honey – an abundance of the earth’s gifts.

One of those gifts that comes up time and time again is “the fruit of the vine” – grapes. Grapes are at the center of Jesus’ first miracle when he turned water into wine. The prophet Isaiah compares Israel to a vineyard. In the Gospel of John,  Jesus is the vine and we are the branches, tended by God the vinegrower to bear good fruit. At the heart of our life together as a Christian community is the Eucharist – Holy Communion – the feast we share together to remember the feast Jesus shared with his disciples. The bread we eat and the wine we drink becomes for us the body and blood of Christ.

Last week the middle and high school youth groups had the opportunity to bring those Biblical images to life. At the back of the upper parking lot of St. John’s, there is a row of grapevines. They’ve been growing there for 75-100 years and were planted when the parking lot was a yard.

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These vines may be 100 years old! They were neglected for many years, but with a bit of pruning, they produced a beautiful crop of grapes this year!

We harvested nearly 20 gallons of delicious (I had to test a few for a “quality check”) Concord grapes. We’ll use those grapes to make wine. The goal is to have wine ready by Easter so that we can use it at Communion on Easter Sunday.

The process of winemaking is an ancient art. It takes a lot of time and know-how to turn buckets of grapes into bottles of wine. Parishioner Ric Miller owns a vineyard in Eliot, and is guiding us in the process. After harvesting the grapes, he showed us how to run them through a crusher, a device that removes stems and leaves behind crushed grapes and their juice.

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Finn Moore surveys his work. The white machine is the crusher. It removes most of the stems and crushes the grapes so they’ll release their juice.
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This is what the crusher leaves behind. This mixture of juice, seeds, and skins will sit for a week before being run through a winepress.

This Sunday we’ll put the mixture of juice, skins, seeds, and stems through a winepress. It will filter out the skins and leave behind the juice that has already begun to ferment. Next week we’ll skim off some of the leftover sediments–and then its time to let the yeast do its work. In the spring, once the juice has turned to wine, we’ll bottle it up to use in church!

The process of making wine is a beautiful example of transformation. Our youth groups will get to see the whole process, from vine to chalice. I hope that in that process we’ll all come to appreciate more deeply the words of Jesus that remind us to care for all parts of creation.

If you have any other pictures of the event, please send them to curate@stjohnsnh.org, so I can put them on the blog!

Photos from the day. PC: Michelle Tyminski

More photos! PC: Diane Metcalf

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