Mark 2:21-22

‘No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.’ Mark 2:21-22

The first weird thing about this text is the number of people who don’t know the first thing about sewing patches on to anything. When I was growing up, patches on pants were as normal as holes in tennis shoes. I always had stuff that needed to be patched and my mom always kept a bag of pieces of old denim to be repurposed for new respectability. It seems that ended with my generation.

As for wineskins…isn’t that what snow skiers use up on the mountain?

My point – things change. What is normal and understandable in one age becomes strange and esoteric in another. Things change.

When Jesus spoke of patches and wineskins he was reaching into a world of common sense that his hearers immediately understood. He was talking about change. He was talking about something new entering into the world that could not be contained by the world remaining the same. Jesus is birthing something new that will not fit in the old world and the old ways of understanding God.

I’m reminded here again of a talk that I heard given by a specialist in addictive illnesses. He was talking about the family dynamics involved in helping an addict stay sober. He said that a family is like a jig saw puzzle. Everyone is a piece and they all fit together nicely. But when one person seeks fundamental change in their lives – like getting sober – their “piece” changes.

His warning was that, if the other family members didn’t also work on changes in their own behaviors, their own understandings, then their own pieces would not change. And that when their loved one re-entered the family system, and no longer fit like they used to, the rest of the family would unconsciously conspire to sabotage their recovery. They would slide back into the old, familiar, ways of being. Deathly though it is.

God’s love for all people; God’s plan for people living in peace, with justice; the simple concept of “enough for all.” These are revolutionary ideas in the world. They are new wine and new patches. When they show up, they give rise to what Paul called “the whole creation groaning in travail” as the new world is birthed among us.

How long is the list of the changes that bring tension into our lives these days? Racial justice and reparations. Embracing the diversity of human experiences of gender and sexuality. Discovering ways for people of diverse cultures to live in cooperation and mutual respect. Religious pluralism. Gun violence. Suicide. Addictions. Sweeping changes in technology. An increasing global economy.

Things change. But human nature doesn’t change very much. Some will welcome and embrace the new wine that Jesus brings. Others will reject it. Some will say “we’ve never done it this way before” even when we all know full well that history is far more cyclical than linear and there is nothing new under the sun.

Except for God. The One who makes all things new.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, we expect the earth beneath us to be stable. We want normalcy. We want peace and quiet far more than peace and justice. But you are our Healer and sometimes the emotional, physical, intellectual surgery you need to perform on us to heal us seems too much for us. Help us die to the old that we might be reborn with you into the new. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


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