As a pastor my life is characterized by an incessant longing for people to taste and see the goodness of God’s grace in the gospel. I pray for it, plan for, organize events to promote it, and even dream about it. I want to see the gospel come to our city and our church. I want evident gospel renewal.
In Charles Dickens’ classic A Tale of Two Cities, there is a memorable scene where a large cask of wine is dropped and broken in the street. The cask had burst like a walnut shell and gushing all over the stones in the street. Dickens goes on to write:
All the people within reach had suspended their business, or their idleness, to run to the spot and drink the wine. The rough, irregular stones of the street, pointing every way, and designed, one might have thought, expressly to lame all living creatures that approached them, had dammed it into little pools; these were surrounded, each by its own jostling group or crowd, according to its size. Some men kneeled down, made scoops of their two hands joined, and sipped, or tried to help women, who bent over their shoulders, to sip, before the wine had all run out between their fingers. Others, men and women, dipped in the puddles with little mugs of mutilated earthenware, or even with handkerchiefs from women’s heads, which were squeezed dry into infants’ mouths; others made small mud-embankments, to stern the wine as it ran; others, directed by lookers-on up at high windows, darted here and there, to cut off little streams of wine that started away in new directions; others devoted themselves to the sodden and lee-dyed pieces of the cask, licking, and even champing the moister wine-rotted fragments with eager relish. There was no drainage to carry off the wine, and not only did it all get taken up, but so much mud got taken up along with it, that there might have been a scavenger in the street, if anybody acquainted with it could have believed in such a miraculous presence.
The wine was red wine, and had stained the ground of the narrow street in the suburb of Saint Antoine, in Paris, where it was spilled. It had stained many hands, too, and many faces, and many naked feet, and many wooden shoes. The hands of the man who sawed the wood, left red marks on the billets; and the forehead of the woman who nursed her baby, was stained with the stain of the old rag she wound about her head again. Those who had been greedy with the staves of the cask, had acquired a tigerish smear about the mouth; and one tall joker so besmirched, his head more out of a long squalid bag of a nightcap than in it, scrawled upon a wall with his finger dipped in muddy wine-lees- BLOOD.
The time was to come, when that wine too would be spilled on the street-stones, and when the stain of it would be red upon many there.
This scene depicts a community of people who became the surprising recipients of an unexpected blessing. They were treated to delicious wine. Sensing the opportunity they laid aside all of their cares and pursued their newfound gushing treasure. The stained mouths, wood, stone streets and hands testified that this surprising blessing had come to town, a blessing that they would not soon forget.
This illustrates my dream for my City, the churches in our city and us at Emmaus. I want to see the Gospel come to town. I want to see its cask shatter open and have the precious treasure of Christ-Crucified be what we leave off everything to pursue. I want to see the gospel bring such renewal that we are dyed in the red of the gospel. Hands, mouths, foreheads, clothes and streets; all of life, stained by the overflow of heaven’s vintage wine, the gospel of Christ.
Dickens is so good here because he reminds us of how surprising and how valuable this blessing was. They were taking up mud with their scavenging! Oh, that the gospel would come to our towns, the cask would shatter, and people would rush to it and be stained forever by it!