“From man’s sweat and God’s love, beer came into the world.” So said St. Arnold (580-640), also known as St. Arnulf, seventh-century bishop of Metz. Let me just say up front that I did not know the man. We were never introduced and I did not read anything of him until only just recently. But he seems a wise sort, indeed.
I grew up knowing beer as a distinctive contribution to America of my German heritage and Lutheran soul. My parents knew the family local brews of the region (Hamms, Storz, Schlitz, etc.). Once they tasted Coors it became a favorite but, at the time, was not shipped into our corner of Nebraska. Now they have gravitated toward the familiar Bud Light variety.
The first fruits of ill gotten gain in my teenage years (not of legal age) were cans of beer quickly passed from the car of one over 21 into the automobile of his junior, a clandestine though well known practice in the community. Brand meant little then. Accessibility was the key criteria. In college I was introduced to the 3.2 phenomenon -- Kansas allowing 18 year olds to drink beer but watering down the alcohol content in the trade off. Then in young adulthood I was introduced to European beers (Heinekin, usually). That led to my first experience with the heartier lagers and a few dark brews -- at first off putting but later quite tasty.
As time went on there were a few detours (including a very sad momentary experiment with something marketed as no-name beer -- beer without a label and not much taste either). In the end I have come back to beer. I enjoy it but seldom drink more than a bottle. I have fully embraced some of the regional brews of Tennessee (Yazoo, for example) and enjoy the offerings of the local microbrewery (the Blackhorse). I find it hard to think of drinking too much beer (as filling as it is for me) but it is definitely a gift of God borne of man's labors (though in Luther's home it was Katie who made the beer).
I cannot think of a more fitting thing to drink after cutting the lawn or while the steaks are sizzling on the grill. It just seems right. I recall one Synodical convention in St. Louis when Anheuser Busch (itself of Lutheran parentage) sent over a truck and we enjoyed a glass (well, plastic cup) while munching on hamburgers and hot dogs. Our own district convention offers one night of hot and cold munchies and provides a beverage ticket (only two though it is not difficult to find folks willing to part with theirs). We tend to be a bit self-conscious about beer and church but perhaps we a little too touchy. Given the way we talk to one another or don't talk, the way we debate serious issues or don't, I can hardly see how some serious conversations over a good beer could hurt the state of the church.
No, all it all, I think St. Arnold of Metz had it about right. “From man’s sweat and God’s
love, beer came into the world.” Labor Day is coming up. On this day we labor more about the grill than anything else. Why not pour yourself a glass or pop the top of a can or tap a keg or use a church key on that bottle and talk a little theology while you are sipping away... you could do far worse. Just don't forget Chesterton's advice in Orthodoxy,
“We should thank God for beer and burgundy by not drinking too much of
them.”Gifts can be easily abused and their blessing becomes curse.