“Neither is new wine put into old wineskins…”(Matthew 9:17a)
If you were to visit our townhouse in South Coatesville, you would notice that even though it’s already late-spring, we still have a Christmas wreath on the front door. That’s because sometime in the recent past, a bird built a nest within the safe, browning branches of this wreath and today there are two babies being warmed and watched daily by the protective mama. The balance of something old, something new is always tricky – especially in the life of local churches – but it can also be delightful and encouraging, just when we need it most. ‘Life out of death!
In his most recent book, Brian McLaren speculates about the church’s rebound from the Covid reality. “I completed this book,” he writes, “in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. At this point, nobody knows whether our current human systems [or, I would say, local churches] will be resilient enough to recover quickly from the economic and social effects of the virus. The pandemic provides a powerful opportunity for contemporary societies to learn: about our connectedness to the environment, about our connectedness to each other, about our need for long-range global planning, about the fragility of the current global economy, and about the need for intelligent national and global leadership.” (Faith after Doubt, p. 193)
A year later, what has your congregation learned? How is your congregation prepared to changed? In what ways will you prepare and enjoy some new wines, without losing the value and contribution of those old wineskins, at the same time? McLaren urges us, like biblical authors of old, to practice “prophetic imagination” as we grasp “…bright and fertile images of deserts blooming, virgins conceiving, swords and spears being melted down into farm tools.” (Ibid, p. 195). What’s being birthed in your church within the browning branches of this past year? In a post-Covid, post-winter, post-Lent environment – in an Easter world! – what are the signs of new life? Let your imaginations run wild.