“Rediscover” the New Wineskins

Diane Eaton

The headline We Need to Create New Wineskins (Renewal News, summer 2020, p. 2) caught my attention. It seems theologically inaccurate, for Christ Himself created the New Wineskin. The best we can do is design new versions of the old wineskin. But that can’t hold the “wine” Christ offers to cure the root heart malady. Thus it rejects God’s program. We’d be more honest in declaring: We need to RE-DISCOVER the New Wineskins. We need to rediscover the Saviour, to be re-evangelized ourselves.

Prodigal Son
The Prodigal Son

Recently, I showed my preteen granddaughters Rembrandt’s famous art piece, “The Return of the Prodigal Son” (pictured on this page.) You’ll know that parable, where Jesus essentially contrasts old and new wineskin theologies. I asked the girls to examine Rembrandt’s use of light and describe where the light drew their eyes. They saw it instantly: It’s the Father’s hands pressed affectionately into His returning son’s back. The shabby son is seen collapsed to his knees burying his head in the Father’s bosom. Nearby stands his upright elder brother, well-dressed, staunch, and disapproving. He portrays the religious community who had put their trust the old wineskin – the forms, traditions, edifices, their “orthodoxy”, etc.

The elder brother still portrays those zealous for purity and orthodoxy but deficient in the experience of redemptive grace.

This could be our own problem, why we say so little about New Wineskin promises and focus so much on rips in the old wineskin. Oh sure, current worldly trends contribute to the collapse of our PCC, but so do our own deficits as conservatives.

My granddaughters are unchurched and totally immersed in the “younger brother” worldview: freedom from the past, free morality, etc. I want the girls to know NOW that, no matter what happens with them, there is a heavenly Father who welcomes returning prodigals and offers new Life in Christ. I pray that God shields these girls from two predominant types of religious folk: those who focus primarily on impurities and those who deny or absolve those impurities. Both ways bypass the Saviour as the author of abundant New Life.

I’m convinced that Renewal Fellowship, like Rembrandt, should consistently paint the strongest light where it belongs: on Christ’s hope for sinners — whether these lost ones be unchurched or churched, liberal or conservative, them or us. Otherwise we’re orthodox and evangelical merely in self-claim.

God intends us to be Light in the darkness. That requires us personally and collectively to abandon our self- righteous bents and face our own spiritual/theological bankruptcy. Seek “the Great Pearl” of far greater value than any denomination, including the PCC. That’s how we can move on — to become effective agents of renewal rather than ineffective reactionaries of polarized issues.

Here’s the question: How do we want to be remembered tomorrow by the lost prodigals of today? And is that why we talk more about institutional issues than represents all those who had never experienced the “New Wineskin”.

This was the son who had gone the way of worldliness and apostasy.