|Photo by Miya 2006|
Saturday, June 9, 2018
High Tea Time
As the ladies in our church planned to celebrate traditional English tea together, I was reminded of the custom of sharing tea with friends and of what that fellowship and the tea itself may represent.
The main ingredient of tea is water, which quenches our thirst. The body God so lovingly designed for us (Psalm 139:14) functions only when supplied with an abundance of water, which allows the chemical reactions of life to take place in our bodies and which hydrates our cells, tissues and organs.
Just as our bodies need physical water, our souls need Jesus Christ, Who is the Living Water, and from Whom rivers of living water flow (John 7:38). We can receive this essential nutrient only by trusting Christ as our Lord and Savior. As Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well:
John 4: 14 [W]hosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
Unlike the artificial soft drinks so popular today, which are essentially just a mixture of chemicals, tea is made from natural plants created by God Himself (Genesis 1:11-12) and designed to nourish and strengthen our bodies. Some flowers, herbs, fruits and spices used in tea are specifically mentioned in the Bible for their medicinal benefits and value as fragrances, including aloe, spikenard, saffron, calamus, cinnamon, melon, cassia, frankincense, hyssop, and rose (Psalm 45:8; Proverbs 7:17; Song of Solomon 2:1; 4:14; John 19:39; Numbers 11:5).
Jesus Himself is the Rose of Sharon (Song of Solomon 2:1), and frankincense was one of the gifts given to Him by the wise men when they worshipped Him as a small child (Matthew 2:11), symbolizing that He is our great High Priest.
Much like the blend of florals and scents in expensive perfume (Proverbs 7:17; Song of Solomon 3:6), the unique leaves, spices and blossoms combined in our favorite tea create an experience far greater than the sum of its ingredients. In a blended tea, some ingredients, like black tea, predominate and are more robust, whereas added flavorings like vanilla bean, citrus or florals may be more subtle and less noticeable, yet all contribute to the desired aroma and taste.
When God brings together individual Christians in the body of His church, each of us plays a unique and vital role, and the church body is far greater than the sum of each of our individual gifts or talents (1 Corinthians 12:4-30). Some members, like the pastor or song leader, are more visible, whereas those in administration or janitorial may be less on display in the Sunday service. Yet every member is necessary for the church to function well as a body.
1 Corinthians 12: 12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.… 18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
The process of brewing tea is irreversible, and its ingredients, once combined, cannot be separated. Because of our sin nature (Genesis 3; Romans 5:11-12), we may have disagreements with fellow believers or even leave our church, but we can never be separated from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35-39) nor removed from His family (John 10:27-29), which is the church, or called-out assembly of believers. Once we are saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians. 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), we become God’s children and joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16-17).
Tea refreshes and revives us in part by restoring us to an ideal temperature. When we are chilly, a hot cup of tea seems to warm us to the bone, as my family and I discovered on many a windy, rainy day while traveling in Ireland! Surprisingly, hot tea in the summer can also cool us down, as it causes light perspiration, which evaporates and lowers our body temperature. The Russians have a custom of drinking hot black tea with cherry jam in the summer for this purpose.
Of course, as we all know in Florida where I live, iced tea is also extremely refreshing! The image of a tall, frosted glass of iced tea with ice cubes floating in it and moisture beading its surface is so iconic that it appears in commercials and other images to represent cooling in the blistering desert heat.
But whether hot or cold, tea must be served at vigorous temperatures or it loses its appeal and purpose. No one would enjoy a lukewarm glass of tea made from tap water! We would probably spit it out. Jesus criticized the church at Laodicea because they were neither on fire for him nor openly cold toward Him. Because they were lukewarm, trusting in their material possessions and worldly success and failing to realize their lack of trust in Christ, He would spit them out of His mouth (Revelation 3:16)
Our churches need revival and for each of us individually and as the body of Christ to be on fire for Him (Luke 24:32), working fervently (Romans 12:11) to spread the Gospel.
For tea to be enjoyed at its best, it needs to be immersed in hot or boiling water for just the right amount of time and steeped at the perfect temperature so that it brews to perfection. Only then can the nutrients and flavors in the tea be released for optimal health benefits and taste.
So if we are like the tea leaves, we shouldn’t be surprised when God allows us to get into hot water! Spices must be ground to best season food; flowers must be crushed to make perfume; olives must be pressed to release their oil; and tea leaves must be cooked to brew tea. Black tea is prepared with boiling water, but green tea is more delicate and is best brewed as a slightly lower temperature. Similarly, God knows how much heat each of us can withstand and when to turn it down or remove us from the burner for the best result.
Jesus Christ Himself was bruised, beaten and crushed more than any of us can imagine to be the perfect sacrifice to pay for our sins, to reconcile sinful man to Holy God (2 Corinthians 5:18-19; Hebrews 2:17). The name Gethsemane, the garden where He prayed so fervently the night before His crucifixion that He sweated blood, means olive press (Matthew 26:36-46).
We don’t always like it or even understand why God allows trouble into our life, but we can trust Him to work all things together for our ultimate good and His glory, according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). When we are in hot water, it strengthens our faith in Him, our dependence on Him and our closeness to one another (James 1).
When we suffer through no fault of our own, it makes us resemble Christ more closely (Philippians 3:10), as we are molded into His image. Suffering gives us compassion, wisdom and experience to help one another and others going through similar trials (Galatians 6:2; James 3:17).
So as we savor a cup of tea, let’s take time to remember what it can teach us about the Christian life. More to come in a subsequent post about the custom of fellowship over tea. In the meantime, let’s drink to your physical and spiritual health!
© 2018 Laurie Collett