Wineskins and Worship Wars

June 01, 2010

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

“Neither do men 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.” Matt. 9:17

old-wineskin“Worship style” definitely gets the prize for being the most troublesome issue dividing churches today.  I believe it is troublesome because it hits many of us at a pretty deep level.  We each have our preferred “language” for worship, and these worship wars have a way of calling into question the legitimacy of my “language”.  I’ve mentioned this in previous posts here and here and here, but our questioning each other’s worship style is a little reminiscent of the money-changers questioning the legitimacy of each person’s sacrifice.

In Jesus’ much-studied conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well (John chapter 4), he is asked a pointed question about the appropriate time and place to worship God. For those of us who are struggling even now with “worship style” issues, this woman’s question is a prime example of a “worship style” question.  Jesus’ response, that “a time is coming” when God’s restrictions on time, place and form would no longer be central to worship, seems to me to be a clear signal that an important change was about to happen. Jesus’ remarks in Matthew chapter 9 about “new wine” and “new wineskins” seem to signal the same thing: a profoundly new way of relating to God.

Isn’t that what Pentecost (Acts 2) represented? Wasn’t it the ushering in of an entirely new way of relating to God? Surely, Jesus’ teaching to the woman at the well that God is seeking “true worshipers” who worship in spirit and truth is a reference to the results of Pentecost: the indwelling of the Spirit of God within the worshiper himself. That changes the rules of worship, doesn’t it? Suddenly, all the restrictions God had placed on how man drew near to Him–restrictions of time, place and form–restrictions made necessary precisely because man could NOT worship in spirit–are no longer necessary. This “new wine” is more restrictive in terms of WHO can draw near to God, but it is amazingly liberating in terms of HOW we can draw near to Him. “Spirit and truth”. Those are the restrictions on worship today. Do you suppose that, if we all started using “Spirit and truth” as the only lens through which we see one another’s worship styles, we might learn some things about how we can draw near to God TOGETHER?

Just asking.

© Blake Coffee

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