2 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 9 When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
21 “No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.”
The Word of the Lord
Thanks be to G-d
Frank Sinatra once said, “Alcohol may be man’s worst enemy, but the Bible says love your enemy.” Someone else once said, “If I ever go missing I’d like my picture put on wine bottles instead of milk cartons. This way my friends will know to look for me”. – Unknown. We know it wasn’t Jesus, because, well for starters they didn’t have milk cartons in those days, or wine bottles but I do feel like this might be a similar sentiment to something Jesus could have said. We have more than a few stories of Jesus drinking wine. Back then wine was storied in large clay containers like we heard about at the wedding or in wine bags. Or wine skins.
Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t know a lot about wine skins…I actually don’t know anything about wine skins. So, I did some research and what I found helps the parable make sense. In Jesus’ time, wine would be poured into a goat skin that was new and had just been butchered and tanned over fire. And the wine was sewn and sealed into the skin and the skin was sewn shut and then the wine started fermenting. And because the goat skin was new it would be able to stretch during this process. And during the fermentation process the wine would bubble and expand and because of this the wine skin needed to be new and pliable. Where old wine skins weren’t pliable or flexible- they were too set in their way. And so if new wine was put into an old goat skin the leather would likely split. So, the making of new wine required new skins for a successful change to take place. When we become ridged in our ways we are not able to let change happen and change must happen in order for the feast of G-d to happen. And this change starts internal and then affects the outside. The same is true for our lives and our faith and our community.
Emmanuel Y Larty writes, “Unlike the “old cloth,” this is new and cannot simply be sewn into the old. Like new wine it is likely to burst old wineskins, because as the new wine ferments, the gases that come forth will be more than the inelastic old wine skins can bear. When we attempt to graft new attitudes, behaviors and ideas onto the old, the results are often disastrous. Much more than radical action is required. New, flexible structures are needed. New thoughts, attitudes, behaviors need the creation of new lifestyles and new structures capable of containing and promoting them. The old structures simply cannot cope with the power of the new. Sometimes the most caring thing we can engage in is the formation of new and different structures able to contain and sustain the new.”
What Jesus is essentially saying is, “we can’t put new ideas into ridged old ways. We have to let go of the old.” And I suspect this is what the Church needs to hear today. What does this mean for us? What are some ways we are trying to force the Gospel and the Church into Old Wine Skins?
Recently we had an Elder Retreat and we discussed what our some of our scared cows here at this church?
What are our old wine skins?…That people who are part of our online community aren’t equally part of the Church.
The belief people coming looking for a church…if we just fix up the building or make it stand out more-people will come. That long time members are of more value or know more than first time visitors. That the main day of church is Sunday morning. That worship has to be Sunday morning. The belief that, it’s the cultures’ fault that people don’t go to church anymore. What worship has to look a certain way. That there is only one way to do communion, a rummage sale, that we need to do things the way we have “historically,” how we prioritize different things like the energy and focus we have on like the building and silly debates, instead of energy on who have we shared the hope and love of Christ with this week? The idea that worship always has to look a certain way or that people are supposed to “behave a certain way” in worship.
And our new wineskins?
That people can become disciples through connecting with others through the internet. That every time we leave this church, we enter into a mission field. That we are each missionaries and called to live out that calling here in Sunland and San Fernando Valley. That online worship is just as important as in person worship. That a Church is not a building. Churches should take a stand on social justice issues-this isn’t so much a new wine skin- given that Jesus did it- but the attention and focus it deserves is a bit new. That a Church needs a traditional secretary. The idea that we are so radically different than Lutherans, Methodist, Catholics…
And we as a Session and a Church and so excited about the new ways are pouring and dumping wine into new wine skins and excited to see what bubbles and ferments out of it. We are expanding our online presence through continuing our online services, Instagram, Facebook and soon Tic-Toc. Other new wine skins we are tanning and preparing includes a spring Bible study specifically for Stoners, a book study of A Lily Among Thorns; Reimaging a New Christian Spirituality and what is so unique? I mean well, it might be the book’s content- embracing many forms of sexuality between consenting adults. But also that we will be hosting this book study at perhaps a burlesque club or at an adult store. And perhaps this all sounds a bit shocking and scandalous- but we are excited about exploring new ways to following the footsteps of our Savior who shared wine with tax collectors. And that when Pentecost happened- because was doing something so new- and unique in giving the disciples the gift of different languages so that they share the Gospel with people different than themselves. That the disciples were the ones adapted by G-d and not the people they were sharing with. And this was so crazy and so radical that people accused them of being drunk off wine at 9:00 in the morning. And Peter- Christ’s beloved friend has to stand up and literally, we’re not drunk! G-d is doing something new!
