Lest We Burst
Jesus told them this parable: “No one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’” – Luke 5:37-39
Between 2008 and 2019 I led worship approximately twelve hundred times, give or take a hundred. Leading services three times a week for almost eight years really ran up the numbers. I went from wobbly and nervous to loose and confident. I’m not boasting, just pointing out that practicing something a thousand times really helps.
Since the pandemic began, I’ve led worship maybe a hundred times. And those one hundred times have been in at least four or five formats that were new to me: live on Zoom, pre-recorded on YouTube, livestreamed in the sanctuary, outdoors on the lawn, a hybrid of all the above. I’m back to wobbly and nervous, and I don’t like it. I miss the old wine of well-known ways of worship. I’ve tasted the new and I would say, “The old is better!”
It’s okay if the time of worship during Covid isn’t your favorite. It’s okay if it doesn’t measure up to what used to be. No one should expect it to. This is a time of new wine. This time has to be given room to breathe and expand, to become whatever it will become. Our job as the church is to learn new lessons and strengthen new muscles. Our job as the church is to stretch and flex.
Because we aren’t the wine. We are the wineskins.
God, this time is hard for us. Help us to worship you in beauty and truth, in new ways.
John Edgerton is Lead Pastor at First United Church of Oak Park, Illinois.