Transitions

Read Luke 5:36-39

Transitions can be a challenge in life. There is a part which wishes to cling to the old even if the new is exciting and full of promise. The old is familiar, comfortable in a way. Even if you have become frustrated or bored with the old, you at least know what to expect. There is uncertainty with the new which makes one feel uneasy at best or frightened at worst.

Jesus had come to bring a new way to understand God, live in relationship with God, and live in community with others. The struggle between the old ways of the past and the new ways which Jesus was introducing was apparent. The people of power and status prefered the old norms because they helped maintain their power and status. Even some of the average Hebrew people preferred the old over Jesus’s new ways because they were comfortable  and familiar even if they complained about them. Jesus articulates this struggle when he speaks of garment patches, wine, and wineskins. He signals the importance of letting the new exist on its own versus attempting to conform the new to the old.

It is easy to approach transitions and attempt to place the new in our old understandings. Jesus taught us that this approach is doomed to fail. We must embrace the new on its own merits. We can reminisce about the old but we need to live in the new. Our God is a living God who continues  to guide us to new paths of understanding. Living means transitioning. Transitioning means experiencing the new.

Old Versus New

33 They said to him, “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.”

34 Jesus answered, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? 35 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.”

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.’”

Luke 5:33-39 (NIV)

A custom around weddings is one regarding what a bride wears on her wedding day. The saying which guides the custom is… “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, a sixpence in your shoe.” This is an Old English rhyme, which if followed, is to bring good luck to the marriage. Many of us enjoy old sayings and customs. They bring a sense of comfort to us. In fact, even the progressives among us have some level of desire to hold on to something from the past. By doing so, we are able to be a bit grounded as we experience change and newness. The issue which can arise is when we hold on so tightly to the past that we lose the possibilities of the future.

Jesus brings this issue to the forefront during one of his frequent encounters with the Pharisees. He had just called Simon, Andrew, James, John and Levi. Levi, a tax collector, holds a banquet in Jesus’s honor where many of his fellow tax collectors attend. The Pharisees take issue with Jesus and his disciples eating and drinking with tax collectors, undesirables. Jesus explains he has come for the sick, not the healthy. Then the Pharisees question why Jesus’s disciples do not fast according to the customs. Jesus again explains that while he is present there is no need to fast; after he leaves there will be plenty of time for fasting. Jesus then tells a parable about putting old wine in new wine skins and the folly of such an action. He concludes with a statement pointing out how people tend to prefer the old. Jesus is speaking about preferring old customs and attitudes which leads to being left out of the possibilities of the new which are before them.

As mentioned above, the old can bring comfort and a grounding. There are important times for such things. But caution should be taken that holding on to the old and familiar does not lead us to lose out on the opportunities of the new. Scripture tells us that the Lord is doing a new thing. We must be alert to what the Lord is doing. There are possibilities each day which the Lord creates. If we are focused solely on our previous customs and attitudes, those possibilities will pass us by and we will be left wanting. Find strength in the old to experience the new. Remember what is old was new at one time.