The Rev’d Penny Body
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Reflection 18th January 2021
The Gospel Mark chapter 2 verses 18 to 22
Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”
Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them.But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.
“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”
Jesus is talking about something new. Something that is different from what has been before. And when something new comes, it is likely to be a different shape, and may not fit well in the space that housed the old – hence the feasting instead of fasting, and the parables of the patched garment and new wine.
The image of the new wine in particular implies to me something that is still working – so new it’s not yet the finished article – something that’s going to continue to evolve and develop its flavours in the new wineskin. Its fermenting may continue for a while, producing tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide that need room to expand. The wineskin needs to be supple and flexible enough to change shape and expand with the new wine. An old skin would be brittle and may crack, spilling the wine otherwise.
The new wine Jesus is talking about is Himself – the very Word of God. I find it rather an exciting thought that having accepted and welcomed the Word into our lives, it will continue to effervesce and bubble, evolve and develop flavour within us. It puts me in mind of St Paul’s words in Colossians about letting the word of God dwell in us richly, and of Isaiah 55 where we read about the Word of God never returning to him without accomplishing its purpose first – and so many more – all showing us that the Word is God is alive and active and transforming within us. With the coming of the new wine, we are truly new creations – the old has gone and the new is here (from 2 Cor 5).
And to accept and welcome the new wine of Jesus – our minds too need to be elastic, flexible, ready to be expanded – like the new wineskin. Again, thinking of St Paul’s words this time to the Romans in Rom chapter 12 – when he urges them “not to be conformed to the pattern if this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of your minds” so they may know God’s will – we too need new minds.
But as humans, we’re not always very good at welcoming the new. We’re not generally that keen on change. Even when we know something is a good change it can still cause us stress in moving from where we are to where the change will take us.
I’m preaching to myself for sure now! But perhaps keeping our minds flexible to accommodate the new wine, and the new things he has to teach us, is just like keeping the rest of our bodies supple and flexible. Perhaps some gentle stretches everyday – asking to be filled with his new wine, and to have the openness and flexibility to “taste and see”, to try out new ways of thinking, new ideas about Him and ourselves, and above all to allow the love of Jesus to excite us and effervesce within our bodies, minds and spirits. Amen
The Collect for the Second Sunday of Epiphany
in Christ you make all things new:
transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace,
and in the renewal of our lives
make known your heavenly glory;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.