New Wine. New Wineskins. Mark 2.18-22

New Wine. New Wineskins. Mark 2.18-22

Change can be difficult to navigate personally and organizationally. We want change and we resist change – sometimes simultaneously. As we move into the future, we sometimes find ourselves lamenting the passing away of traditions and activities that were meaningful in the past.

What ever happened to Kodak? The phrase “a Kodak moment” was once part of everyday conversations in North America. Kodak once dominated the global market of cameras, film, photographic paper and chemicals. Forty years ago, Kodak products accounted for 85 percent of camera sales and 90% of film sales in the USA. Ironically, in the same period. Kodak research teams invented the first digital camera. Senior managers in the company did not want digital to change the traditional market for Kodak cameras, film, chemicals and paper.

John Larish, a former Kodak manager, wrote an insightful account of the corporation’s decline. He stated “… there were far too many filmcentric people at Kodak who could not think in their wildest imagination that anything would replace film.” Larish went on to observe that you cannot stop consumers from wanting what they want.

The Kodak story emphasizes once again that we often resist change when it touches on areas that are deeply rooted in our identity, culture, and practices. We may recognize the need to change, even desire change, and resist it all at the same time. I believe that each person has experienced this strange matrix of emotions, volition, common sense, and negative reasoning.

Jesus uses two simple analogies or parables about a garment that needs repair and wine that must be stored for later use. The sayings are profound and disturbing. First, you cannot save an old garment by simply sewing on a patch of new cloth. The patch will shrink and create an even greater problem. I think Jesus was saying that the crisis in Galilee demanded something more than trying to simply fix things up provisionally for another season. I am staggered by this saying when I ponder its meaning in our context.

The second metaphor is more joyful and celebratory. New wine can be enjoyed if it is placed in new wineskins that are flexible and can stretch with the fermentation process. In contrast, new wine placed in old wineskins will be lost. The old cannot contain the new. The newness of God’s rule challenges us to examine traditions and ways of doing things that may no longer be as meaningful as in the past.

We are left wondering about the personal and shared meaning for the times and places in which we live. Too often the church has become a defender of the status quo rather than an agent of change and an advocate of justice and compassion. Many church worship services are predictable and boring. A decision to witness in the borderlands will require us to change the way “we do church.” This will be unsettling and at times chaotic. We will need to remember that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We trust in his love and care as we share our faith with unchurched people and invite them into our faith communities.

I will conclude with a few suggestions.

  1. The Kodak story is worth remembering. We can cling too tightly to what worked in the past and miss the gifts and opportunities of the present.
  2. Spiritual disciples sustain us in times of personal, social and congregational change. Theology is important because it helps us to think well. But spirituality if for the heart. Prayer, scriptures, and silence remind us that we are God’s beloved children. They allow God to whisper into our hearts during difficult times of change.
  3. We need community in times of change. We are supported by people who listen, understand, help us to discern, and speak God’s word into our lives.
  4. The call to witness has not changed in nature. Mission is always outward oriented. The Spirit pushes us outside the church to places where people celebrate, weep, work, and live. God calls us to live faithfully and joyfully in those places.
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