By the Rev. Mark C. Pederson, M.Div. ’91 (PLTS)
I serve as pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in McMinnville, Oregon, in the epicenter of the Willamette Valley, and I know firsthand how difficult the wine business can be. In 2008, my wife and I joined two other couples from church to open a wine shop in our downtown, and it didn’t survive the bad economy.
At that time, I was asked to make wine the theme of a small group Bible study. I could not find a resource on the subject – so I wrote my own. It’s called The Theology of Wine. This is the most popular Bible study I have ever done, and perhaps the only one anywhere that includes a tasting fee. I’m not sure if these two circumstances are related.
In 2011, I spent a sabbatical leave working the harvest at Coeur de Terre Vineyard. The owners, Scott and Lisa Neal, were patient with me and I was able to learn the basics of winemaking. The information has come in very handy in my work as a pastor, which really shouldn’t come as a surprise. Jesus was a winemaker, wine and vineyards are mentioned more than 500 times in the Bible, and the vast majority of the references are positive. According to Psalm 104, wine was given to us to “gladden the human heart.” Actually making wine is a tremendous amount of work, and I am now struck by how many of Jesus’ stories about work begin, “There was a man who owned a vineyard….”
In meeting some of the original winemakers in this area, through a project at Linfield College, I’ve been impressed by their care for creation and the passion with which they pursue their calling. I feel the church has much it can learn from vineyard owners and winemakers. When Dianna and David Lett were first married, they took a detour through the Napa Valley to do some tasting. Although he was then on his way to becoming a dentist, David was instead “struck by the cosmic brick,” as Dianna tells their story. The couple soon moved to Oregon, where David became a pioneer in our local viticulture.
I’ve had a glancing blow by that same brick. I don’t want to make wine for a living, but I certainly enjoy drinking a beautiful Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. Every glass is a reminder of how much God loves us and how blessed I am to live in this place.
The Theology of Wine by Mark C. Pederson is available at thetheologyofwine.com. Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, where Pederson earned his master’s degree in divinity, has been part of Cal Lutheran since January.