Tuesday, June 29, 2010

New Wine into Old Wine Skins

Mark 2:22: And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.

What a curious scripture we have here today.  I ran across this in my daily reading and I began pondering on it.  Jesus is talking about the sabbath with the Pharisees and then all the sudden he pulls out two pithy statements about new patches on old cloaks and new wine in old wine skins.  Curious indeed.

The religious powers that be of Jesus day where the Pharisees.  They were the keepers of the law and they kept to it very strictly.  Jesus is bringing a fresh, new way of experiencing God that if was kept to this old way of doing religion would make the wineskin burst.  There are two challenges to us in this scripture.  The first is the fact that we can't let our faith get stale.  Anyone who has exercised can tell you that you can not keep doing the same exercises in the same way if you want to continue to grow in strength.  You have to change it up to shock the muscles.  I believe that we have spiritual muscles in much the same way.  It is the job of each generation of faithful disciples of Christ to exercise their spiritual muscles in new ways.  We need to continue to reevaluate what we believe and what we do through the lenses of scripture, experience, tradition and reason.  We do not go about this process 'willy nilly' and change things on the whim of culture.  That is the second perspective we can learn today.  While we do need to be aware of when we need new wineskins, we don't go changing the way we do things and how we believe just because of societal pressure.  It is a careful and delicate process, but one that needs to be done, especially in our society of immense cultural change.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

World Cup Greatness

I have been captured by the world cup this year! I could not help but be captivated by the US team that has faced adversity but persevered.  In their second game, the referees disallowed a goal that should have counted and given the US a win.  That goal and another goal in the third game almost cost them a chance to advance.  Instead, with less than three minutes left in the game the US was able to score a goal, allowing them not only a chance to advance but to win their pool.  Perseverance.  The team lived it, and we as Christian can learn a little something from their actions.

This life that we live is full of hard knocks, difficult times that leave us questioning how it is that we can continue.  Paul, the writer of much of the New Testament, understood adversity.  In speaking to his student Timothy he says: "For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing."1 Timothy 4:6-9

I do not know why we suffer, why we need to persevere but I do know that God is with us, giving us strength to continue on.  Sometime through the difficult times their is something wonderful on the other side waiting for us and we, like the US soccer team, need to continue to fight the good fight because we know God will be with us.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Way Forward

The world can change. We can change. I truly believe this, and I think that it is an important concept of Christianity.  There are many Christian world views, but one of the most common is the idea that the world is the way the is and that is how its going to be.  This idea was the dominant theme for Medieval Christianity.  The King was the King because God made him that way.  The surf was poor, because God had made him that way.

We still have vestiges of this thought in our current spirituality.  In popular Christianity, the entire goal has become to 'convert' or 'save' souls for the afterlife and not worry too much about changing the world.  I believe that if we examine some things that Jesus said we will see that Jesus was not just about life eternal after death, but in creating a kingdom of God on Earth through divinely inspired human actions.

One example is something we all are probably familiar with, the Lord's prayer (where Jesus says pray this). Christ says, "On Earth as it is in Heaven" (Matthew 6:10). Jesus tells us to pray for earth to be like heaven, for God's kingdom to come to earth.  Now if you define the Kingdom of God as heaven, then you would argue that Jesus is discussing the end times.  But I don't think that is what Christ is doing here.  Jesus goes through the rest of the sermon on the mount telling us, his followers, how to live.  If it was only important where our souls end up, I don't think Jesus would spend so much time on our actions, would he? As I continue to blog, I hope to help recast Jesus' words so that we don't over spiritualize them and those, amazing, powerful statements can lead us to live differently.  To try to change the world.

Here is a great story of people simply living out the great commandment of Love God, Love neighbor and creating a little bit of heaven on earth.