Luke 5:36-39

He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and sews it on an old garment; otherwise the new will be torn, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, ‘The old is good.’” Luke 5:36-39

Still sitting at Levi’s table, Jesus tells a parable about wine. It really is a parable about life.

Change is inevitable. Some changes make life better, some make life worse. Some look good, at first, but unintended consequences get in the way and things turn out much differently.

I don’t often use the words “bell curve” but, when it comes to changes, it makes sense. People generally find themselves along a continuum that stretches from innovators to early adopters to early majority to late majority to laggards. I learned what that meant in my first year of ministry as the congregation wrestled with what it would look like to launch a major remodeling of their sanctuary. Who knew Jesus died for the color of the new carpet?

From our point of view, Jesus represents both the culmination and the continuation of what God had been doing in the world since the very beginning. But, for both the comfortable and the powerful, Jesus represented a new order (new wine) that would destroy everything they believed in, benefited from, and wanted to preserve (old wine).

Jesus understood the power and influence of the “good old days.” Old wine, I guess, since I don’t know much of a difference, tastes better than new wine. IF that old wine is carefully stored and tended in a very precise manner. Or else it just spoils. And if it spoils, it still leaves behind the ever-increasingly powerful memories of how good it used to be.

Jesus is also clear, “But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.” And that takes work. It takes everything that goes into wine-making and wineskin-making. It means starting over but it doesn’t mean re-inventing the wheel. It means getting back to the basics while moving forward.

This really is a parable about life. It teaches us everything we need to know about growing up and growing through all the chances and changes of life. It teaches us about moving on.

So much has changed in our lives over the past year of the pandemic, the economic crisis, the racial reckonings, the political turmoil. Where do we go from here? How do we pick up the pieces? What lessons will we learn? What will change forever?

Some resisted the new wine that Jesus brought – eventually to the point of crucifying him. But others, having tasted that wine, having welcomed the new wineskins, moved forward. They reached down through history to us. Now it is our turn.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, we always grapple and wrestle with change. We struggle with recognizing when traditions devolve into traditionalism. We clash with those who see the world so differently than we do. Help us rely on your guidance as we seek to be good wine, whether new or old. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


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