I have a smartphone that needs to be upgraded. The operation is sluggish. Daily I have to reboot because an app has frozen up the phone. I understand why our phones need continual upgrades. It’s because those who provide the hardware desire to sell more hardware. They routinely upgrade my phone’s software until my phone can no longer function as well as it had at first. The software has outgrown the hardware. Soon the vendors will be telling me that they will no longer support my phone model. Why can’t they leave well enough alone?!
I am at an age now where I find myself often lamenting at changes in my world. I don’t like the music that’s popular today. I don’t like the negative political atmosphere. My favorite band, The Who, released a new album in December 2019. One song, Rockin’ In Rage, gets after how I feel.
don’t think I’ve ever felt so out on the margin
I’m too old to fight with machetes and blades
I feel like a leper, like handin’ my cards in
Like I don’t have the right to join the parades
It’s a truth that’s painful to admit. I’m stuck in my ways. And my ways are comfortable. That’s my real problem, my desire to remain comfortable.
Jesus told parables to the people of his day with metaphors which for them were easy to grasp. Not so for us today. None of us use leather containers to carry wine around with us. Our wine comes in bottles, for the most part. And we are not like our ancestors who regularly darned their socks and patched their clothing when the material wore thin. We throw worn items away and buy new clothing. So Jesus’ parable about new wine in new wineskins or patches of unshrunk cloth is a bit difficult for us to get our heads around.
The people of Jesus’ day did not have access to clean water like we do. Disease often came from bacteria and waterborne organisms in rivers, lakes and even wells. They drank wine as a regular beverage to avoid disease. The wineskins were literally the skin of an animal, like a goat or lamb. A newly made wineskin would have an elastic, stretchable quality to it. When new wine which is still fermenting expands, the new skin stretches to make room for the increase in volume. But an old wineskin does not stretch, so it would burst if one were to fill it with still fermenting wine. The same analogy fits the unshrunk cloth on an old garment. The old garment will not shrink, by the unshrunk patch will, which means the repaired garment will only tear again as the shrinking patch makes a new tear.
The message is relatively clear. The old ways cannot contain the new thing God is doing. Those who are dedicated to the old ways will not be able to easily join God in the new things that God is doing. This isn’t the first time prophets have declared God is doing a new thing.
Isaiah spoke of deliverance to come to the exiled Jews in Babylon.
Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? (Isa 43:18-19)
God is telling His people to stop rehearsing the old stories of the nation’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt centuries ago. Stop bemoaning the loss of Jerusalem and their temple. God is not dead. They have a future with God! God will soon restore them to their homeland and rebuild the temple more glorious than ever.
I must confess that my longing for comfort gets in the way of me joining in the new things that God is doing. Doing church the same old way is a dying institution. Big changes are coming to all churches that cling to old ineffective ways. The question is will we value comfort more than God’s mission to share the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Shalom to you,