Old Wine Skins

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

Psalm 137:1-6(7-9), 144 (Morning)
Psalm 104 (Evening)
Jer. 35:1-19
1 Cor. 12:27-13:3
Matt. 9:35-10:4

Old Wine Skins

In the last one hundred and fifty years the face of the world has changed dramatically. Our understanding of science, our ability to identify and cure medical conditions, even the ways we communicate with one another have all been revolutionized many times over. There is a definite good in all these things. And yet even as our social networks connect us in ways unfathomable a generation ago, the strain and polarization in our society seems to have heightened, not defused, in that same time period.

It’s tempting to think that what the world needs might be found in the next great idea: a new piece of technology, a new way of sharing information, a new business venture, a new “take down” on the internet, etc. Of course there is value in “dreaming big” and each of us has benefited from this kind of creativity, but perhaps what is truly missing in our world will not be found in something we have yet to make, not found in something we have yet to think, not found in something “new.”

Part of Jesus’ ministry was brining the disciples into a relationship with God founded wholly in the recognition of and participation in God’s insatiable love and mercy. For Jesus the hard work we have to do is found in the eternal journey of coming to better understand ourselves, the neighborhood of humanity we live in, and in better understanding how all of that is connected in God. Understanding ourselves and others not as condemned but as loved. To think of every creature as a heavenly creature, loved and created by God. There is simplicity in this; nevertheless, it’s a way of living that demands vigilance. A constant return to a simple, all encompassing principle. To listen. To imagine. To reshape. To let God’s love transform us day after day.

This is work that requires patience, quietness, prayer. It’s an activity technology cannot solve for us. It isn’t a market problem. It isn’t a thing waiting to be unlocked by others. It’s hard, hard work, that we alone—both collectively and individually—can do. We do it by receiving anxiety and returning peace, we do it by receiving anger and returning kindness, we do it by receiving inattention and returning presence, we do it by receiving violence and returning forgiveness. There are a million reasons not to do these things. A million reasons to return violence with condemnation. But for Jesus true reconciliation—true love—knows no other way.

And it is for this that Jesus says in today’s gospel, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” And it is for this that Jesus sends out his disciples to call the world back to himself. Back to love. Back to mercy. Back to life in God.

Written by Joshua Daniel, Ph.D.

Joshua is serving as St. Paul’s seminarian at Virginia Theological Seminary, where he (God willing) is in his final year of graduate school. Before moving to seminary with his family he worked as the chaplain at St. Martin’s University Center and in the Philosophy Department at the University of Arkansas, where he received his Ph.D. In Virginia, his wife, Jenna, has worked part time running her essential oil business, and full time meeting and anticipating the spiritual, physical, and emotional needs and well being of the many creatures living with her: Ruby (now aged 3), Jude (now aged 7 and in the 2nd grade), and her often occupied—and in much need of love and grace—husband.

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