Sneaking Welch’s from the Sacristy
“How is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia … in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” – Acts 2:8-14 (NIV)
New wine is an interesting choice of words here.
The accusation is that everyone is drunk, the implication being their reports can’t be trusted. But it’s odd. If anything, people would get drunk on old wine, not new wine. New wine has barely begun to ferment. A belly full of new wine would have an effect similar to a bottle of Welch’s snuck from the sacristy. Sugar rush and regret? Sure. Drunk enough to hear people speaking other languages? Not so much.
But new wine has another meaning, too. New wine also means new ways of worshiping God. On Pentecost, the borders and boundaries of beloved community are expanding far beyond the original audience. Some people sneer at that, dismissing it as nothing more than new wine. The accusation makes more sense.
This has been a year of reinvention in the church. Zoom and drive-in services, porch drops and Facebook Live. New wine abounds! The reach of a local church has never been wider. The temptation will be to go back to how things were, to sneer at these innovations as new wine.
Having had the doors of the church flung wider than ever, the Spirit is calling us to keep our reach wide. The Spirit calls us to continue welcoming those who would never have found us without the new wine of the past year. Because, just as on the day of Pentecost, the Spirit is moving in new ways.
God, help me to see the possibilities offered by what is new.
John Edgerton is Lead Pastor at First United Church of Oak Park, Illinois.