New Wine (Luke 5:36-39)
Well, Faith… these last 10 months have been really great. As my time here wraps up I’ve been working on creating a sermon archive on the website so people can go back and read the manuscripts of past sermons. And while I’ve been doing this, it’s allowed me to reminisce about where we’ve been as a church over this year.
When I first came, we started a nine-week teaching series called Scandal, looking at some stories from the gospels and asking the question “Why was Jesus so offensive to the religious leaders of his day?” After that, we took three weeks to look at 1 Corinthians 13:13 and how faith, hope and love will continue even into the next age. We spent the summer looking at a section of Ephesians 4 and talking about unity within the church. We also examined the three parables of a lost sheep, lost coin and lost son Jesus tells in Luke 15 and talked about why lost people matter so much. Then this fall we took six weeks to look through the book of Acts and talk about what it means to be the Church. And finally, over the past few weeks, we looked at the dual nature of both Jesus and the Bible. We talked about how Jesus is fully human even while he’s divine and that the Bible works very much the same, revealing the word of God through its humanity. We’ve covered a lot of ground and discussed a lot of new ideas and I want to genuinely thank you for sticking with me and for giving me the privilege of teaching you most weeks.
In addition to the teaching series we’ve done, we’ve made some pretty big changes this year. I’ve been really proud of all of you as you have embraced some of those changes. I know for some of you change is hard and it’s scary. Some of the changes haven’t been easy. And some of the things we’ve changed have been in place for years or even decades.
We changed the layout of the stage up here, spreading out the worship team and hopefully making the people who sit on the right side of the auditorium feel more engaged with the music. We changed the duty roster system to create serving teams where each team is lead by a team leader. This is helped since it means Joanne isn’t having to bear the burden of figuring out how to schedule 60 to 70 volunteers every six months. Behind the scenes, Council has been going through a book Sticky Teams and been engaging in discussions about where God is leading us in the future.
As I’ve thought about all of this, where we’ve been over the last year, the changes we’ve made, and the sermon series we’ve had, I’ve been thinking about this sermon and specifically asking myself the question “If there’s one thing I want to leave you with, what is it?” What is the one thing—if you forget everything else I ever said—what is the one thing I want you to remember and take away from my time here? And with that, I want to talk about new wine.
So if you have a Bible with you or a Bible app on your phone, go ahead and turn with me to Luke chapter 5. We’re going to read verse 36 through 39 this morning.
Starting in verse 36 it says,
He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’”
No one uses a new garment to patch an old one and no one puts new wine in an old wineskin. Jesus gives these two micro-parables in response to a question by some Pharisees. These Pharisees came and questioned Jesus and his disciples regarding fasting. John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees all fasting on a regular basis, but Jesus disciples don’t. Why Jesus?
And at first, Jesus gives an answer using an illustration from a wedding. He says, “The friends of the bridegroom don’t fast while the bridegroom is with them.” Essentially, it would be absurd to fast during the wedding celebration. Wedding celebrations are a time for feasting and celebrating, not fasting and mourning. However, there will come a time when the bridegroom will be taken away from them and that’s when they will fast.
But then he launches into these two parables about patching a garment and pouring wine into a wineskin. And he says, “The problem with using a new garment to patch an old is that you’ll destroy the new garment in the process.” In a parable passage in Matthew and Mark, he also says that the new patch, because he hasn’t shrunk yet, will shrink after it’s sewed on and tear away from the old garment and actually make it worse. And then he goes on to say that no one puts new wine in an old wineskin, but rather a new wineskin. What’s he talking about here?
The process of turning grapes into wine requires fermentation. As the grape juice ferments, it turns some of the sugar into alcohol. However, while it’s turning sugar into alcohol, carbon dioxide is released as a byproduct. This actually happens with any alcohol. These days, beer and wine makers will use an airlock that will let the carbon dioxide out without letting any air in, which could ruin your beverage. However, back in Jesus day, they didn’t have airlocks. They had goat skins.
The great thing about storing your pre-fermented wine in a goatskin is that it could expand to make room for the carbon dioxide that was released. However, goat skins could only expand so far. So if you put new wine in an old wineskin that has already expanded, like Jesus says, it will burst the skin and the new wine will be poured out. No, new wine must be put in new wineskins.
Of course, that begs the question, why is Jesus talking about garments and wineskins and what does any of that have to do with the Pharisees question about fasting? Throughout the Old Testament, the phrase “new wine” is used as shorthand for the blessing of God.
Deuteronomy 33:28 says, “So Israel will live in safety; Jacob will dwell secure in a land of grain and new wine where the heavens drop dew.”
In the prophet Joel, God says, "The Lord replied to them: ‘I am sending you grain, new wine and olive oil, enough to satisfy you fully; never again will you be an object of scorn to the nations.’”
In Jeremiah 31 we read, “For the Lord will deliver Jacob and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they. They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord—the grain, the new wine and the olive oil, the young of the flocks and herds. They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more.”
I could go on, but you get the idea. Israel was an agrarian society and so the ways they best understood the blessing of God was in terms of grain, new wine and olive oil. When God blesses his people new wine will be present. When God disciplines his people, the new wine will be taken away. So what Jesus is saying, when questioned about why he doesn’t keep the traditions the way the Pharisees do, is that the old ways of doing things can’t contain the new blessing of God.
