Many religious expressions come from a deep and rich tradition, and with that comes an assortment of books, songs, sacred space and practices. These are tools or, if you will, a means to connect with God. I am all for these things to the extent that they continue to connect folks to a meaningful experience with God and don't become hard lines for tribalism in the name of orthodoxy. Sometimes, we hang on to these things long after they stop connecting us in a meaningful way.
This can be a problem.
Our religious tools are a means to an end, and when the tools no longer work, they need to be updated or sometimes thrown out and replaced with better tools. It is a problem when we substitute the tradition, building, liturgy, books, songs and practices for God. It is tragic when the practice, building or creed becomes the god.
Jesus, the master of the metaphor, used the example of the common tool of a wineskin and a common drink - wine - to bring this idea home. Jesus talks about wineskins and how over time, they get rigid, dry and cracked. They are certainly unable to hold any new wine. The wineskin isn’t the main thing. The wine is. A wineskin is just a tool, and when the tool no longer serves the purpose, it’s time for a new tool.
It is a fact of life for religious structures, practices and liturgy, and wineskins alike that that which they were once created for, over time, lose their ability to do so, they become rigid, they draw lines in the sand, confuse their way of doing church with the only way of following Jesus. They often choose the well-being of the structures over the very things the structures are to serve.
To repeat it - the wineskin exists to serve the wine. We get into trouble when these are reversed.
So in the shadow of edicts from paper kingdoms, there is an opportunity to dream, an invitation to prophetic imagination.
Perhaps a new wineskin, a new faith movement that is birthed from a fresh, radical encounter with the God-who-is-love, is robust relationally, courageously inclusive and peace-making, and catalyst for organic love inspired community.