14 March 2019Matthew 9:14-17
'New wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.' (v. 17)
Psalm: Psalm 97
I once attended a carol service where some readers had chosen to read their appointed lesson from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) and others from the King James Version. Rather than complementing each other, they jarred against each other and spoiled the flow. In today’s reading, Jesus is saying that it’s impossible to simply incorporate his new ways into the current system.
He begins by suggesting to John’s disciples that weddings and funerals should never mix (9:15), and then advising not to mend a garment by sewing a patch of new cloth onto the old material, otherwise the new piece will shrink back and make a worse tear than before. Equally, old wine skins can’t cope with new wine.
It would be easy to say here that old thinking must be bad thinking. But Matthew has already told us that Jesus hasn’t come "to abolish the law and the prophets ... but to fulfil." (5:17). What Jesus hints at is new thinking about the old ways, not a complete abandonment of the old ways. In Charles Wesley’s words: "to serve the present age, my calling to fulfil" (Singing the Faith 658). The NRSV at the carol service wasn’t a completely new text, but a fresher working of an older version of scripture.
Jesus is the new wine, who comes with new teaching to herald in a new era. While others are scrambling around in the dark of the current era, Jesus comes to bring the dawn of light for a new season.
- In what ways do our churches require new thinking?
- What is the new thinking that God is challenging you to engage with today?