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20160319_064516This is my view at the moment. I am one of the few on planet earth privileged to observe it from this vantage on a regular basis.

Now, I know what you may be thinking, but don’t worry. This is the first whisky review I’ve ever written while sitting in the clergy pew directly behind the pulpit in my church, and I’m only writing it because I am more or less taking a mental break from a great many things that have already transpired this early Saturday morning.

It’s 6:45 a.m. and I’ve already managed to finish the Palm Sunday sermon, receive and respond to a less-than-kind email, and clean all of the papers off of my desk…which essentially means that I shuffled them into a stack and put them on a shelf behind my chair amidst a pile of books, almost guaranteeing that’s the last I’ll see of them for a while.

Right now – this quiet moment in the chancel – is an exercise in mind-vomiting before transitioning to the next few events on my schedule, which happen to be a breakfast for our catechumens (soon to be confirmands) at 8:00 a.m. followed by what we confessional Lutherans call the Great Confession. This is a prayer service in which the same catechumens we honored with a morning meal will be required to present themselves before the congregation and answer questions that I will ask them regarding the Christian Faith. It isn’t an easy task. There are about 360 questions in total. I won’t ask them all, but I will lay a good number of the most significant ones at their nervous feet.

Considering the exploits of the morning, both the receding and approaching ones, it is most appropriate that the pulpit is propped in my view at this moment, because if you think about it, by the time I get home today, I will have done a multitude of things that are, in a sense, centrifugal to this piece of liturgical furniture.

First, I don’t take it lightly that each and every Sunday (and plenty of additional days in between), it is required of me to step into this pulpit, open my mouth, and say stuff. Thus, the Palm Sunday sermon did not come along any easier or harder than other preaching occasions. Second, with this, I don’t blink at the fact that sometimes the stuff I say will make the listener angry enough to send me an email. And third, being very aware of this possible outcome, to the surprise of many of you I’m sure, I still refuse to tiptoe through the sermon preparation process choosing the vernacular’s softer words in order to avoid such confrontation, that is, choosing to preach in a way that the listener will be so impressed that he will desire to give a high five on the way out the door as opposed to avoiding the usual post-service handshake altogether. It’s never my goal to entertain or thrill. My goal is to preach substance that gives a spine to events like the Great Confession. I want folks to know the One at the core of the Christian faith, to believe, and to be unwavering in that belief.

Looking at the pulpit right now, I can say forthrightly – I don’t want the listener’s praise. I don’t want his adoration or admiration. I just want his soulful attention, that is, I desire an irreducible measure of his contemplative and honest heart by way of his ears to hear what is being said, and to understand that even though I’m the one in the pulpit, we – both he and I – are included in the fellowship described in the message. We’re in it together.

20160318_165052-1Now, I just noted a whole bunch of things that I don’t want from the people in the pews, but in contrast, I should be sure to include that besides being accepting of an honest and listening ear, I will always receive an invitation to discuss your joys and/or offenses over a dram, especially if it is the Glenrothes Sherry Cask Reserve. This particular whisky is a calming spirit from nose to finish. It can accentuate a solemn joy and it can relieve the strain of a troubled friendship.

There is a pother of sherry, to be sure, but in the midst of this wafting sweetness, the hour for rejoicing or reconciling is also wrapped by an additional bit of red raspberry jam and freshly ground coffee beans.

Rolling into and through the colloquy, the whisky keeps stride with the pace of either friend or foe, giving moments of palatal care to both between each sentence. Namely, the sherry is a pleasure to match each politeness and an uplifting distraction to each negative commentary. Further into the visit, friends become sounder and all animosity dissipates with the vanilla cake and sherry spice interludes.

The finish is longer than you would expect, leaving behind juicy mandarins and the ginger noted on the label.

Too bad these are my notes from the tasting last night and I don’t have the whisky right here in my hands. I’m making myself thirsty. And while I seriously doubt that the Lord would be offended by one of His servants sipping and thinking on higher things in His holy places, it is still quite early in the morning and there’s always a fair share of pietists roaming the countryside. I haven’t seen any yet this morning (which is probably because there aren’t too many, at least none who come to mind, that are members of this beloved fellowship), but I wouldn’t want to risk a chance run-in and cause a lesser brother or sister any offense.

Nevertheless, I know that with which I’ll be pairing my turkey sandwich when I get home later this afternoon.