LET THE NAME OF THE LORD BE PRAISED, BOTH NOW AND FOREVERMORE. FROM THE RISING OF THE SUN TO THE PLACE WHERE IT SETS, THE NAME OF THE LORD IS TO BE PRAISED. (Psalm 113: 2 – 3)
Welcome to our Sunday web-worship!
Old Testament Reading: JOSHUA 1: 6 – 9.
… HAVE I NOT COMMANDED YOU? BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS. DO NOT BE TERRIFIED; DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED, FOR THE LORD YOUR GOD WILL BE WITH YOU WHEREVER YOU GO. (Verse 9)
New Testament Reading: LUKE 5: 36 – 39.
(Jesus) TOLD THEM THIS PARABLE: – NO-ONE TEARS A PATCH FROM A NEW GARMENT AND SEWS IT ON AN OLD ONE. IF HE DOES, HE WILL HAVE TORN THE NEW GARMENT, AND THE PATCH FROM THE NEW WILL NOT MATCH THE OLD. AND NO-ONE POURS NEW WINE INTO OLD WINESKINS. IF HE DOES, THE NEW WINE WILL BURST THE SKINS, THE WINE WILL RUN OUT AND THE WINESKINS WILL BE RUINED. NO, NEW WINE MUST BE POURED INTO NEW WINESKINS. AND NO ONE AFTER DRINKING OLD WINE WANTS THE NEW, FOR HE SAYS, – “THE OLD IS BETTER”.
The Pharisees asked Jesus why he had broken their religion, not respecting the religious traditions drawn up by the Rabbis as equal with the teaching of the Law. Jesus responded to this question, as He often did, with parables. One parable was simply about a patch on a coat. This probably indicates the poor background of the home life of Jesus. He, like many of us, grew up watching his mother putting patches on garments and understood that kind of need. The other parable about the wineskin was also a familiar picture. At that time people used the skins of animals to store wine. Ageing the wine, people could make good money, because the quality of the wine in most of the areas in Israel was – and still is – very high. In the two parables, Jesus describes the nature of religion, which He had come to place in our hearts.
We all often prefer the old, familiar pathways. We prefer the familiar and secure rather than the unknown. The children of Israel believed that they were God’s chosen people, and they wanted to hold on to the past and their traditions. They began to teach that only those who were Jews could be children of God. Jesus challenged the legal system that the Scribes and the Pharisees had built on God’s Law. Here is the point: The New Covenant sealed in His blood, doesn’t fit into the old wineskin (Covenant) of the Law. The old and unfulfilled requirements of the Commandments are to be renewed in the Messiah of Salvation (= Christ Jesus) and as new wine, have to be stored in new wineskins. Jesus says that His Gospel is the new wine. It could not be contained in the old skins of Judaism. Down through the centuries, the Gospel of Jesus Christ has continued to shatter all kinds of old wineskins. It burst the wineskin of slavery and declared that all people before God are free people. It burst the wineskin of segregation and declared that all people before God are one. It burst the old wineskins of provincial religions, coming to us with freshness, newness and vitality of the Divine presence. Above all, Reformation has restored the primacy of the Bible over the liturgical-show of the Church in the Middle Ages. God is always the Creator, and God is still seeking to create us anew as individuals, as human society, as God’s people, and as a Church. God is always calling us to become more than we are. No old wineskin can ever contain the freshness of God’s Spirit as it penetrates our lives. Faith is always dynamic, not static.
Jesus said, – Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them (Matthew 5: 17). And He also said, – I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10: 10), and – I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete (John 15: 11). Jesus has come to keep that which in the Law is worth preserving, the greatest commandment in the Law: – Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: – Love your neighbour as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
God admonishes us all the time to lift our vision to what we can become as His people. There are always some who want to build fences around our visions and look down or back, but God is calling us to look ahead – to look forward at what we can be. The Gospel (= Good News) we received from Jesus is always fresh, new, and vital. Jesus gives here an opportunity to decide. The newness of being His followers – Christlike people – doesn’t fit being used only like a patch on an old religious garment. Settling only for religious tradition and old stereotypes instead of a real, vital, and joyous faith can be very damaging. We should never be afraid of new methods. That a thing has “always” been done in the same fashion is not a reason why it should be done continually in that way, and if a thing has “never” been tested before, doesn’t mean that it is not worth to be tried or to be done differently. No business could exist – says William Barclay – which had lost as many customers as the Church in the near past, and yet we are still tempted to put the eternally new Message of Salvation into old religious wineskins. And he gives an example: – Once on a world tour Rudyard Kipling saw General William Booth come aboard the ship to the beating of tambourines which the more conventional Kipling resented. Kipling approached the General and told him how he disliked tambourines and all such things. Booth looked at him: – “Young man”,- he said, “if I thought I could win one more soul for Christ by standing on my head and beating a tambourine with my feet I would learn how to do it”. Indeed, there is a wise and unwise conservatism even in our Christian practices.
As the weeks go by and we are getting bored -if not upset -of the repeated phrases in the context of Covid-19, let us be honest, we are becoming desperate to hear some new and encouraging messages about the future. We pray with more intensity, and I believe, our prayer-lives have been radically renewed, both in content and scale of demands. If the old pattern you have been using seems inefficient, put your prayers into new wineskins of the same faith-hope-love and enjoy your renewed contact with Him, Who is the same yesterday, and today, and forever through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
LET US PRAY:
Merciful God, thank you for the knowledge that you are always there, ready to carry us when we cannot continue, to tend our wounds when we lie bruised and broken, to provide healing and renewal in body, mind and soul. Teach us how to be even more effective on all that we believe and do. There is so much evil in our world yet so much good, so much ugliness yet so much beauty. Nurture whatever enriches and builds us, help us believe that You are ever coming and always present even in the newest of situations we face. Give us the power of Your Spirit that what we ask, and how we ask it will reach Your Mercy-Seat. In a divided world, where chasms of fear, infection, hatred and injustice come between many, help us as Your Church, and members in Christ Jesus to bring the newness of Your love and peace, bringing together those previously kept apart. May the spread of Your Good News, both in words and deeds find new ways into the millions of troubled souls, bringing your healing and peace. We pray for all – as we continue to do so week after week – who struggle under the burden of Pandemic. May Your blessing be upon all the efforts that aim to contain the virus and give comfort to those who grieve, healing to those who suffer and real solutions in solving the social and racial problems erupting so vehemently in many parts of the world. Bless Your Christian Church Universal in all its Branches to rise up to Your expectations in ministering your Word. Be with our Church of Scotland in all its Presbyteries and Congregations and help us, as your children in this Parish, to see Your presence and Salvation in our midst, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
THE LORD’S PRAYER: – OUR FATHER, who art in heaven…
MAY THE GOD OF PEACE, WHO THROUGH THE BLOOD OF THE ETERNAL COVENANT BROUGHT BACK FROM THE DEAD OUR LORD JESUS, THAT GREAT SHEPHERD OF THE SHEEP, EQUIP YOU WITH EVERYTHING GOOD FOR DOING HIS WILL, AND MAY HE WORK IN US WHAT IS PLEASING TO HIM, THROUGH JESUS CHRIST, TO WHOM BE GLORY FOR EVER AND EVER. AMEN. (Hebrews 13: 20 – 21)
Sandor, your Minister.