Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Old and The New

Matthew 9:14-17

Mid-March and the snow remains.
Usually I hate change.  This winter, however, the change of season can't come fast enough. Jersey suffered through storm after storm, with the snow piles so high, we despaired of them ever melting away.  Even at mid-March, see how the snow remains in my front yard?  Deep, dirty, cold snow, making the landscape gray and sidewalks impassible.  This season, I am more than ready for change!

However, change can be unpleasant.  More often, it is a mix of good and bad.  How I enjoy the calm in my home since my daughter and her son moved out! And yet, I miss the commotion of Gio's boundless chatter and energetic ramblings through our home. 

Jesus' entrance on to the pages of history introduced an enormous change for the Jews of His day.  Not only the judgmental types, but for all who followed the traditions.

Then the followers of John the Baptist came to Jesus. They asked, "Why do we and the proud religious law-keepers many times go without food so we can pray better? But Your followers never go without food so they can pray better." 

An honest question from men who loved God and sincerely followed the Law. So Jesus answered them with an example to help them understand. 

Can the friends at a wedding be sorry when the man just married is with them? But the days will come when the man just married will be taken from them. Then they will not eat food so they can pray better. 

There is nothing wrong with prayer and avoiding food to pray better.  But for the followers of Jesus, He was still with them and their joy was full experiencing His miracles and hearing Him teach. It was not the season of sorrow, not yet.  That time will come after Jesus returns to heaven.

That is the problem with rules. Life is too complicated for lists. Over generation, Jewish religious leaders had made their own lists from the teachings of Moses (first five books of the Bible), with good motives.  They started by answering honest questions by making the rules more exact. But in the process, they ended up with a list too long for anyone to follow. In the process of refining and teaching their lists, they lost track of the God who gave them His Law to bless them and keep them close to Him.  Their lists of laws became like the snow that covered New Jersey this winter: deep, cold, dirty, making life exhausting.

No one sews a piece of new cloth on an old coat, because if the new piece pulls away, it makes the hole bigger. Men do not put new wine into old skin bags. If they did, the skins would break and the wine would run out. The bags would be no good. They put new wine into new skin bags and both can be used.

Jesus had no intention of amending the lists of Laws that had evolved over the years into Jewish tradition. That would be like using a fine silk scarf to patch old work clothes, as The Message translation paraphrases. Jesus intended to start over.

Starting over is difficult. Especially for a woman like me who hates change. Even positive transitions are uncomfortable as I get used to a new situation. But when I trust that Jesus is with me, in me, in charge of my small little life as well as the universe, I can take a deep breath and make the first step into the unknown. That's all I need too.  Faith for the next step.  And then He is right there, with me, helping me with the next one. If I try to see the whole picture, plan the whole thing out, make a list of all the contingencies, I get exhausted and afraid.  But when I focus on His sweet face, and take just the next step, then I have the courage to go on.

Right now the big transition for me is seeing my daughter and grandson go off on their own. It is time, it is good, but it is new, and so it is uncomfortable, but as I hold onto Jesus, He helps me take the next step.

Isn't that Jesus' point anyway? He wants us to draw close to Him, not merely make lists and make sure we follow them!

When we choose to follow Jesus, He has no intention of making a small change in our life. He will not stay in the corner.  His influence will not only be seen on Sundays or in certain seasons of our lives.  No, Jesus is intending to take over.  He will make us brand new. And then, season by season He brings us through changing seasons. His point, His goal, is always to keep us close to Him.

Please Jesus, stay close to me as I begin the empty nest season. Allow me to see the goodness in it and find ways to be a blessing with what You have put in my hand at this time.   

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