Today’s Reading | Luke 5:33–39
Then they said to him, “John’s disciples, like the disciples of the Pharisees, frequently fast and pray, but your disciples eat and drink. Jesus said to them, “You cannot make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? The days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and sews it on an old garment; otherwise the new will be torn, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, ‘The old is good.’” (NRSV)
Sometimes I wonder if we Christian folks wrestle with expressing joy. We don’t always seem to “do” joy very well. We do perseverance. We do struggle. We do service. We even do love, but joy? Joy can sometimes be hard for us. Perhaps it is our Puritan Calvinist heritage coming out, but we—Presbyterian Christians—tend to be quite serious, especially in church. Joy just seems to be a hard emotion for us to corporately express.
Apparently people in Jesus’ day struggled with expressing joy in their religious practice too. “Why don’t your disciples take their following of you, their discipleship more seriously, Jesus?” the serious religious people asked him. “The disciples of the Pharisees fast. John the Baptist’s disciples fast. But your disciples eat and drink and express joy. What is wrong with them?”
In response, Jesus basically tells them there will be plenty of time for seriousness as they move into the future. But while he is there, flesh and blood amongst them, he was not about to limit their expressions of joy and sense of the fullness of life. It was time for a new thing, a new wine, a new cloth. And he was not going to stand in their way of fully embracing it all.
One of my favorite artistic interpretations of Jesus is the “Laughing Jesus” picture. In it, Jesus has thrown back his head, his mouth wide open, eyes crinkled shut, in full-blown laughter. He radiates complete and total joy. I can easily see Jesus having that raucous reaction after telling this parable. How might we, then, open ourselves to experience something similar—the joy of following Jesus?
Laughing and loving God, I can forget that your joy is a current that undergirds us. Even at the moment of creation, you took joy in what you made. Help me, O God, feel your joy and express that joy in my own life. Make me into a fresh wineskin so I can hold all the love and joy that you continuously pour out. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.