Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Old and the New

This morning as I was in a time of prayer I was drawn to Matthew 9:14-17. In this passage we find the disciple of John the Baptist questioning Jesus. Their question was essentially this: “Why don’t you do things the way we do?” Jesus’ response to them is challenging my perspective today. This is what He said. “ No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse. Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

The first picture He paints for them is of a piece of old clothing that is ripped or damaged. He tells them that if they try to fix the damage by patching it with something new it will not fix the problem, it will only make it worse. How often do we do this in the church? We notice that our old systems are damaged or less effective than they were 10, 20, 50 years ago and we try to repair them by placing a new “patch” on the old “garment” and the result is often a greater tear in the fabric of that church. A patch has to be comparable to the material that it is patching and you cannot make an old garment new by using a new patch, you can only destroy the old garment. If you want a new garment you start from scratch with fresh material.

The Second image that Jesus gives them is of an old wineskin being filled with new wine and as a result rupturing, both wasting the new wine and destroying the old wineskin. The thing about wineskins is that every old wineskin began as a new one. When it was new it has a certain amount of elasticity, it could stretch. Over time that wineskin would begin to harden, it would loose its ability to flex. The thing that stuck me today as I read this is that Jesus didn’t condemn the rigidity of the old wineskin, He didn’t say that the old wineskin was useless, He just reminded them that you can’t put new wine in it. In fact, He tells them that by putting new wine into new wineskins you save the wine and the wineskin. There are times when The Father desires to do things in a new way, and when those new things begin to happen we, too often, try to contain them inside of the way we have understood old things up to that point. We say things like “How does this fit into what we are doing”. We try to force it into a context that we understand and, as a result, we damage the old wineskins and we see that new wine soaked up in the dirt. When we begin to ask God “How does this fit into what we are doing” We need to be willing to hear Him say “It doesn’t...this will need a new wineskin.” When we are looking at the old things and saying “how can we make them new” We need to be willing to hear Him say...”Start from scratch”