Through Jesus, God is doing something new and fresh and the old ways, the old traditions aren’t really compatible with this new blessing. No, new wine requires new wineskins. New blessings require new ways of thinking and operating.
Ben Witherington, in his commentary, says this, "God is doing a new thing in Jesus, bringing in his saving reign, and so it is time for feasting rather than fasting. It is time for new wine poured into new wineskins, for the old molds and ways of dealing with things no longer fit the situation.”
God is doing something new through Jesus and the old ways of dealing with things no longer fit the situation. That’s true on the large scale. What Jesus did 2,000 years ago through his death and resurrection changed the game. And because of that, the old ways of temple sacrifice and ritual purity no longer worked. The old wineskin of Judaism wasn't able to contain the new wine, the new blessing that Jesus was bringing.
But that’s also true on smaller scales. Through his Spirit, Jesus is continuing to do new things today. Jesus is constantly doing new things through his people, bringing the blessing on new wine to communities all over the world.
I love what God says in Isaiah 43, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
In the book of Revelation chapter 21, we read, “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’”
Jesus is continuing to do new things in the world and we’ve seen this throughout church history. As Paul reminded us last week, this month is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The Reformation wasn’t a return to something old, it was a fresh wind of God. It was Jesus doing something new in the Church and that new wine required a new wineskin.
While the gospel, the good news of Jesus, is always the same, the ways we understand the gospel and the ways we communicate the gospel are always changing, taking on new wineskins. These new wineskins are our modes and methods of ministry. The songs we sing, the way we’re structured as a church, the programs we run.
So the question we have to ask ourselves is, “Are we willing to embrace new wineskins as we see Jesus moving in new and fresh ways?” Are we willing to follow Jesus as he continues to lead us into the future, even if it means the way we do ministry will look radically different than it does now?
I love what Jesus says at the end of our Luke passage in verse 39, “And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’”
This isn’t Jesus saying that old wine is better than new wine. Rather it’s a compassionate statement, recognizing that some people, who have spent their entire lives drinking old wine from old wineskins, will have a hard time switching to the new wine. Some people have a hard time with change, even when that change comes from God.
David Neale in his commentary says this about that last line, “The comment is more like a simple statement of fact, and a particularly compassionate observation by Jesus. He acknowledges how comforting the old ways are to people, and how many prefer the old, no matter how wonderful the advent of the new.”
Here’s where I’m going with all of this Faith: I believe the best days for Faith Community Church are ahead of us. I believe Jesus will continue to do new and exciting things here. I believe we can be the kind of community where people meet Jesus and are radically and forever changed by him. I believe that Jesus wants to pour out the blessing of new wine in this community. But I believe that new wine will require new wineskins. The things Jesus wants to do in the future of this church will look and feel radically different than what we’ve done in the past.
That’s okay. Let’s honour the past, let’s celebrate the ways that God has been faithful to us in the past, but let’s not live there. There are some old wineskins that worked very well in the past and we should celebrate that. We should thank God that those modes, those methods, those ways of doing ministry worked well in those times. But let’s not stay there. Let’s look to the future where God wants to do new things, through new wineskins.
Jonathan Martin, a Christian author and speaker said this recently, “I can think of no more miserable vocation than spending your whole life trying to repair old wineskins, that God by the Spirit intends to burst.”
So here’s the question church: Do we believe that God is still living and active? Do we believe that God is still pulling us into the future? Are we prepared for God to do something fresh and new here at Faith Community Church? Do we want to be the kind of church that embraces new wineskins as we see God working or do we want to be the kind of church that tries desperately to repair the old wineskins that God has burst?
The best days of Faith Community Church are ahead of us if we’re willing to adapt, if we’re willing to use new wineskins in order to accept the new wine Jesus offers us. So what can we do? How can we work with Jesus as we move into the future?
First of all, and this goes for everyone here. Don’t be afraid. Again and again in Scripture God tells his people, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified.”
In John 16 Jesus tells his disciples, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
And at the end of Matthews gospel, Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Jesus has overcome the world. All authority has been given to him and he is with us always, to the very end of the age. So don’t be afraid. Be strong and courageous. Change can be scary, but trust that Jesus is with us. That Jesus is in this process.
Secondly, for you leaders, Paul as the pastor, Council, serving team leaders, you need to lead. We want you to lead. Spend time in prayer. Seek God’s direction for this church and trust that God is in that discernment process. And when you finally get a sense of where God wants us to go in the future, tell us. Cast a big vision and boldly lead us in that direction. Continue to work at finding solutions to problems rather than excuses. Don’t accept mediocrity, don’t use the phrase “We tried that.” Lead us boldly into God’s future.
And finally, to the rest of the congregation, get involved. This is your church. Get involved and make it the kind of church you want to be a part of. Make it the kind of church you want to invite your friends to as well. If you’ve been here for six years, you’re not new. If you’ve been here for six months, you’re not new. This is your church, so get involved and help make this the kind of church you want it to be. Join a serving team and a small group. You will become more like Jesus as you get more involved and serve others.
The best days of Faith Community Church are ahead of us. I trust that God has brought us the right leaders in Paul and the Council. So don’t be afraid of the future, but be strong and courageous. Leaders, lead us well. Seek God’s direction and take us there. Help us develop new wineskins that can handle the new blessings from God. Congregation, get involved and make this the church you want it to be.