Monday, January 16, 2012

Forever young

The gospel ends today with the familiar parable of wine and wine skins. New wine cannot be poured into old wine skins. On the surface it seems to reflected the same mentality as the old saying, "You can't teach and old dog new tricks."

I'm 51, not old by modern American standards, but past the midpoint in life for most people. Taken literally this would suggest that for those my age and older, those who have not received the gospel, in name or in fact, are lost. It's just too late.

That, however does not fit with the gospel. Age is the determining factor with wine skins because they cannot think, they cannot reason, and so they have no choice about how they age. Over time they simply become brittle, inflexible, rigid. When you pour in the new wine rather than adapt, they break.

We are human. We reason. We choose. We can also constantly adapt, constantly allowing the new wine that is the gospel to fill us, and even more reshape us.

Jesus uses the image of a wine skin, not a jug or a bottle. Jugs, bottles, jars, are all rigid, their shape fixed. The wine skin even when full of wine was flexible, constantly in motion, adapting to its surroundings. It flexed to fit snugly into whatever space was available. And if properly cared for could remain supple. Allowed to sit empty it would dry out rather quickly.

Despite our best efforts we cannot control most of the world around us. But we can, if we choose, be constantly renewed with the new wine of Christ. We can choose the kind of wineskin we will be. Guided by the Holy Spirit our words and action, like the new wineskin, will always fit the circumstance in which we find ourselves. The shape of a wineskin at any given moment is determined by the combination of its contents, and its context, the outside forces acting on it. So the good Christian filled with the wine of Christ we respond appropriately to whatever this day will bring.

And unlike wineskins which have no choice while our bodies may age, our souls can remain forever new wineskins.