Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Fresh Wineskins, New Life

By Julie Gernand                                 
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23).
I love the Easter season. Just when dreary, bleak winter seems to have been hanging on for an eternity (and here in the Midwest, it certainly feels like it has!), mid-April gives us some hints of the new life of spring and summer to come. 

The sun is out a bit more, buds on trees begin to sprout, and the rays feel warm on our skin. I simply adore the feeling of relief that comes with temperate spring weather. As a fan of running and biking outdoors, I simply feel like a new human being when I am able to walk out my door without a coat and enjoy time in the sunshine. My muscles stay relaxed, and I can enjoy breathing in the fresh scents that surround me.

This past Easter week, I spent some time with my second-grade niece and preschool nephew. Just to gain their perspective, I asked them about their respective favorite parts of Easter. My nephew, in true five-year-old form, proudly declared “Easter candy!!” His older sister soon set him straight with her awesome response, “Jesus makes us like new!”

Jesus makes us like new. How sweet those words are.

A friend of mine recently reminded me of the following verse: Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved (Matthew 9:17).

In this part of Matthew, Jesus reminds the disciples of this new-life offer as they ask about traditional practices within the Jewish religion. Jesus has come to offer a new kind of righteousness, different from the old religious law, like when new wine is poured into fresh wineskins. He offers us a fresh, new body into which he pours his love, mercy, and truth. We become like vessels filled with the best ingredients, ready to share the overflow with the world!

I have been ruminating on how we can incorporate new wineskins into our own lives in light of the Good News of the resurrection this Spring:

1) Identify a stale habit. Are there things we are doing out of habit that we can refresh? If we are reading the Bible each morning, but not taking time to absorb the meaning of Gods Word, perhaps we need to pour into a new wineskin. Try taking quiet time at a different time of your day, or even try moving from reading on the kitchen table with your morning cereal to another chair after breakfast. In our world we become so easily distracted. Try something new to shift your focus.

2) Develop a new relationship to foster. How many of us actually know our neighbors? I challenge you this Spring to introduce yourself to someone you have not met who lives down the street, works in a neighboring cubicle, or someone who takes weekly Zumba with you. Its a new season, and that calls for new friendships to grow. God called us to be fishers of people, after all! Lets create new conversations that will lead discussions on how God is working in our lives.

3) Treat each day like the new gift that it is. You may have heard this speech before, but bear with me. How many of us actually wake up to a first thought of This is a brand-new day, and today I have been given the opportunity to live, and to live for Christ! Lord, help me to make the most of this great gift. How I wish I could say that my early-morning thoughts are lately anywhere close to that statement! Gods mercies are truly new every morning. He loves to lavishly cover us with forgiveness and mercy. 

What a wonderful thing to remember and share this joy of new life in this new Spring season, and every day we live!

Lord, Thank you for the gifts of green grass, fresh flowers, new relationships, new habits, and for making us new in Jesus. We will never fully understand the breadth of your love for us in giving us these glorious gifts of which we are so desperately undeserving. Help us to identify where we need to replace old wineskins with new in our lives, and help us to learn to fill each part with the new wine of your forgiveness and grace.

Amen.

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