Weekly Devotions for 10/12

Sights and Insights

And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. – Luke 5:37-38 (NRSV)

We had the deck in our backyard re-built this week. It was actually scheduled to be done last March, but it was just last week that the contractors arrived. Over the last few months, while waiting, I had been wondering if it was a wise use of our funds. Should we really be spending this money now, or are we being overly self-indulgent? After all, the deck has worked fine for years. The previous owners must have been fine with it. Why mess with something that is working. To keep the project small, we decided to simply re-deck. We would keep the frame but put newer decking than the wood that had been there for 35 years.

When the workers removed the first board, the entire deck collapsed. They were shocked that it had stayed up this long. The metal brackets holding it together had rusted through, the boards had never been fully nailed together, and the footers were rotting through. They had never been cemented in, but rather were sitting on cinder blocks. They said it certainly would have collapsed underfoot at some point this winter. The whole deck, from footer to frame to railings, had to be rebuilt.

How often do we look at our lives and say to ourselves, “This has worked well enough. I can keep going a little longer like this.” We do it with our daily routines, the stresses and burdens we carry, and in so many other ways. It seems too big of a project to try something truly new, especially when we are getting by with what we have. The power of habits is a strong force in our lives. Yet sometimes when we look a bit more closely we realize that a collapse is not far away. Sometimes we really do need to step back and see where things are barely holding together but we have not noticed it.

That is true in our lives generally, but even more so spiritually. We often tell ourselves that we are managing well enough. Perhaps we attend worship regularly, read devotions, and take part in other church activities. Yet the reality is that sin is a constant force in our lives, pulling us away from God’s transforming power. In Christ, we are called to be a new creation, to participate in the reign of God in ways that upend our lives and create something new. Too often we lose track of this radical calling of the Holy Spirit that shakes up every aspect of our lives. The old habits and ways of doing things cannot contain the new creation that God is forging in us through the work of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we need to rebuild how we view everything about our lives and our world in order to follow Christ’s leadings. As Jesus says, you cannot put new wine into old wineskins.

What new thing might the Holy Spirit be stirring in your life? In the life of our congregation? Of the wider church in the world? What old decks might we be thinking are just fine, when in fact something new is needed? Perhaps the Holy Spirit is working transformation in your heart and life right now.