The desire for the old wine

Luke 5:36–39 (NIV)

36 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. 37 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. 38 No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’ ”

There is an attachment we can hold to “how things are done.” Any tradition of Christianity is susceptible, even if they are a relatively “new” movement. We have found a way that God works, we were fond of it… and then we got stuck in it.

We can get nostalgic. We remember what God did at certain point and it was obviously powerful. If we think about God doing something “new”, the tendency is to think about it terms of how God did it then.

The harsh reality is this: Maybe he could move in that “same way.” Chances are, he may come in a new fresh way and we see it, misread it, and go back to the nostalgia. The old wine.

My wife and I saw The Jesus Revolution this weekend. We both loved it. It was beautiful to watch things unfold. I wouldn’t have been very old when those particular events happened, but I know the music I listened to in my youth came out of that particular time as a source. It was a bit different by then, but the musicians of the Jesus Movement were incredible influences on the artists I listened to a few years later.

My wife and I were talking about it afterward and I could already feel a comfort in the “old wine.” We want to see “God move”… but God moving is too often seen through a particular lens, such as the Jesus Revolution. We like what God did then… but we may not be big fans if we would see what it involved now.

I don’t as readily identify with a Lonnie Frisbee as much as I do the deacon in the church who finally got fed up and left. I have to be honest. For what God wants to do today, in a fresh way among a different group of people, I am far more hesitant than I truly want to admit. There is the comfort of saying, “Bring on the hippies!” because that was what it was then.

It wouldn’t be that way now. It’s a whole new group of people the American church is struggling with and has a hard time seeing how God can move there. Jesus wouldn’t be bringing “hippies” to the American church today. He may bring immigrants. He may bring homosexuals. He may bring trans people. All who are hungry and seeking and know God might be real… but is he? They might want to know!

The late sixties brought challenges through the peace movements. The drug scene. All of it. The staid American Church struggled with seeing that it was a movement that was seeking. This is what we struggle with today… and we may be settling into “old wine” and calling it a day.

There are two very powerful scenes with which I identified all too readily. The one where the deacon left the church is Chuck Smith standing up and saying this is what God is doing. The doors of the church would be open to the youth and the mess they would bring. He then challenged his older members saying, “The door swings the other way, too. If this is to much for you, there’s the door.”

One deacon got up with his wife and out he went. (That could be me.) The oldest deacon in the church got up and walked over to the other side of the church where the hippies were packed into the pews and sat down with them. He looked at the pastor and said, “Let’s begin.” My best hope is maybe that might be me.

I want to be Chuck Smith in that scene. Kelsey Grammar did a marvelous job showing emotion as he admitted he didn’t understand what was going on but he needed to hang on for the ride. It all moved him.

But my best may be that I am the oldest deacon just hanging on for dear life and hoping the pastor doesn’t get this wrong.

The other scene is later in the movie. A teenage girl is getting swept into the revival and she comes from a middle class home. Her dad is angry with her rebellion at every turn and he really doesn’t like her boyfriend, who is Greg Laurie, a young man who carried on the tradition of Calvary Chapel and holds massive crusades around the world. Greg at that time is struggling and doesn’t have a job and the dad is NOT letting his daughter get involved with a loser like that.

But he is finally softened enough to visit the tent church one night and he is seen at one point coming in the back entrance and hanging around the edge.

That might be me as well. I have to be honest. When I saw him appear, I cried. I knew that might be me. The best I could do is just hang on around the edge. It’s the best I may be able to do in all honesty because I know nostalgia wants me to think in terms of “hippies” but that is NOT what the Spirit would be doing today. And it’s today that brings me hesitation.

I have the temptation to like the old wine. It’s comfortable. It’s familiar. I can walk that way because it’s so familiar… it becomes too familiar.

Maybe I could be Chuck Smith. Griping and grousing early, but then letting the Spirit do something deeper and saying, “Okay, I’m in. I don’t understand, but I’m in. I’m holding on for dear life, but I’m in.”

The question is this: Do I just like the old wine too much?

This is the challenge Jesus gives the religious leaders in that day.

“The Jesus Revolution”

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