Not what he seems.

We went to the mall Saturday morning. After a busy week of people, the emptiness was refreshing. We found Saint John by the coffee shop. I asked him about Matt and Luke. He shook his head and muttered something about wisdom and following stars.

I pointed at Starbucks and asked if he needed coffee.

“I’ve never acquired the taste,” he said. “I’m good with water most of the time. I used to drink a little wine, but somehow, after you’ve had the best ever…”

He shook his head and was quiet.

I wasn’t sure what to say. I admit, I’m capable of my own version of profiling. A man with somewhat ragged clothes who sits at the mall before the stores open has some kind of story. And in my conversations with people who look worn by life, that story sometimes includes self-medication. I usually wait for the story to come out.

He looked at me. “You are wondering whether I’m a winebibber like Jesus was accused of hanging out with,” he said. It was a statement, not a question.

I shrugged. “I’m not sure I would use that language, but that is a way of saying it.”

He laughed. It was a clean, clear, soul-clearing laugh. I don’t know how else to describe it. Most laughs have some amount of sarcasm or ridicule or self-deprecation or however you would describe the laugh that comes when watching “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” This laugh was the opposite of all of those. It was a laugh of pure delight.

“I do hang out with Jesus,” he said,  “and I did. But wine was not what got me in trouble. And when I talk about the best wine ever, it wasn’t exaggeration. If Jesus himself were to make wine, isn’t that how you would describe it?”