Beware! This Passage Could Change Your Life

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins.”

Mark 2:22

Dear Friends,
During the month of August, I’ll be on vacation with my family, and then I'll take a few days for study and writing leave. In order to allow this time to be a true break from my normal work and also to provide you continued access to these Daily Reflections, I have decided once again to run a “greatest hits” series. I did this last August, and it seemed to work well for you. Each day, there will be a reflection mailed to your inbox and posted at It will be something that I have written during the last several years. I hope and pray these reflections will be helpful to you in your relationship with the Lord and in your effort to live out your faith each day. I’ll be back with fresh reflections on September 6. Thanks for your understanding and continual encouragement.
May the peace of Christ be with you!

In the context of explaining why his disciples did not fast, like so many other faithful Jews in his time, Jesus used the analogy of wine and wineskins. On a literal level, what Jesus said in Mark 2:22 would have been common knowledge. When people in his time wanted to make wine, they would put grape juice into a carefully prepared animal skin. Then, when the fermenting wine expanded, the skins would stretch. Old wineskins would already have been stretched. Thus if one tried to make wine in an old skin, it would burst.

Of course, Jesus was not teaching a lesson in oenology (the study of wine-making), but rather a lesson in what it means to be open to the kingdom of God. The presence of the kingdom demands new expressions and new forms. This is just as true today as in the first century. If we are going to be truly open to God’s work in us, we must be prepared for something new, even for unexpected surprises. Too often, however, we cling to that which is familiar and comfortable, essentially rejecting the “new wine” of God’s kingdom.

Almost three years ago, I preached a sermon on this theme to my congregation at Irvine Presbyterian Church. I hammered them hard (in love, of course) about how easy it is for us to hang onto the old wineskins, thus having no room in our lives for the new wine of the Gospel. One week later, I was speaking to a church retreat at Laity Lodge. During this retreat, Laity’s director, Dave Williamson, asked me if I was ready to come join them on staff. Dave knew that I had brushed off a similar invitation several months earlier. As Dave spoke, I realized that I had a choice. Either I could take the advice I had so passionately given my congregation a week earlier and be open to the new wine of God, or I could say “no” and be a hypocrite. So I told Dave that though I could not imagine ever moving to Texas, and though I was not looking for a new job, I knew I had to be open to the possibility of God doing a new thing in my life. Well, one thing led to another, and here I am in Texas as Senior Director of Laity Lodge. Frankly, I’m thrilled by both the new wine and the new wineskins of my life. But the decision to move my family to Texas and the transition to our new life here were not easy, to say the least. Hence my warning: Beware! This passage could change your life.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How has the new wine of God made a difference in your life? Are there old wineskins that you are clutching such that you are not open to the new wine of the kingdom of God? Are you willing to trust God enough to be open to his new wine?

PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for the new wine of your kingdom, for new hope, new meaning, new power, new identity. Thank you for offering this new wine to me, for the new thing you want to do in and through me.

You know, Lord, how my soul is split when it comes to your new wine. Part of me yearns for the adventure of serving you in new ways, and the other part of me clings to what is old and familiar. Give me confidence in you to be open to your new wine. In trusting you, may I be unafraid of the new wineskins you have for me. May I live into all that you have planned for me. To you be all the glory! Amen.