Saturday, September 21, 2013

Old wine or new?

Jesus calls Matthew - Artist unknown
Jesus Calls Matthew - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 5:27-39

TO CHEW ON: "'And no one having drunk old wine immediately desires new; for he says the old is better.'" Luke 5:39

I love the story of Levi (also known as Matthew) and his quick response to Jesus' call. We can learn a lot about Levi from these few verses:
  • He was conscientious. Jesus called him from his job.
  • He was decisive. No dithering, making pro-and-con lists, or even consulting with his wife. Jesus called, "So he left all, rose up, and followed him."
  • He was hospitable in putting on a banquet for Jesus and his friends.
  • He was popular. His was a "great feast" with a "great number of tax collectors and others."
  • He was a controversial choice for a disciple—at least with the religious critics.

The latter part of our reading recounts Jesus' parable about new and old wine and wineskins. These words of Jesus at the end catch my attention: "'And no one having drunk old wine immediately desires new; for he says, the old is better.'"

Those critical scribes and Pharisees were sticking with the old wine of rigid rules about who was in and who was out. The new grace wine of Jesus had no appeal for them.

I wonder how often I am in that Pharisee camp when it comes to accepting people as fellow Christians? If they come from a different faith stream, adhere to different rituals, or their broken lives still include habits of the old life, do I put up barriers to accepting of them (while I ignore their many excellent qualities)? Instead of seeing people as Jesus saw them, do I put up walls?

Jesus said it was understandable to prefer the old wine of rules and legalism, at least in the immediate. But I think He's also saying it's possible to develop a taste for the new wine of grace.

This "new wine' may also refer to the spiritual renewals that erupt from time to time. Leslyn Musch makes this observation about the passage:

"Avoid imposing past traditional structures on present renewals. Understand that yesterday's structures and forms are often incapable of handling today's dynamic of spiritual renewal" - Leslyn Musch, Truth-In-Action through the Synoptics, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1440.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, please help me to recognize the old wine of life-sucking traditions, rules, and conditions. Help me to develop a taste for the new wine of grace. Amen.

MORE: Feast of St. Matthew

Today the church celebrates the disciple in our story. The liturgy for the Feast of St. Matthew, Evangelist begins with the following collect:

"We thank you, heavenly Father, for the witness of your apostle and evangelist Matthew to the Gospel of your Son our Savior; and we pray that, after his example, we may with ready wills and hearts obey the calling of our Lord to follow him; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."

New King James Version (NKJV) Used with permission. The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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