No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.’ Matthew 9:16-17
Why does change terrify us so? That which we do not know, we fear.
I see that evidence amongst the fundamentalists who cry for Biblical literalism. I see it even among those who have taken a few steps forward but freeze up when what they have done is not quite enough...or when they realize the actual steps that they have taken. Fear is the thing that holds us hostage in our struggle for justice. I see it even at Christ Church Cathedral. We hold on to that which we know, certain that it is right, even when it is obvious to many that it is no longer working...or at least it is not working well enough.
Sometimes, I feel like a “piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak.” That is what Debbie and I both felt like in Fort Worth. We no longer fit onto the old cloak. As a result, the tear was made worse.
Yet now I feel as though I am a new wineskin in a place where the old wineskin has ruptured. The old wine is spilled out, never to be retrieved. Those who hold the remnant of the old wineskin continue to try to put the new into the old. Change looms up at them, frightening them into holding tightly to that which they know in an effort to ward off that which they do not know.
Historically, we fear change. That thought is evident throughout the Holy Scriptures. That is what the disciples of John feared as they questioned Jesus about why some fasted and some did not. Jesus tried to tell them that here he was, right then, a time to be learning, a time to be celebrating, a time to be embracing the new and setting aside the old.
Pentecost nears. Fifty days after the Resurrection. The Holy Spirit is ready to descend upon us and to share her gifts.
That is a scary thing to contemplate. For what is required of us if we accept these gifts? Are we called into Radical Hospitality? Are we called into true Listening? Are we called to Change?
I think the answer to all of those questions is Yes, we are. And yes, indeed, that is a scary think to think about. Yet, that fear is precisely what we have to set aside if we seriously desire understanding of God’s will in our lives. It means that we may be uncomfortable for a while.
So, let us toss aside the old wineskins – while these held that which we hold dear in safe stead for a while, as new wine is given to us, let us hold up ourselves as new wineskins that we might accept that which is being offered. We will remember the old, cherishing it for the fact that it has brought us safe thus far. Yet we will also hold close to us the idea that what is new today will be old soon enough. Let us grow strong in our dis-comfort.
That is the way of the Holy Spirit who is always leading us into new understanding.