The Ineffective Patchwork

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Then Jesus gave them this illustration: "No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and uses it to patch an old garment. For then the new garment would be ruined, and the new patch wouldn’t even match the old garment."

Luke 5:37

The latter portion of Luke 5 is based on stories associated with eating and drinking. In verses 29-32, Jesus is eating with morally suspect people such as tax collectors and sinners, thus scandalizing the religious leaders and giving him the chance to explain that his mission involves calling sinners into new life. Then there is the question of eating and fasting. As Luke tells the story, some people, perhaps the same religious elites who were upset because Jesus hung out with "scum," asked Jesus: "John the Baptist's disciples fast and pray regularly, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees. Why are your disciples always eating and drinking?" (5:33).

Jesus answered this question with three illustrations from ordinary life. Today I'll examine the first two. I'll reflect upon the third tomorrow. Jesus begins by pointing out that wedding guests do not fast while the bridegroom is with them, but only when the groom is gone (5:34-35). So, by implication, Jesus is the groom. The time for his followers to fast will come, but not while he is with them physically.

Then Jesus noted that, when an old garment needs patching, nobody uses a piece of a new garment to patch an old garment. Doing so ruins both the new, now with a hole in it, and the old, because it looks wrong with a piece of new material sewn into it (5:36). (At other times, Jesus also pointed out that, when washed, the garment would tear because the new patch would shrink away from the old material. See Mark 2:11, for example.)

I want to pause and consider this "patching" image. I wonder if this is how I am trying to live my life. Rather than putting on the new garment of life in the kingdom of God, am I trying to put kingdom patches all over my old, familiar life? Am I wearing an ineffective patchwork?

Honestly, I think the answer is both "yes" and "no." In some ways, I am seeking to wear the life of Christ completely. Yet, at the same time, I am clutching my old clothes, my sin, my reliance on myself above all. The old feels so comfortable and safe, even if it's pretty shabby and getting worse by the day.

Thus, I am challenged by Jesus to take a serious look at my life. If I want the new life he offersand— I do , —indeed then I must be willing to take off my old clothes so as to put on the new. As it says in Ephesians 4:22-24: "Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like —God truly righteous and holy."

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Does your life feel like an ineffective patchwork? What elements of your "old clothes" do you find most difficult to remove and discard? How are you wearing the new clothes of the kingdom today?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, as you look upon my life, I'm quite sure you see a patchwork of old and new, an ineffective patchwork. You know how I cling to that which is familiar and comfortable, even if it is sinful. Yet I want the new life you offer. So I have created for myself an ineffective patchwork. Forgive me, Lord.

Help me to have the courage and conviction to put off the old so I can put on the new. With your help, may I strip away the old garments of sin, so that I might wear your new garments of kingdom life. Give me eyes to see my life as it really is, so that I might identify the old and get rid of it.

All praise be to you, gracious God, because you offer freely the garments of new life. Amen.

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