Every time I think of the scene in The Passion of the Christ where Jesus tells His mother, Mary, Behold, I am making all things new, I feel my heart lurch. This is the hope of the Christian, isn’t it? That the old life with its hurts, angers, and grief is now dead. Our new lives have begun in Christ. And yet, what a disappointment to wake up to find the old habits piled on oneself like a giant load of dirty laundry.
I believe that many pastors mean well when they tell us that we are new creations in Christ without mentioning the hard part. Even now, when I read that scripture from 2 Corinthians 5:17, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new, my hope is renewed.
But then I awaken to another day and the wilderness surrounds me. The manna I found yesterday is old and rotten. I must search for the new bread and the new wine. And to tell the truth, I resist the new, whether ways of thinking or doing things. The old is familiar and comforting. I know my way around. I have walked this desert before.
The parable of the new wineskins used to puzzle me. I reread the account again in Luke recently and the line, And no one having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better’, struck me afresh.
How strange the Kingdom of Heaven seems to the world. A kingdom where the spirit is stronger than the flesh and good deeds are as dirty rags. No wonder my soul tends towards the old wine. The old wine is realistic. The old wine has a list of my sins. Performance is rewarded and I want to be a good girl. The old wine doesn’t just give away approval. I have to earn it. I like to earn my keep.
In fact, the new wine doesn’t taste anything like the old. It’s hard to swallow and just as hard to digest. I fall easily into the old ways of acquisition and achievement. Loving my enemies and giving away my hard-earned stuff can’t be done in my strength. I have to get drunk on the new wine in order to even begin to worship in spirit and in truth.
How hard it must seem to new Christians when they try to force it down. The familiar thought patterns have to be abandoned for roads they have never traveled before. Every day. And we must gather our daily bread of life.
Making all things new.
This spring I watched as the seeds I planted forced their way through the soil. The new life had to make its way through the dark into the sunlight. And so too must we participate in the making of all things into the new. Newness of life isn’t magic. It must be enforced. Every thought that springs up must be evaluated in the light of the Gospel. The old ways of thinking must be plucked from the dark gardens of our subconscious.
The old ways are so much simpler. An eye for an eye. That lower level of justice appeals to my old nature. Now I have to turn the other cheek and count it all joy. My body has begun the slide towards old age and yet, on the inside, my spirit sings to her eternal Maker, joining His song to infinity. In order to make sense of this, I must live my life on several different layers of meaning. I am dead, yet alive in Christ. This makes no sense to those who have not yet entered into the Kingdom. And how nonsensical is the parable where everyone gets paid the same, no matter how long they labored?
This is a new justice. The justice that says, Come, eat of my body. Drink of my blood poured out for you for the remission of your sins. Atonement has been made but is so hard to accept! I don’t deserve it. I learned early to reject charity, to stand on my own. Now I must walk in the way of the dependent, living by every word that is spoken by the Father. How my old self-reliant soul chafes. Even now I ask everyone around me, Did I do it right? Did I do a good job? Was I a good girl?
Because I know I wasn’t. And yet, the Father of lights Himself lights my flame and turns it up to flare brighter in a dark world. Not from my fire but from His eternal blaze. He burns off the old, a wildfire burning through the deadwood forest of my heart so that the seeds He planted can take root and push their way into the day. And what He has sown, I get to reap.
Many are called but few choose the new. And it must be chosen every day. Every minute. Such a small choice it seems at the time. Will I hold on to that uncharitable thought? Will I judge my neighbor? Will I seek approval from a source other than my Father in heaven? Will I forgive my brother and sister, my enemy, and myself?
Something like scales fell from Paul’s eyes. He didn’t know what he didn’t know. The traditions he so avidly followed led him away from his own heart and ignored its very beat. He couldn’t see until he perceived. And neither can we. Many a Christian is disappointed in their lack of power, not realizing that the little seedling just newly birthed in their spirit has the power to crack the concrete of sin and death the world has laid over them.
So as you sojourn in this wilderness, as we all must, gather your manna faithfully each day. Nourish the new life growing inside of you. One day your body will break open like the hull of a seed. You, as a new creation, will see through the eyes of eternal life in which all things are always new for the old will have fully passed away.
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