New Wine Needs New Wine Skins

Today’s Gospel from St. Luke includes Jesus’ parable of the cloth and the wine skins. Jesus tells his disciples that no one tears a piece from a new cloak to patch the old one. Otherwise, he will tear the new and the piece from it will not match the old cloak.” As to the wine skin, Jesus says, “no one pours new wine into old wine skins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled.”

As I reflected on this passage, I thought how often we look for the easy patch. Often we just want to leave in God’s hands to do what has to be done to “fix” everything. After all, it is a lot easier for us to continue in our old and familiar ways and let God do the heavy lifting. I was reminded of a lovely prayer by Ed Hayes called A Psalm of New Wine Skins, which contains this verse that speaks to our hesitations:

High are the walls that guard the old,
the tried and secure ways of yesterday
that protect me from the dreaded plague,
the feared heresy of change.
For all change is a danger to the trusted order,
the threadbare traditions that are maintained
by the narrow ruts of ritual.”

The Gospel parable reminds us we are called to complete transformation, and that requires some effort on our part as well as God’s. It requires our opening ourselfs completely to God’s transformative power and being willing to let go of our old ways to fully embrace God. In the words of Hayes’ prayer, “How can an everlasting new covenant retain its freshness and vitality without injections of the new, the daring and the untried?”

Thus we pray,

Come, O you who are ever-new,
wrap my heart in new skin,
every flexible to be reformed by your Spirit.
Set my feet to fresh paths this day:
inspire me to speak original and life-giving words and to
creatively give shape to the new.
Come and teach me how to dance with delight
whenever you send a new melody my way.

[If you scroll down here, you will find a complete version of A Psalm of New Wine Skins.]