Matthew 9:9-17 by Todd Burleson
You’ve heard it said: “No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made.”
But I say to you, “What are you doing patching old cloaks?!?! Donate that cloak to the Exodus coat drive* and go buy yourself a new one at TJ Maxx! Or even better, go thrifting!”
And you’ve heard it said: “No one puts new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are ruined, but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”
But I say to you, “What are you doing making your own wine?!?! Go get yourself some wine at the store...it’s only a couple of bucks! And if you’re going to put it somewhere, skip the wineskins—pour it in some glasses share it with some friends! And then go ahead and crack open that old bottle of wine too...it’s Friday for goodness sake!”**
Seriously, who has time to patch old clothes? But if you do, let me know because I have a few pairs of “holy” pants that should keep you occupied.
And who has time to home-brew their own beverages? I mean Len doesn’t really expect me to contribute apples for his batch of cider, right? I’m sure he really just needs me to help drink it once it’s ready? I should probably check-in with him and see if he has an estimated consumption date. That will show him I care. Boy, I am such a good friend. People are so lucky to have a friend like me...
Go and learn what this means, ‘I DESIRE MERCY, NOT SACRIFICE.’ For I have not come to call the righteous but sinners.
If I am not careful, it’s far too easy for me to stray from the Jesus way trail and find myself walking alongside the religious leaders in Matthew’s gospel, watching Jesus’ every move and rationalizing that my way must be synonymous with the way. And before I know it, my “righteousness” rings increasingly louder in my head as the call of Jesus becomes faint and distant.
Who was it that Jesus said he had come to call again?
I suppose the solution is to better cram Jesus’ way into my way? A few adjustments here and there should be sufficient—one more tool in the ol’ tool belt...that oughta do the trick! But wait...something must be wrong with this Jesus way--it doesn’t quite fit in my righteous tool belt. The shape is all wrong and it’s quite uncomfortable. Maybe it’s too heavy? And oh no...it’s starting to stretch and tear the leather pockets! Anybody out there able to patch tool belts?
But the way of Jesus is not a technique. It’s not a reform to a bigger and better religious system. Like new wine in old wineskins, it’s disruptive and volatile, and the former system cannot contain it.
Yet the way of Jesus also does not completely disregard the “old”. The new patch is carefully sewn to the old cloak, and the old wine is not discarded or wasted. God has not given up on the people of God; rather, Jesus is demonstrating the way of God to the people of God and calling them to repent (change their minds)—for the kingdom of God is breaking-in through Jesus!
This way of Jesus, however, must be embodied. And while sacrificial religious practices like fasting can be helpful, they can never supersede the call to love and mercy (as Jesus reminds religious leaders in Matt. 9:13 by alluding to Hosea 6). Jesus embodies this merciful and gracious love through his table fellowship with outsiders – tax collectors like Matthew and his “sinful” friends, the kind of people that did not fit within the current Jewish religious system. And much like a seamstress, he carefully and intentionally begins the slow process of joining what others once thought should always remain separate.
This revolutionary way of Jesus is not always efficient or productive. Sometimes it’s the difficult work of sitting and grieving with one another. Other times it’s celebrating and laughing together. And sometimes it’s rolling up our sleeves and accomplishing the task before us. It may often be slow and tedious like mending torn garments. Or it may require great patience, like waiting during the fermentation process. Regardless, whatever sacrifice is required should flow from the same love that God has been extended and displayed to us through Jesus, for sacrifice was never intended to be an end in itself.
The Kingdom of God is near...seamstresses and brewers welcome!
* Terms and conditions for the Exodus coat drive discourage donations of torn clothing. Eligible items include new (or gently used) coats, hats, gloves, and scarves. Financial gifts are also welcome (if giving online, please give to the Christmas Fund). Offer valid only at participating locations until 11/20/2022.)
** Englewood Christian church does not condone excessive alcohol use or “living for the weekend." Statements about uses of wine are intended to be jarring and generate cheap laughs and should not be taken literally. Pity laughs, eye rolls and head shakes will also be accepted.