How do you live in the shell of the old with the life of a new?
How do you pour new wine into old wineskins?
Is it possible, or do you have to start all over with new skins?
As I bike up Sixth Avenue, I am conscious of the fact that the Gospel is quite obvious and easy. It’s very simple. It’s all been laid out in easily diagrammable sentences on papyri and then vellum and now finely recycled paper. Nothing about it has been shrouded in mystery. It’s a lamp without a bushel basket, truly. If we just took Christ seriously, if our faith were but more simple, as the hymn goes, we might actually be able to hear Christ. If we were less interested in being smart, and more interested in what he’s saying.
But the lights of the Christmas tree in Radio City shine very brightly. It’s hard to resist them. But how do you build a new society in this shell of the old? It occurs to me, as I bike past Radio City Music Hall, that this is what I should think about when I think about new wine in old wineskins. I tend to interpret that passage on a personal level, when I ought to imagine it as an ecological or cultural level. It’s a statement about the situation of the Gospel in the world, much like the parable of the sower, casting seeds left and right, the seeds of the Word taking root with varying levels of success, depending on the health of the soil.
The Gospel is the new wine of the new covenant, being poured into the world, which is a very ancient and moldy wine skin. You have you build it a new container, so that the wine does not go bad, so that its clarity, taste, and freshness are preserved.