And new ways can feel scary and scandalous but it is be good news. And it won’t be without ups and downs. Let’s talk about what some really scary and scandalous new wine bags were? The idea that one men could be preachers. The idea that the Bible should only be read in Latin. The Reformation in general for that matter. The idea that we should be going to pride of do same gender weddings. All of these things were big deals and now, they’re just Church. And adapting and a bit of struggle and adjusting isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, it is necessary to make wine. This week I learned that you can actually mess up the process by watering grapes to much- and no I’m not talking about flooding a vineyard. It turns out that grapevines need to struggle for water- it makes a richer and better flavor and healthier plant. I learned that from a movie called Bottle Shock that came out in 2008 and started Alan Rickman and Chris Pine. It’s a really touching and funny movie. And the title comes from the reality that if you fly with wine- it will need time to settle and adjust in the new location or it wont taste so great, because it will have “Bottle Shock,” But the title of the movie also has to do with the shocking results of a contest that took place in 1976. It’s a true story about the 1976 competition called the “Judgement of Paris.” Prior to this competition it was generally believed that the only good wine out there was French wine. But this competition turned the world upside down. Because in a blind taste test an American bottle of wine beat out all of the French wines in a blind taste test. And the entire wine world (well, except for maybe us Californians) that bottles of wine from California beat out all of the French wines. And at first no one was even interested in the competition, including the Times Reporter, George Taber who ended up reporting on it because he was the only one who showed up and originally he didn’t even want to do that. He had said, “Everybody knows that French wines are going to win, so why waste a day?” Even the man who originally put together the competition originally though there was no way that an American wine would win.
The man who organized the contest was a British man named Steven Spurrier. In the movie he is played by Alan Rickman. Spurrier ran a wine shop in Paris and the only private wine school in France. He stated, “California wine was not viewed…The French bamboozled the world into thinking that only in France could you make great wines, that only in France did you have the perfect climate, the perfect earth, the perfect grapes. France was on a pedestal. France was alone.” The French and most of the world had believe that the world of wines couldn’t change. That they shouldn’t change. But if that were true we would be miss out on so many wonderful wines and opportunities to meet and share about Christ.
And when the American vineyard won, the owner Jim Barrett, is quotes in the Time article saying, “Not bad for kids form the sticks.” And I think the same could probably be said of a small group of misfits and rejects following their leader from the lousy little town of Nazareth.
The last exchange and lines of the film as shared between the man who organized the competition (played by Alan Rickman) and his friend.
“We have shattered the myth of the invincible French vine. And not just in California. We’ve opened the eyes of the world.
And you know what I say to that? I say Amen my brother.
You mark my words. We’ll be drinking wines from well, South America. Australia. New Zealand. Africa. India. China. This is not the end, Maurice. This is just the beginning. Welcome to the future.
(lift a glass)
Blessing and Sending: Eric Carney Holt writes, “Our hearts must remain pliable so that we can accept new ways of thinking, new ideas and new methods…If we are to meet the needs of the lost, the unaware and those that are searching; both individually and collectively we must be open to newness….Jesus did not come into the world to repair the broken down religion of the day. He showed no concern for preserving or conserving their traditions or practices. Instead he was concerned about making people new from the inside out. As Christians we all face the questions of whom and what God wants us to be in this world.”