new wine/david

2:21-22 “Nobody,” he continued, “sews a patch of unshrunken cloth on to an old coat. If he does, the new patch tears away from the old and the hole is worse than ever. And nobody puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine bursts the skins, the wine is spilt and the skins are ruined. No, new wine must go into new wineskins.”

New wine in new wineskins. Fresh winds of the Spirit needs to distance itself from old church structures. It reminds me of manages concern about starting a new church/meeting/thingie. I imagine in the early days of Jesusianity when persecution flowed from the resistant synagogues and not the jackboots of the Roman Empire, these words were comforting. We are new wine. We need new wineskins.

For me, who tends to view doctrine functionally rather than propositionally, the question is always: how do we apply this? Do we use this to murder or create? And if create, then create what?

And I had never linking this wineskins trope to the fasting injunction. Fasting is for mourning. For folks who do not feel God’s Spirit to bribe God, get God’s attention by some symbolic act of sacrifice. Fasting is for dead souls who want to live not for living souls moved by the Spirit.

I cannot help but apply this to the whole emerging church thingie. And I am one foot in each world, liking some of what I see in this emerging church but also seeing a serious lack of charity and a refusal to acknowledge the accumulated wisdom of the previous generation. I especially see a rejection of the social gospel in emerging church circles. I see a deep longing for community and inclusion and empowerment in emerging church. A longing that needs to be fed. But I also feel a narrowness of spirit. And a confusion of packaging with depth.

Perhaps I see something to be recommended in old wine.

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2 responses

  1. Lots here.1) In the early days of Christianity, Christians were subject to the same Roman contempt as any other Jews. And came under the same customary exemption from pagan religious duties. As other Jews came to see Christianity as an unstable sect (full of ignorant, fanatical gentile converts) that endangered their own legal standing under the Roman system, then they began denouncing Christian synagogues to the authorities as not being properly Jewish. This was not Jewish “persecution,” but an effort to distance themselves from the risk of Roman persecution.2) We tend to read this passage (about fasting) assuming Jesus was “the bridegroom” in question. But I don’t think this was Jesus’ meaning at the time. Josephus tells of a later peasant named Jesus who would call out “Woe to the bridegroom and the bride,” in the course of his prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem. I feel there’s a connection here but lack enough familiarity with the official Hebrew prophets to follow it through as I’d like. Something to do with the Shekinah, “God’s bride”, the presence of God in the Temple?3) Jesus is not starting a Christian church separate from the Jewish people here. This passage could be an apologetic fiction added by a later Christian church–but if instead it actually goes back to the historical Jesus (which seems most likely) precisely what is he talking about? My guess: accusing his respectable rivals of attaching doctrines and practices appropriate for a previous age (a time of looking forward to God re-establishing the Kingdom over Israel) to his “present” time in which God’s rule was actively making itself known and visible.4) application to emerging religous “thingies”… As I said, this was probably not what Jesus was talking about–and religious movements have historically cut and pasted their constituent traditions pretty freely. What keeps people warm is preserved; what doesn’t is left by the wayside, and if purists see the resulting garment as a patchwork, the congregation will be perfectly comfortable in it.If these new thingies haven’t emphasized the “social gospel,” it may be because there really hasn’t been much interest in that in contemporary American life, the churches and Friends meetings of these benighted times being all too typical in generally failing to see the need.5) Don’t knock fasting unless you’ve tried it. When I did, I found it the best cheap high yet. I felt healthier than I’d ever been indulging my more usual gluttony. If I hadn’t been eating shrimp egg foo yung in my dreams, I might have gone on longer…This isn’t coming together as well as I’d like, oh well.

  2. Forrest, “persecution” takes multiple forms. And I imagine the Jesus People were a pain in the ass to at least some people before the Roman crack down and even the gentile influx.I agree, it likely wasn’t on Jesus’ agenda. He had more immediate fish to fry. I was commenting on the linking of the wineskins with fasting and am suggesting it was on the mental horizon of Mark.

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