January 4

January 4, 2021
by: Gabriel Tseng
“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people 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.” 
– Matthew 9:17
How do you mark the passage of time? Is it the seasons changing, the creakiness in your bones, or the realisation of life suddenly being different somehow. There’s an adjustment of sorts in how we live and how we function. Activities that were normal are done less frequently and old acquaintances are forgot, we shed and we endeavour to grow as the Lord trims from us what is unnecessary and gives us what we need. 

The terms used for “new” wine and “new” wineskins are neo  and kainos. The wine has never before been made. It needs to ferment a bit and age. The wineskins are new, and in contrast to older wineskins, they are able to stretch because that is what they are designed to do. If it’s an older or used wineskins, it will burst if filled with new wine because it has already stretched out. Kainos means new in kind, or an updated version. 

I’ve longed for things past to be present again. Friends passed and gone, I wonder and daydream what they might look like these days. When I go to old coffee shops I frequented before and sit outside, I remember that this building or that building were different stores. I remember the conversations I’ve had sitting across that coffee stained table. I long at times for days past, for life to be updated or to be rolled back to those simpler Kainos moments. The Lord often gently nudges me to move forward and to look at the things renewed. 

Coming from a family affected by divorce, it was only a few years ago that something profoundly strange happened at the holiday dinner table. My parents, who have had a Cold War for many long brutal years, beckoned by the call of their children and new grandchildren, they both sat down at the table, opposite ends to avoid eye contact and surrounded by plenty of “others” to speak with. It was an odd moment to me, knowing that a youthful prayer of mine as a child, only knowing of Jesus in a flippant manner, I had asked the Lord for them not to get divorced. The little child within me rose up slightly to announce, “this is weird,” as we all sat down at the table. I vividly remember that night as I struggled between wanting my family put back together again and the truth that God was doing something completely new. 

With each successive year, part of me longs for an updated version of my broken family. With each successive year, I am reminded that while the picture evolves, some consequences of brokenness in this world are irreparable. There may be no closure on that end but only continued prayer. I look at my own family now, and I find a home desirous of serving and following Jesus, I see not only an updated family of my past, but a new family of God’s making. I had often asked, “How could I be a godly man if my father is not?” or “How could I be in a family that loves and serves the Lord, if my family of origin did not?” The uncomfortable, yet satisfying answer is that He is doing something neo, not an updated version of the past, but a new creation all together. 

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