Two Glasses of Wine

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.  Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.

  • Acts 2:1-2

“It is most significant in the light of the ascension, that the wind came ‘from heaven’ (2:2).  The whole point is that, through the Spirit, some of the creative power of God himself comes from heaven to earth and does its work there.  The aim is not to give people a ‘spirituality’ which will make the things of earth irrelevant.  The point is to transform earth with the power of heaven, starting with those parts of ‘earth’ which consist of the bodies, minds, hearts and lives of the followers of Jesus.
“The coming of the Spirit at Pentecost is the complementary fact to the ascension of Jesus into heaven.  The risen Jesus in heaven is the presence, in God’s sphere, of the first part of ‘earth’ to be transformed into ‘new creation.’  In Jesus heaven and earth are thus joined.  The pouring out of the Spirit on earth is the presence, in our sphere, of the heaven itself.  The gift of the Spirit is thus the direct result of the ascension of Jesus.”

  • N. T. Wright, Acts, 24 Studies for Individuals and Groups

The meaning of two glasses of different wine will become clear in a story below, a true one. As for the wine, my wife had the red wine and I had the white wine. No sense letting a photo op lead to unused wine…

The imagery in Rev. Wright’s quote above is so wonderful, so breath-taking, that I do not know how to express my feelings.

But I must confess.  As I first read it, about how Jesus was the first part of the earth in heaven and the Holy Spirit within us was the part of heaven on earth, it sent me down a strange rabbit hole.

It was my last semester as an undergraduate in college.  My favorite professor announced that he was going to teach a graduate level nuclear engineering course that semester and that if anyone had an interest, they could sign up for the course as an elective.  I jumped at the chance to have one more class from my favorite teacher, and two Navy officer candidates also jumped at the chance.  These two guys had been in the Navy.  They went to college in order to return to the Navy as officers and they each wanted to be nuclear officers, but at the time, the father of the Nuclear Navy, Admiral Hyman Rickover, had to give his blessing or they would never make it.  They thought an “A” in a graduate level nuclear engineering course would impress the old admiral, in his mid-70s at the time and unwilling to let go.

So, we had the smallest class size, three, held in the largest classroom in the engineering school buildings, the auditorium, able to handle students in the 100s.  Two future Navy Nuc’s and an Army ROTC candidate, all three about to become commissioned officers, all three in class, determined to conquer the world.  And our professor, from the chemical engineering department, had earned his PhD while designing and operating the second successful attempt at a nuclear power generation reactor, studying under Dr. Samuel Glasstone himself.  Learning from a pioneer in the field, we leaned forward in class each three-hour class period, trying to absorb every golden word from his lips.

Then, one day, the professor said that before we started class, he wanted to test our reasoning skills.  He said, “Solve this problem.  You have two equally sized glasses, both with wine in them.  One has red wine.  The other has white wine.  There is an equal amount of wine in each glass.  Now take a spoon and dip it into one of the glasses.  Transfer one spoonful of wine to the other glass.  Mix it perfectly.  Now take the same spoon and transfer a spoonful of the mixed wine back to the original glass.  Which wine glass has more of the other type of wine in it?”  He then left the room.

Wait a minute.  We had been asked to solve other problems of higher importance in class.  We were prepared to save the world if necessary.  This was so trivial!!  Who really cares about mixed wine?!?!?!

Then one of the Navy guys said, “He left the room.  I guess he wants us to collaborate and graduate.”

I replied, “Yeah, and I can see Allen Funt jump out from behind the curtain and yell, “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera!”  We all laughed and decided to not cheat.  That’s when we realized that the professor did not say what size of glass or spoon.  He did not say how much wine was in each glass.  Everything was a variable.  This had become a diabolical algebra problem where there were no numbers at all.  Everything was some letter that we chose: “R” for the volume of red wine, “W” for the volume of white wine, but then the starting volumes were the same, so why not use “V” for the original volume in each glass? …

Forty-five minutes later, I muttered, “You have got to be kidding.”  Within another minute, each of the Navy guys said, “Finished!”  Maybe there was a hidden camera, because at that very moment, our venerated professor walked into the room.  He asked, “Well?”  We three musketeers all said, in unison, “Same!”  The professor smiled and said, “Dismissed.”  Why should I complain about being released two hours early.  Two additional hours to get my homework done for my other classes.

We had learned a great lesson that day.  It had nothing to do with nuclear engineering, but when you have a three-hour lecture period scheduled, and all you do is solve a strange math problem, you realize that the dear prof simply wanted to take a week off from lecturing, but he was still teaching, using a different method.

Our beloved professor was famous for his pop quizzes.  At night, he would ask the class if the sun was shining.  And of course, although we do not see the sun at night, the sun is shining.  Other pop quizzes included “Are there any clouds in the sky?” or “Is it raining?” on a bright cloudless day.  The answer: In all probability, somewhere on earth it is probably cloudy or raining.  Our prof wanted thinkers, not regurgitators of what he had said in his lectures.

The next pop quiz, about three weeks later, was solving a variable in nuclear science.  The Radioactive Decay Constant λ (lambda), is quite easy to calculate, knowing what the radioactive material is and its properties, the natural log of 2 divided by the half-life of the substance.  But what if you are given experimental data of an unknown substance.  You then first must figure out the half-life in the first place.  With the confusing data that he gave us, nothing that said the amount of the substance at time “A” and then the amount at time “B”, it took the entire class period of three hours to solve.  Again, he did not have to lecture, but we learned a lot.  Our professor could have talked us through the problem.  Instead, we were charting uncharted ground (at least, for us), creating a method to use obscure information to synthesize our own knowledge.  In Bloom’s Taxonomy, that is at the top level of the learning pyramid, what you surely really expect from any graduate level course – but sadly, not that often.

And I discovered, many years later, that Bloom stole the idea of his taxonomy from Thomas Aquinas (I believe – a famous educator of that time anyway) when some ancient, unpublished manuscripts and doodles were found and presented at a conference, and Benjamin Bloom left the conference early and became the first to publish in 1956.

But back to the Wright quote, as we three musketeers (I think the professor dubbed us that) asked, “Who cares?” about the mixed wine, does it matter whether the Holy Spirit’s presence in us is in equal measure to the amount of Jesus in Heaven?  Not really, except in one way of measuring.

It is enough.

Jesus is doing as He promised.  He is preparing a mansion for each of us.  And the Holy Spirit is carrying out another of Jesus’ promises.  He is within us, guiding us, teaching us, and at times, testing us.  And maybe, we might just learn more during the test than we did during the lecture.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

3 Comments

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  1. Hope you had a blessed Father’s Day!

    Liked by 1 person

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