Friday, January 16, 2015

Water and Wineskins

 Jesus went out again beside the lake; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them. As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.
 And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax-collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples—for there were many who followed him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax-collectors, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax-collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard this, he said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’
 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, ‘Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?’ Jesus said to them, ‘The wedding-guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.
 ‘No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.’
 One sabbath he was going through the cornfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?’ And he said to them, ‘Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.’ Then he said to them, ‘The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.’ Mark 2:13-30

My work focuses on helping Indigenous folks take places of leadership in the church. We struggle a good deal with adapting the traditional culture to the church and the church to the culture. Some folks might criticize the work we do, as not being orthodox. And yet for too long the church has told Native people that who they are is not invited to the table. We are making new wine skins, places of hope and possibility, forming new ways to welcome people into the faith and honor authentically the gifts they bring.

Jesus went down by the water and called a tax collector. Then he went and ate with them and joined them at their table. The religious orthodoxy of the day said this was scandalous. And yet Jesus challenged them and us to understand that broadening the love of God is never anything but good. Making a place at the table and rejoicing in welcoming the other is essential to out faith.

Today I ask God to help me sit at the table with strangers and learn from them. May we always be making new wine skins, new possibilities rather than shutting others out. We who live in a time of radicalized religion that punishes difference - may we be known as those who are always making room, always making love visible.

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