"no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskings will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking the old wine wants the new, for he says, "The old is better.'" (Luke 5: 37-38)
"I wish we could go back to the way this country was in the 50's!" I hear statements like that a lot. Our minds have an incredible ability to be selective about what we remember. Sure, some things were better back then. Abortion wasn't much of an issue. And movies and TV weren't so saturated with things not fit for Christian eyes and ears. Gay rights? Back then, that referred to our right as Americans to be happy.
We do the same thing in the church. Folks in my tradition are fond of saying, "I sure wish we could go back to the 'good-ole days.' You know -- like back in the 60's when we were the fastest growing religious body in America." True. But how about our sectarian spirit that led to a fortress mentality? And how about our lack of mercy to those who were "sinners." And how about the splits over such crucial issues as kitchens in the building, songbooks, bible classes, whether we can pool our resources to support the fatherless, etc, etc, etc. And don't forget racism -- of which we in the church stand tried and convicted.
I think what Jesus is saying is that the good-ole days are like some of my flannel pants I wear around the house. They have been worn so long that they are soft and comfortable. But they are also threadbare -- and may soon have to be replaced. And there is a discomfort associated with the new. It takes some getting used to. We have to adjust our habits and our thinking. We have to stretch ourselves.
What the past holds is nice for reminiscing and for learning lessons from. But what the future holds is challenging and full of potential. It's in the new that we are stretched. It's in the new that we grow.