Old and New Things

Mark 2:21-22 / マルコ2:21−22

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. 
22And 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.”

 21 だれも、真新しい布切れで古い着物の継ぎをするようなことはしません。そんなことをすれば、新しい継ぎ切れは古い着物を引き裂き、破れはもっとひどくなります。 22 また、だれも新しいぶどう酒を古い皮袋に入れるようなことはしません。そんなことをすれば、ぶどう酒は皮袋を張り裂き、ぶどう酒も皮袋もだめになってしまいます。新しいぶどう酒は新しい皮袋に入れるのです。

What changes have we seen/experienced over the past 12 months — personally, for the country, for the church?  If we were to go back even further, let’s say 5 years, would we have guessed what we would be going through in 2020?  What will it be like in 2025?  We probably can all agree that our predictive abilities aren’t exactly acute.

Jesus is actually talking about living in times of change, and we might glean some important concepts for living in an ever-changing world and still being good witnesses for God’s love.

In v.21, Jesus talks about what happens when you patch an old coat with a piece of new coat. Since the patch is unshrunk, it will start to shrink over time, and will start to pull on the old material. Since the old coat is not as strong as the new and will not shrink anymore, the new patch will pull until the tear gets even worse. He is talking about how to preserve the old.

In v. 22, Jesus talks about what happens if you pour new wine into old wineskin.  As the new wine ferments, it will emit gases and put pressure on the wineskin from the inside.  The old wineskin would have lost some elasticity over time, since it has already been stretched, so it will eventually burst and both the wine and the wineskin would be lost.  Jesus is talking about the need for new things to be used.

So in these two verses, Jesus is saying that as we go through changes, we need to preserve some old things, while incorporating new things.  This was certainly the case as Jesus proved himself to be the messiah, but not quite in the way Israel was expecting/anticipating. So as the church started, they slowly started to realize the things they needed to keep from the Jewish religion, as well as what new things to incorporate.

So what about for us, going through this time of drastic changes?  What old things need to be preserved, and what new things need to be incorporated?

I would suggest that there are three foundations that must be preserved at all cost:

  1. The Bible as the foundation of God’s truth
  2. Prayer and the Holy Spirit’s guidance as the foundation for all plans and activities for the church
  3. The Gospel as the foundation of our message to the world

All other things need to be open to changing as the Holy Spirit leads – not based on people’s preferences.

During this pandemic, churches have discovered new tools to do ministry.  Although many people would still prefer to meet in person, most churches have been able to carry on, using tools like Zoom and YouTube.  The heart of a worship service is still there, along with Bible studies, committee meetings, etc.

Churches are also discovering things that widen their scope – Like people from outside the local area now being able to join in on services, Bible studies and meetings.  And to some, there is also the convenience of not having to get in the car to “attend”, saving on commute time, fuel, etc.

As the pandemic eases off in the future, churches will need to decide what do to.  Go back to the old ways?  Keep doing it the way things are being done during the pandemic?  Somehow combine the best of both?  This is the new wine into new wineskin portion.

It would be good to apply those foundations mentioned above on an individual basis as well as a body of Christ.  Looking at what gets posted these days on social media, it would be good if the Christians can incorporate some Biblical principles as we post comments that don’t bear good witness for the Lord. After all, we are to be lights and salt, even within social media.

Here are some principles to keep in mind:

  • As the spiritual descendants of Abraham, we are to carry on the promise given to him about being a blessing, and not a curse,  to the world (Genesis 12:1-3)
  • We were created to do God’s good works (Ephesians 2:10)
  • Jesus died on the cross so that He would be our Lord (Romans 14:9)
  • We are supposed to be known for our love (John 13:35)
  • We are supposed to be preview of God’s Kingdom (Colossians 1:14; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:24)
  • We are supposed to love our enemies (Matthew 5:45)
  • However we treat the people we like the least, that’s how we are treating Jesus (Matthew 25:45)

Jesus summed up all of God’s laws and commandments into one two-part command – Love God and love others.  Luke 21 also has Jesus telling us that this current age is the last one before the end times, and that we are supposed to spend our time testifying about God’s love.

So going forth, let’s ask ourselves these questions before we act, speak, post comments, or respond to others:

  • Does this testify about God’s love?
  • Does this show love to others?
  • Would we act/talk/write this way if Jesus were listening/reading?

By doing this, then we have a chance of preserving what the Lord wants us to preserve and to incorporate new things He wants us to adapt.

(the above is a summary of the message shared with us by Shun Takano on September 13, 2020 during our JCC zoom worship time.)