And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins – and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins. (ESV)
Wow. Today I was going to write on Isaiah 43:1-4, but as much as I love that passage, words were not coming as they usually do. So, I prayed and I waited. Tonight, I read through a blog post for female clergy looking at the narrative lectionary text for this Sunday, January 10, which is Mark 2:1-22 (Click Here). As I read revgord’s final questions in her post, I new today was about new wine and new wineskins. Here is what she wrote, I invite you to ponder these questions with me:
What cloth in your midst has been patched but is about to tear? What wine-skins have been used one or two times too many? Is there a need to punch a hole in your ceiling to allow wholeness to come in? Where is the new trying to break through? (http://revgalblogpals.org/2016/01/05/narrative-lectionary-leanings-new-wine-new-skins-edition-mark-21-22/)
As I read revgord’s questions, all the times I’ve studied this text or preached from the stories in Mark 2:1-22 came flooding back into memory. The image of four friends carrying the paralytic to Jesus, sins and bad habits that I was working through or that someone I loved was working through steamed through my brain like a freight train and I remembered the goodness of God.
I remembered the hours upon hours that I have spent with “tax collectors and sinners” pouring out God’s love into their story and helping them see how God was at work in their life and how He was calling them into a relationship with Him. I remembered the people who have sat with me and poured God’s love into me. I remembered the first time I knew big changes were coming in my ministry: when my friend, Janet, came to a staff meeting and proclaimed, “you can’t pour new wine into old wine skins.” And how this was months after having Isaiah 43:19, as an encouraging word I was clinging to. “Behold, I am doing a new thing, now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (ESV)
As God makes a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, and brings forth a new thing, He tears down those things in our life that cannot go forth into the new thing. This may be a relationship, it may be a job – even one in the church, or it may be a habit. Or, maybe, it’s a combination of those three or something else entirely. There is a sense of loss that accompanies this tearing down of the old. This loss can be heart-wrenchingly difficult to let go of – even when we know it is for our own good. Know this: that old thing, that isn’t for you anymore. You need to let it go in order to receive the new, better thing that God has planned for you.
It is OK to acknowledge this sense of loss and pain. God promises us that He is with us in our times of trial (OK, here is Isaiah 43:2, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the drivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned and the flame shall not consume you…”). This is a word of encouragement – even in our trials, God is with us, guiding us and guarding us because He loves us.
It is imperative for our own health, that we also see the rest of God’s promise. As He is making a new thing and tearing down the old, He is preparing us to receive this new thing. He is preparing us to receive the new wine. He is making us into new wineskins. This is a word of hope! Your situation may be difficult as God tears down the old and makes way for the new, but God IS making way for the new. He IS bringing a new “wine” into your life. He IS making a river in the desert to give you, one of His chosen people, drink. This is a good thing! We can take heart in this promise.
Oh, sweet Jesus, we lift to you our burdens and the pain of being torn down to be made into new wineskins. We know something new is coming and you are preparing us for this good new thing. We claim victory over this time of trial in Your Name. Make way in us for your streams of living water. Amen.
I invite you to use the comments to share your answers to revgord’s questions: What cloth in your midst has been patched but is about to tear? What wine-skins have been used one or two times too many? Is there a need to punch a hole in your ceiling to allow wholeness to come in? Where is the new trying to break through?
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