“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.” (Mark 2:21-22)
Last week, I was given the remarkable gift of a mission experience in the village of Copper Bank, Belize. It was hot, and the mosquitoes were fierce. But it was also everything that a trip like this should be. Our team worked together well and had an enormous amount of fun. Good ministry was done, shot through with prayer and reliance on God. Relationships with Christian brothers and sisters in another land were launched and deepened. And at least as valuable as anything else, we were able to step outside our comfort zones and routines to be reminded of the ways that God is eager to meet us and work through us when we place our time and energy in His hands.
Now, of course, I’m back home; and I’m returning to the responsibilities and routines that tend to define my life as a pastor. And while being here and doing this work is also a good gift of God, I do feel the truth of Jesus’ words from today’s gospel reading: It’s hard to put new wine in old wineskins. It’s hard to put a fresh infusion of God’s Spirit into the “comfortable ruts” that sometimes — if we’re not careful — can prevent us from perceiving and partnering with God in new ways.
Not that I’m against routines and rhythms! There’s much to be said for “holy habits” and the disciplines that nurture the life of the Spirit within us. But may God save us from becoming so enamored with what’s familiar that we miss the “new thing” He wants to do in us, around us, and through us.
What are some of the “comfortable wineskins” into which you’ve settled? And what is one small way that you could step outside those patterns today so that God can fill you with the new wine of His kingdom?