Italy was the first place I saw a line on a wine glass, marking the appropriate pour of grappa. And I didn’t like it (the line. The grappa was fine.) Something in me bristles at the idea of imposing measurement on servers. Good bartenders cultivate relationships with guests, encouraging an experience of mutual sharing. Measuring reduces that art to a transaction.
When the bartender filled the glass well beyond the line, I realized that the real issue for me is generosity. Some people value loyalty, others honesty, maybe kindness, or the ability to trust another with our deepest secrets. But I love generosity most.
You set a table for me
right in front of my enemies.
You bathe my head in oil;
my cup is so full it spills over!
Psalm 23:5 (CEB)
The problem with the word cup is that we think coffee. Or cold water. Or milk. None of which are good spilled. But this is a banquet image, a feast. Where the Lord shifts from shepherd to server. Setting the table, pouring the wine until our glass is so full that we need to (quick!) bend forward and sip from the top because it is starting to overflow. A generosity beyond any transaction or payment.
When religious leaders invited Jesus for supper, what was the service like? Did it feel like a meal with friends, or sitting at table with enemies? In Luke 14, Jesus raises the issue of the cup differently. Have we cleaned the outside of the cup better than the inside? Hold that wine glass up to the light; then we can see the smudges we’ve missed.
Do I value generosity because I am generous? Or do I crave generosity because I am greedy? I am not sure I am particularly generous. Sometimes I worry that there might not be enough. I have scarcity issues. But God does not. With God there is abundance and generosity.
What does a clean cup look like? Our glass is filled to the brim, and then the server comes by and tops it off, so that it is always full to overflowing. Do we recognize our server, the God who is always cultivating a relationship with us? Jesus invites us to hold up our wine glass to the light.
“Therefore, give to those in need from the core of who you are and you will be clean all over.” Luke 11:41(CEB)
Religion tends to draw lines, measure out grace, give instructions for how to clean up our lives. But Jesus says that giving to those in need- generously, out of the abundance we have been given- is what cleanses us.
I am not sure what it means to give from the core of who I am. Thankfully, I have incredibly generous friends who lead me out of greed and into giving. And I am grateful to be part of a community who gives of their time, money, resources, and labor. Shining the light that helps us clean our cups.
Fill my cup, Lord.
I lift it up, Lord.
Freely, freely you have received
Freely, freely give
May the fullness of our cups spill over into generosity. May we serve each other, as we have been served. May we learn to give from the core of our being, and our cups become clean within and without.