It’s amazing how perspectives change as you get older.
When I was a kid in elementary school, we boys were absolutely convinced that the girls had cooties! Of course, we had no idea what “cooties” were, but if the girls had them then that meant we needed to be as far away from them as we possibly could! What was really nice was that, at that time, my initials were CP, and all the fellas decided that CP stood for “cootie protector!” That meant that if any of the boys were touched by a girl at recess then all the had to do was come and touch me and I was the “cure” for “cooties.” I was very popular on the playground!
Of course, a few years later, as we boys became teenagers, those same fellas were desperate for the attention of those same females! It’s amazing what a difference a few years makes in your perspective!
And that’s true of the spiritual life as well. When we commit to a spiritually mature life, our perspectives change and grow up! That makes such a difference and is so necessary if we are to avoid the mistakes and the spiritual slavery of an immature Christian faith.
Look at our Lesson today in Luke 5:33-39:
At that time, the Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Why do the disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink?” And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” He told them a parable also: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it upon an old garment; if he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’”
While the initial question Jesus deals with is from those who seem to be stuck in their “old” ways was about fasting, if you look at the beginning of Luke 5 you’ll see why these Pharisees are so upset. It’s because Jesus does something that really bothers the “establishment;” He chooses a “publican” (a Jewish collaborator and tax-collector with the occupying Roman authorities) as one of His disciples! Talk about letting the “undesirables” in! And this immediately had these religious people want to start passively-aggressively question Jesus about religious behavior! Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It seems to be the pattern of some to question the devotion and piety of those who are having deeper insights into the faith that causes those so satisfied with the “elementary” ways to fear for their future.
The Lord plainly deals with the sickness of an atrophied faith and His warning is plain. Trying to mend a patch of clothing that has worn out with new cloth isn’t wise and will always result in disaster. You have to have the courage to embrace the new and better and more mature way to keep your relationship with God fresh and whole. Now the Lord isn’t saying the old is useless; not at all. He is saying that now that He has arrived, the Messiah, the New Israel, the tutoring system of the old way is completed and the path of salvation is now open to the whole world!
Today, where are you trying to hold onto an immature spiritual life? Don’t you know that your “addiction” to childish ways, small ways, limited ways, will always be too weak to hold the “new wine” of a purposeful and mature Orthodox Christian life? It’s time to put this ever fresh, ever “new”, ever “sweet wine” of the message of Jesus in the new “wineskins” of your life daring to embrace the fullness of this Orthodox Way. To be sure, this Orthodox Way is going to challenge some of our “old” understandings and we may feel nostalgia for that “old wine” but the path forward is with the “new wine” of a mature and expanded vision of God’s love and purpose! Being Orthodox on Purpose isn’t easy, but it’s always worth it!