Wednesday, January 18, 2017
“Besides, who would patch old clothing with new cloth? For the new patch would shrink and rip away from the old cloth, leaving an even bigger tear than before. “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved.” Matthew 9:16-17(NLT)
I grew up in an era that warned that the preacher was a stern, looking-over-your-shoulder, rain-on-anybody's-party, warden. I didn't want to go to the Hell I'd heard about in countless, endless sermons. Church was boring, the same songs over and over. But, it was worth enduring it all, just not to go to Hell.
Then P.A.K.O. came to be our Pastor. Pastor A. Kenneth Olsen was no warden. He played football and softball with the youth. He sang, and even told a joke on himself from the pulpit. He actually smiled often, and seemed to like kids. I wasn't all that convinced though. There could be a warden hidden beneath. Most adults would rattle your cage if things got heated.
I didn't consciously mean to push for a peek inside P.A.K.O. It just happened. He took 12 or 15 teenage boys on a canoeing/camping trip. A cardinal rule was that no canoe would strike out alone; always the buddy system! A second rule seemed self evident, no standing up in a canoe! Paul, Eddie and I broke both rules. The three of us got bored with the conventional system and, while noone else was looking, rigged a sail with our tent and paddles, and set out across the lake late in the afternoon.
The early evening found us in the middle of the lake, with rough winds kicking up the deep waters. Having more fun than sense caused the canoe to capsize, dumping three poor-swimmer teenagers into unfriendly waters. We were in the water for what seemed hours, unable to right the soggy canoe; we were clinging for dear life.
When we first saw the power boat coming our way it was still too far to see who was coming to our rescue. As it approached, my stomach did ambivalent flips. P.A.K.O. was in the bow of the boat. I was relieved that I was going to live; I just wasn't sure how long. P.A.K.O. didn't look happy!
We were fished out of bone chilling waters, and surrounded by itchy (but warmly comforting) Army blankets. P.A.K.O. said only five words, Are you boys all right? Our nods satisfied him that we were going to make it, and he then hugged all three of us. Then he laughed out loud. Then we all did. We laughed all the way back to the camp.
The songs around the campfire that night were better than the way the same old songs used to sound. The crackle of the fire was crisper, the air cleaner. The hot dogs and dehydrated banana chips tasted like Prime Rib and heavenly manna.
That night was my first taste of new wine. I had been a fearful sipper at first. But that first taste was better than anything I'd ever known. To my knowledge P.A.K.O. never even mentioned the incident to my parents. He never said anything to me. He just wanted us close; and we wanted to be close to him. That is how I know it was new wine.
Our heavenly Father wants us close. There's no way to build a bridge up to him, or rig a sail on a canoe to get there. All attempts like that leave you dumped and drowning in a raging lake. The secret of powerful joy is like a powerboat coming to rescue. In the bow of that boat stands the cross of Christ. He comes to you. You simply let Him!
Don't spill the wine. Surrender it all today and every day. Only new wineskins can hold that kind of joy.