28 October 2011

THOUGHT - Of wine and wineskins

In the 1970s and 80s we talked a lot about new wine and the older and newer wineskins we might use to hold it. Perhaps it's time to revisit this topic to see how it might apply to church today, particularly organic church.

A traditional goatskin water containerI'm sure we're all familiar with these words of Yahshua, 'Nobody 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 2:22)

The idea here is that new wine is actively fermenting and is full of fizz, it's literally alive with active yeast. Old wine is inactive, even dead; fermentation is finished. Wineskins were made of goatskin and when new were supple and stretchy, old ones were stiff, brittle and cracked.

New, fizzy, active wine will stretch a new wineskin but burst an old one. We felt Jesus was saying that the New Covenant could not be contained in the old wineskin of Judaism but needed a new, more flexible one, the church.

In the 70s we thought that old wine and old wineskins also represented staid denominations with their stuffy, inflexible liturgy and rigid forms of structured management. The new wine represented the fresh, vigorous outpouring of spiritual gifts and if these were released within the traditional church there would be an explosion.

The answer would surely be new forms of meeting at home without leadership structures and inflexible service patterns.

Well, maybe. But it didn't work out quite as we expected.

The new house churches ran into difficulties as leaders were recognised and given authority. Sometimes the spiritual outpouring faded away, but sometimes it continued unabated. And outrageously, even the denominations began encouraging the use of spiritual gifts, sometimes in special meetings or even in their normal Sunday services.

It seems the Holy Spirit was no respecter of our ideas about wineskins!

Perhaps the wineskins are not so much about organisations and structures as they are about the hearts of the people within those organisations and structures. That makes far more sense, Jesus is interested in people, not organisations. We bring people to him and he builds them into the structure as he chooses. We are living stones. Did you ever hear of stones deciding how to build a house?

More on wineskins in a future post...

Meanwhile, can you suggest things we could do as we meet to encourage the flow of new, fizzing, spiritual wine?

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