Saturday 21 May 2022

 LUKE 5 Verses 33-39

They said to him, “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.” Jesus answered, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?  But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.”

 He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they 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. Otherwise, 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 they say, ‘The old is better


The Pharisees tried to compare the disciples of John the Baptist fasting whilst the disciples of Jesus did not.  The Pharisees followed the Old testament practice on fasting themselves, but only one was required which was celebrated on the day of Atonement.

Jesus referred to himself as ‘the bridegroom’, a term he used several times, and Jesus says they are to rejoice, and only when he is taken away will they need to fast.  He then told them two parables.

No one could get a message across better than Jesus, as he took ordinary everyday practices to illustrate a deeper meaning.  He told the folly of sewing new cloth on an old garment;  there is a lack of harmony between the old and new.  If you put new cloth on old it will tear the old and make the tear wider.

In Palestine the bottles were made of skin, and when new wine was poured in it fermented and expanded, whereas if the bottle was new, it had a natural stretch which allowed to take the pressure.  The old skin would be dry and hard, and the pressure would burst the skin.

The lesson Jesus was making drew attention was there was a need for the Church to progress, and accept new ways to worship. There is a marked reluctance in the Church in many places to change, more inclined to adopt the phrase, ‘as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be.’  But we do have to benefit from new inventions. Narrow thinking is that the old is better than the new, such is the Pharisees response, but the old was new when first introduced, so we can’t expect to follow what happened in the first century; we can learn from it but not fully adopt it.

Jesus is showing how a rejection of anything new is unwise.  He is saying don’t let your mind be like an old wine skin, accept the new.  No reasonable person would prefer doctors to use old healing ways, when modern technology has provided us with marvellous machines which can detect illness within minutes.  All of the great inventors have had to fight to get their inventions accepted.  We should never reject new ideas out of hand.  If we have true faith, we trust God to let the Holy Spirit lead us in the truth

There can be no institution or organisation more hidebound than the Church, at large. I could fill pages with examples to illustrate the message of the parables in today’s Church.

An enterprising Church warden visited another Church, known for success with young people,  She thought it would be a good idea to introduce such a service she had witnessed, into her own Church, and suggested on those months which had five Sundays, the new service be used on the fifth Sunday.  The normal  services had the King James Version of the Bible, and had anthems played of course on an organ.  The proposal she made cause such outrage, it may have been thought she was suggesting something approaching destruction of the Church. Never mind the young people, no change.

When Billy Graham first came to this country in the 1980s, bishops were against people attending his meetings. They feared he was bringing new American ideas, fortunately he did to some effect.  People flocked to the meetings in thousands, and he was forced to extend his stay for three weeks to accommodate the crowds anxious to hear him.

People heard massed choirs singing new hymns from Mission Praise hymn book, preaching by the greatest and most successful preacher in Christian history, and they went home with either a new faith or a rejuvenated one. Then in the following weeks they returned to the local church, and heard canticles and anthems, with slow mournful music, often with dull preaching and a liturgy fixed in stone. In one church a lady asked the Vicar about starting a bible study group, and was told to go home and just read her bible. 

The contrast was too much for a lot of people who just gave up.  We still have bishops telling congregations not to attend meetings by the son of Billy Graham (Franklin) as he is a hate preacher. (Translated that says, he preaches marriage is between a man and a woman.)

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