Response to Diane Eaton’s comment
In We Need to Create New Wineskins, I had written about PCC clergy being able to recover Biblical marriage within the context of a new “wineskin”. Creating a new wineskin is not foreign to the PCC. It was done in 1875 and in 1925 when there was a resetting of a basis for common unity through the creation of new formal structural unions. Many of us have been lamenting the “diluting of the wine” in the PCC and I concur with Diane that the primary need for all of us is to “face our own spiritual/theological bankruptcy” and to “rediscover the Saviour.” When it comes to a thorough spiritual self-examination, few are more grindingly honest than William Beveridge: “I cannot pray but I sin. I cannot preach or hear a sermon, but I sin. I cannot give alms or receive the sacrament, but I sin. I can’t so much as confess my sins, but my confessions are further aggravations of them. My repentance needs to be repented of, my tears need washing, and the very washing of my tears needs still to be washed over again with the blood of my Redeemer.”
Wine and wineskin are of course just metaphors. At the Cana wedding, Jesus is the “new wine”, the best offered last. Jesus forewarns that this new wine will burst the old wineskin of Judaism. Good metaphors reflect reality. Jesus uses metaphor and stories to reflect the realities of life and especially of what God is like. I, too, like the story of the Lost Son. In fact, I now see that Henri Nouwen’s book, The Return of the Prodigal is missing again from my library. I have been in the habit of lending out copies. And I have a file of 8×12 copies of Rembrandt’s painting to hand out to seekers that they also might return home. A large copy of his interpretation hangs on the back wall of the church I attend. I, too, love the hands. Such is the God. One is larger and firmly holds the son close while the smaller one tenderly comforts. This parable is one of three told by Christ to answer the question of why He eats with sinners. They are about God seeking lost sheep and a lost coin. Then there is a lost son — but nobody went out looking for the lost son. He had to come to his senses. It was the task of the standoffish elder brother to seek, but he only did his duty and was, as you say, “deficient in his experience of redemptive grace.” We in PCC organizations, such as The Renewal Fellowship and PSALT, are sometimes unfairly typecast as “elder brothers” or to use your words, “ineffective reactionaries of polarized issues.” We are actually kneeling in prayer and standing up for a recovery in the PCC of a lost gospel. Things get lost. People get lost. I share with you an active desire that the essential message of “Christ’s hope for sinners” be not lost from our pulpits.
Christ calls us to go forth seeking the lost. But our culture now mandates that no one is lost, no one is right, no one is wrong. All lifestyles must be endorsed. But a society that tries to say “yes” to everything eventually implodes. So, too, will a church. The PCC is in danger of saying an unbiblical “yes” re: human sexuality/marriage, so many of us are now having to point to where God says “no” in His Word and to explain why God’s “yes” is best and life-giving. It is possible to see the good and the love of God not just in His “yes” but also when His Word says “no.” If the Word of God is accepted in repentance and humility, it starts the process of a life changed for the good, for now and for eternity.