The back yard at 3201 Orchid Drive, Pine Bluff, Arkansas seemed epic. I could play for hours ranging between the chain link fences. On one side, I ran the fence with the Hunsacker’s little beige pug whose entire lower half shook with doggy joy. On the other side I watched the gruff guy working on his boat, always with a can of Schlitz balanced close to hand, always just a tad threatening.
At the far back side of the yard, on the other side of the fence, was a curious tangled mess of stacked pallets, old tricycles and a rusty grill or two. I could see neither over nor through the pile, covered as it was by weeds and old leaves and dead branches.
I was five or six or seven. I was curious about the house behind my grandparent’s home the way Scout, Jem and Dill were curious about the Radley place in ‘To Kill A Mockingbird.’ One summer evening courage was summoned to spend the night in a tent—camping out!—in the back yard. If memory serves, I may have made it till 10pm before coming back inside.
The house was 1,161 square feet built on a 65’ x 125’ lot. The epic back yard was smaller than our sanctuary. But I felt safe. My Grandmother’s sweet ice tea and comforting chicken & dumplings sustained me. The fences protected me.
Following Jesus offers neither the physical protection of chain link fences nor the relational comfort of Grandmother’s dumplings. Following Jesus requires of us a child-like faith and vulnerability. It also requires we grow up.
... from Luke 5.36-39
He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it 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, for he says, ‘The old is good.’”
Jesus uses the analogies of old wineskins and old cloths. Jesus compares relationships. Growing to be like Jesus is like being sewn as new cloth or like being filled with new wine. Jesus teaches new cloth and new wine need new attachments or else damage is done all around.
Growing to be like Jesus means the way we look at ourselves and the world must change. God has changed me. Grace, forgiveness, realizing I am the recipient of a radical mercy: all this makes me a different person. Physically that back yard would now be small and limiting.
Spiritually I gladly accept the joys of freedom in Christ. As a disciple of Jesus I must humbly accept the commitments of following Him. His new wine poured into my new skin. His new cloth sewn into the fabric of my new life.