In a homily (available here) from August 5, 2015, "New Wine and Old Wineskins," Bishop Darlingston Johnson, of Bethel World Outreach -- City of Hope, spoke about the importance of embracing change. His homily focused on what Jesus had to say about change, especially in Luke 5, when Jesus was feasting in Matthew's house. The Pharisees and scribes ask (v. 30), "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" Then they say (v. 33), "The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and the disciples of the Pharisees do the same; but yours eat and drink."
Bishop Johnson explains that Jesus' reply to this question shows that it is more important to feast with sinners than to fast with saints. So, by teaching his disciples to prioritize people over things, Jesus was changing the way things had always been done. Additionally, Jesus acknowledged the difficulty of change when he said (v. 39), "No one who has been drinking old wine desires new, for he says, 'The old is good.'"
The reference to our Chapter theme appears in Jesus' words in verses 37-38: "No one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined. Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins.'"
When wine is fermenting, it releases gases that create pressure and stress on the animal skin, which needs to be flexible in order to accommodate the expanding gases. But the old skins have been stretched numerous times and can no longer expand. If you put new wine into old wineskins, the skin will burst because it cannot accommodate the change.
Jesus asks us to be sensitive enough to recognize when the old has served its purpose and to let go of the old and embrace the new. How can we cooperate with Jesus so that we do not allow what has always been to prevent us from accepting what could be?
In his homily, Bishop Johnson refers to a study by Professor Howard Hendricks, who notes that when change is introduced:
- 3% of people are early innovators of the change.
- 13% of people are early adapters.
- 34% of people are the "slow majority" that will follow the early innovators and early adapters.
- 34% of people are the "reluctant majority" that will follow, but will not like it.
- 16% of people refuse to change.
God is doing something new among us. Which of these people will you be? Will you be an old wineskin or a new wineskin?
- Sister Gerardine ministers at the Passaic Neighborhood Center for Women (Passaic, NJ).