Summary: God is at work in your life, wanting to bless you and more importantly to bless others through you. How do you become responsive to the Spirit of God as He leads you? How do you continue being a 'new wineskin' for God to pour new joy into? This sermon addresses those questions.
February 7/21 Sermon - Luke 5:33-39 (36-39)
The live version of this sermon is here, current as of February 7, 2021: https://youtu.be/60MgHCRjrKk?t=1487
Today’s message will include a few practical tips on prayer and spiritual formation near the end, so you might want to grab a pen or have your phone open on a notes app.
Many of you know my wife Barbara. She is a retired teacher, and is currently caring for her elderly mother 24/7 at our home in Scarborough. Her father, when he was alive, had an impressive knowledge of the land. He had a doctorate in horticulture and was expert in growing diverse crops.
He also grew grapes. And from those grapes he made wine. When I first began dating Barbara, and visited her parents, I noticed a pretty strong ferment-y smell in their basement. I learned that, despite his expert knowledge of all things horticultural and winemaking, he was human and he made a mistake.
At one point a barrel that was stored in the basement, full of fermenting wine, exploded. And it exploded good. Nothing in the basement was untouched, everything was saturated with a kind of vinegar-y pungent odour. Yum. I don't know precisely why that happened, but at the least somehow the barrel could not handle the fermentation of the grapes, and the lid just blew off the barrel, spoiling the new wine.
In today's passage, Jesus uses a wine metaphor to talk about the challenge of new things, versus old things. He is talking about the fresh activity of the Spirit of God, and how what God is doing today in your life and in the church, in the Kingdom, requires fresh thinking and a new heart.
As always, Jesus uses something from the everyday life of the people that he was talking to. Because water was often contaminated and could cause serious disease when you’d take a drink, wine, which had gone through a fermenting process, was the more reliable liquid to imbibe.
And Jesus' audience would have been familiar with the built-in challenges of dealing with wine. When wine, new wine, sits in any container, due to the bubbling effervescence of active fermentation, the volume of the wine expands.
If it is poured into an old, inflexible wineskin, that dried-out, crusty wineskin will not be able to contain the expanding volume of the wine, and inevitably the wineskin will blow, just like the barrel blew in Barb’s basement.
This of course will waste the wine, and forfeit any remaining usefulness of the old wineskin. It’s worth noting that it is safe to put old wine in Old wineskins, simply because old wine isn’t active. It just sits there, kind of inert. It won’t break the old wineskin because both wine and wineskin have settled in.
In the gospels, we find the teachings of Jesus, God - in - the - Flesh, who was not teaching into a void, he was not writing on a blank chalkboard as it were. He was talking to people who had traditions, ways of doing things, spiritual habits that were familiar and comforting in themselves.
One of the biggest challenges that Jesus faced was that among the people to whom he came were religious leaders who personally benefited from the religious traditions and practices of their day. They were served well by them, kept in power by them, and so they were not particularly open to new ways of thinking. Being open-hearted and open-minded didn’t serve their interests.
That is perhaps being too kind. The truth is that when they were faced with the teachings of Jesus, and the Miracles of Jesus, which amounted to extremely solid evidence that Jesus was divine, that he was the Messiah, they were so attached to their previous ways, their old assumptions about the spiritual life that they could not accept the things Jesus said or the things that He did.
Never mind that they were obvious miracles, never mind that Jesus taught things that were generally just really fresh ways of understanding the truths that had been communicated earlier by God, that we find in the Torah.
So not only were the Pharisees closed to Jesus, the end result of their patterns of thinking led to them deciding that Jesus needed to die. The new wine of the Spirit as wonderful as it was, being poured out in and through Jesus, had to go. In their minds Jesus needed to die.
So the biggest problem Jesus faced was actually not the Romans who were the military overlords in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. it wasn't the poverty that was experienced by the majority of people. His biggest problem was these religious Pharisees, who were entrenched in old ways of thinking.
They were the old wineskins. They were not open to God as he revealed himself in Jesus Christ.