A New Vessel
And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins. (Mark 2:22)
We are sometimes slow to see the connection between the wisdom of Jesus and our contemporary context. The understanding of what Jesus describes is specific enough for his listeners. He describes an error that an inexperienced person might make in storing wine. But Jesus is always pointing to something greater. In this case he is talking about what happens inside of the person. He has told the disciples and those who would listen that they need to be made new, born again, and his teachings frequently point to the flexibility and openness required of those on the spiritual path. Human beings are the vessel and they must be aware of the properties of the new teaching they receive. If the new teaching enters into a brittle, or rigid human being, the dynamics of that teaching, as it ages and matures within the person, will burst apart the container, such that the old container is lost or becomes useless. We do not have to be prophetic to see that the contemporary church and Christianity are old vessels. The new understanding of love that has evolved, the new ways that truth is being told, require new forms and new venues for expression. The existing churches keep trying to bring in new ideas and new ways of expressing spiritual truth, but the forms will not hold them, and the churches break apart—first the people, then the viability of the institution, then they are abandoned, and eventually the walls crumble. Or the building is remodeled and used for something else. This will continue because the new expression of spirituality requires new forms, new ways for people to gather in community; and they will gather, it is natural for humans to gather. The question is whether or not their understanding of spirituality will hold them while they grow and develop along their spiritual path. Will the new form give them room to grow and express themselves freely and authentically?