Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Taste of New Wine

“They said to him, ‘John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.’ Jesus answered, ‘Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?  But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.’

He told them this parable: ‘No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old.  And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, “The old is better.” (Luke 5:33-39 NIV)

I grew up going to a traditional, denominational church.  The services were pretty much the same Sunday after Sunday.  One didn’t really need the standard bulletin to know what was happening, except perhaps what particular hymns were being sung.  It is not any different today for many churches.  Even in so-called “contemporary” churches, there is a lot of tradition.  

Tradition is popular and comfortable.  We like it, often too much.  Jesus’ criticism of the Pharisees was focused on their resistance to accept anything new or different.  They liked the old ways so much, it prevented them from seeing the new things the Lord wanted to do. Jesus came to set people free; the traditions of the day were holding them back from experiencing this freedom.  He wanted to focus on the heart and relationships; they wanted to focus on rituals and laws.  

We are no different.  We naturally like our traditional ways of doing things.  We like routine, like sitting in the same seat on Sunday mornings or having the same order of service.  We like rules we can follow that give us a sense that we are “in”.  But when it comes to loving God, rules and rituals fall short.  He desires our hearts instead.  But this is a tough sell.  People tend to like the traditional ways better; the new way feels weird and “out there.”  Things like submitting one’s plans and dreams to the Lord, or radically changing one’s lifestyle for the sake of the Lord seem extreme.  It’s a little too much and so we stay with what is comfortable.  By doing so, we will miss out on the freedom and joy Jesus offers us when we are willing to wholeheartedly follow Him.  

This reminds me of a baptism I witnessed a few years ago.  A student decided late one night that he was tired of the religious life he had been living—going to church, being part of a campus ministry, trying to be a good person—and wanted to embrace the new life Jesus offers.  So, around midnight, he was baptized in a local river in the midst of a storm with about 30 witnesses.  Three pastors were present, but they didn’t perform the baptism.  Instead, two influential peers were the baptizers. To many, this is just weird.  He was baptized when he was ten, why do it again?  Why not wait for a more reasonable time and better weather? Why not do it in a church baptistry?  In reality, these are the questions of Pharisees, people more comfortable with traditional ways.  What they miss is the joy of spontaneous obedience, the joy of faith grounded in love rather than routine, and the Lord’s concern more for the attitude of the heart than the exact way things are done.  

Today, recognize that new wine has been poured and it is there for you to drink and enjoy.  But know it may taste much different than what you have been drinking.  It is an acquired taste, but if you are willing to give it time, it will taste better than you could ever imagine.  

© Jim Musser 2016

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