Monday, January 20, 2014

I Just Wanted To Fix Things

No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment;
if he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old,
and a worse tear is made.  And no one puts new wine into old wineskins;
if he does, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost,
and so are the skins; but new wine is for fresh skins.
--- Mark 2:21-2
To my ears, the gospel was an old one:  you shouldn’t put new wine in old wineskins; it’ll be safer in new.  I thought I understood these oft-repeated words, and perhaps I once did --- but I forgot.
The priest’s homily was only a minute or so this morning, but it opened my eyes anew.
We live in the world; we learn the ways of the world, and we put on ways from it that are comfortable for us, like a warm old coat.  Now in putting on the ways of the world, I don’t mean that we are evil, or that we ignore the Church or God.  They are part of our comfortable world.  There are work times; there are family times, and there are Church and God times (I mean, we’ve committed our life to Christ) --- these are all part of our world, and we grow comfortable in them.  We are “good people.”  I know of these things and these ways with great familiarity.  I once was a “good” person.
This gospel says that we often treat the ways of the world, our ways, like a warm comfortable old garment.  And if our world should be torn in some way, our comfort shattered, being “good people” we turn to our spiritual life for repairs.  We want and expect God to mend the tear in our garment, to “fix” our life, to make us comfortable again.  That’s His role, we think.  But the Gospel says that is not the way to fix our problems; that will only create a temporary fix, and the “fix” may tear and make our life even worse.  God says you don’t patch the old cloak, the ways of the world we are used to, but that we must put on a new spiritual cloak, replacing the old ways of the world that we were comfortable with.  Putting on this new spiritual cloak will not change our physical world, there is still our job, our family and our Church, but WE will change.  When things go wrong we want to fix them, but Christ did not come as a repairman so that we can live our life as we always did.
When we REALLY commit our life to Christ, we put on the spiritual life of God, and take off our old life.  We commit that the world and its ways won’t be relied upon to keep us warm, make us comfortable; God will.  The physical world we live in, our life, will still sometimes be torn, but we won’t try to patch it with God, we will see the tear as just a part of our world.  Despite tears (rips) and tears (drops falling down our face), we won’t need to try to fix things ourselves, but will feel warm and comfortable in God’s love.  Bad things won’t disrupt our life or cause us to lose focus, for we will still be focused on God.  When something rends our safety, we won’t feel cold; we’ll know God is with us.
If we are cloaked in the life of the world, our life will have constant ups and downs, rips needing mending, (and we’ll be concerned with how others see us --- will they notice the tear)?  But if we put on the life of Christ, our daily activities may largely be unchanged -- disruptions will still happen -- but we won’t be as concerned.  We’ll learn to accept that changes to OUR plan may be part of HIS plan.  We’ll still feel pain, but we’ll take comfort in knowing that it indicates that some healing is going on. 
Isn’t that what real trust is?  Don’t you see it in the movies, when the wife snuggles in her husband’s arms on the sofa in front of the fireplace?  Don’t you see it when the dog lies down on the bed next to you, and lays his head softly down on your chest?  Don’t you see it in the closed eyes of a baby, asleep in its mother’s arms?  Feeling warm and comfortable, feeling safe.  This is the spiritual cloak that we must don.  If we are taking in the true words and meanings of this Gospel, this is the new spiritual wine that warms us and makes us giddy with happiness.  It isn’t something to get drunk on and get over; it isn’t a patch for our sadness; it is the life of trusting in Christ.  This is a new thing, and the old can’t contain it.
He decided to give us and show us this new life.  And even death would not be a cause for sadness, for He showed us that life in Him does not end.
New cloaks, new wineskins, new ways of seeing our world:  “And there will be no more sadness or crying,” but only tears of joy.
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I told the men’s bible study the other day that one of the greatest gifts I received in my old age was the gift of wisdom, of seeing the importance of taking some quiet time each and every day for God.  I used to have so many “important” things that were part of my world, things I “had to do” each day.  Looking back, I can see none of them were as important as the hour, or the half hour, or even the ten minutes, I plan each day to be with God, talking to Him, listening for Him.
It enables me to put on the mind of Christ, gain a familiarity with Him, to find comfort in His arms, a comfort that no sadness, no pain, no death can ever take away.  Life with God isn’t a patch for my sadness, it is a new life.
Nothing is as important as this, replacing my old ways with new, trusting in Him.
The message of this gospel I now see anew.  Although it still concerns me, I really don’t worry as much about spilled wine any more --- I’ve taken action to prevent the spills.  And all those things I worried about and wanted to fix in my life, I now trust that He will fix them --- or else I’ll continue to wear the torn cloak for another year.  And He’ll keep me warm.

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