The Gospel According to Cheerwine

[This appeared first at LifeChurchNC.com]

May 19, 2017

Shortly after moving to Salisbury nearly four years ago, we were immediately (and should I say, most appropriately) greeted with lots of Cheerwine. For much of my life, I had assumed Cheerwine was a world-famous soft drink. Iʼm pretty sure it was my dadʼs favorite soft-drink while I was growing up. Although I came to realize that it wasnʼt as popular a beverage in other parts of the world like it initially was in the Carolinas, there was a certain sense of pride to call the universal-headquarters of Cheerwine home. In fact, I had no idea until we moved to Salisbury that there were such things as Cheerwine poundcake; and then all of a sudden, I noticed Krispy Kreme on occasion whipped-up a Cheerwine doughnut.

Where had I been all my life?

(I think it was sometime after that I started to toy with the idea of how cool it would be to celebrate communion with Cheerwine and Krispy Kreme doughnuts. And if it werenʼt such an irreverent thought, especially among those who come from Catholic or Lutheran backgrounds, we probably would have by now! By the way, we are actually celebrating communion this Sunday, so in case youʼre worried, donʼt. We wonʼt go there!)

We later discovered things like Cheerwine slushies, floats and brownies. For the first couple of years, family and friends visiting from out of town would get initiated to Salisbury with a visit to Innes Street Drug, where they could even grab a souvenir just to commemorate the occasion!

In case youʼre wondering what the spiritual application is, here you go. Most of us are familiar with Jesusʼs first miracle, as recorded in John 2S1-11, where Jesus turned water into wine. So, hereʼs the question: If Jesus were to perform this miracle today, and do so in Salisbury, is it conceivable to think that Jesus might actually turn water into Cheerwine? Iʼm sure those ultra-conservative Christians among us – the ones who wouldnʼt be caught on the beer and wine aisle in the grocery store – would like to think so; but I think not!

Okay. That was a bad joke. But seriously. Whatʼs the application here?

As youʼre probably already aware, Cheerwine celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, marked by a big celebration in downtown Salisbury this Saturday. What has become a trademark of our community is among many things of which we can take pride, and is also one of the many things that makes this community we live in so distinct and unique. Cheerwine is a representation of the uniqueness of not only our city, but also the people who live here.

Although this may be a stretch, in many ways, all of this is actually a reminder of the uniqueness of the unique calling of our church to be the church to this unique community to which weʼve been placed and called.

Like a new family moving to Salisbury and being greeted with a couple of cases of Cheerwine, we as the church have an even greater privilege of extending hospitality to the people around us, and in doing so, announcing the warmth and inclusiveness of the Gospel that beckons us to find where we belong – in the embrace of our Heavenly Father.

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