A Jesus For People Today
Pastor Duane Smets
April 23rd, 2017
I. Good Parties
II. Good Style
III. Good Wine
Good morning everyone. It’s great to be with you all today. If you came last week for Easter for the first time and decided to come back today, I want to say welcome back! We’re stoked you’re here. Likewise, even if you didn’t come last week for Easter but have come today, we’re really glad you’ve come. My name is Duane, I’m the preaching pastor here. I’m one of six pastors, who all serve equally together under our head pastor here, Jesus Christ.
This year as a church we’re trying to get to know and understand Jesus and His call for us to engage the people in our city, so we’ve been reading and learning together from the book of Luke in the Bible that tells His story. We’ve had a couple weeks off it with Easter last week and then our Palm Sunday prayer and song service.
Today we’re back at it and the passage we’re going to look at is this section where Jesus, in response to a question some dudes ask, ends up using these three little analogies to speak about the unchanging freshness and joy that comes from following Him and having His presence in our lives.
What He gets at is how He is always new, always good and can’t be compared or combined with anything else.
A few years ago I was by myself on a train in Portugal. I was backpacking through Europe surfing up the coasts of Portugal and Spain and was trying to get to this town where I could catch a bus to this little coast village that has this sweet, perfectly breaking A-frame wave. It’s good.
I was on the train and a guy about my age at the time, maybe a little older, walks up to me and offers to sell me some hash heesh. If you don’t know what that is, it’s basically concentrated weed. The stuff that makes weed good, THC is sucked out melted down into what usually looks like a tootsie roll that you then smoke. I’ve had it before. It’s good.
So he offers me this hash heesh. I declined. I told him I was all good on that. But then told him I had something I wanted to sell him, for free. And I offered him a Bible. He took it and we got into a very interesting discussion.
He’d never read the Bible before and asked me something I’ll never forget. He said, “You mean you believe in God and Jesus and all that stuff? I thought they disproved all that stuff. You’re the first person I’ve ever met who still actually believes there’s a God.”
I said, “Yeah, I’d never read the Bible before too but when I started reading about Jesus it astounded me because the things Jesus said seemed so relevant to me, like He was speaking directly to me and my life.”
We kept talking and I learned that for him, like most Europeans, God is a church building representing a history of political manipulation. But he was interested in Jesus and why I liked and believed in Jesus. We kept talking and I almost missed my stop and had to hurry off as he shook my hand and said he’d definitely read the Bible.
When it comes to Jesus there is something about Him, what He says about life and what He offers that is always new, refreshing and relevant to every person no matter where they are or what time they live in. Jesus is the newness that we long for and He never gets old.
No matter how much culture and society changes, Jesus will always be relevant. For example, hardly any of you bring Bible to church anymore right? Because we all have it on our phones. But the person and message of Jesus is unchanging and still hits us right where we’re at.
Jesus is always new and always good. I was trying to think of a sort of summary take home line for us today and this is what I came up with… Jesus is so fresh and so new. That’s my sermon today. The title is “A Jesus For Today” and what I’m hoping we’ll learn and remember is that “Jesus is so fresh and so new.”
With that, let’s go ahead and read this story. Since it’s in the Bible, which makes it part of God’s Holy Word, let’s all stand in honor of that. I’ll read it, declare it as God’s Word, we’ll thank Him for it and then I’ll pray over it.
And they said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.” And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’” – Luke 5:33-39
• Pastoral Declaration: This is the Word of the Lord.
• Congregational Response: Thanks Be To God.
• Pastoral Prayer
Alright. I’ve got three points to walk through from this text today, “Good Parties”, “Good Style” and “Good Wine.” Let’s jump right into our first point for today, “Good Parties.”
I. Good Parties
Verse 33 sets up this whole discussion with Jesus, where some guys sort of ask Jesus question, it’s kind of half question half accusation. “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.”
In the scene right before this Jesus had been at a party this former thug who ripped off people’s money for Jesus. This thug named Matthew was so stoked Jesus would accept, welcome and forgive him that he threw this wild party in honor of Jesus.
A bunch of the religious leaders hear about it and are pretty torked. These religious leaders are basically like really stuffy Christians or church leaders who think they are better than everyone else, always looking down on others and judging them.
So they bring up John. John was Jesus’ cousin, who was a preacher too. But John was kind of a different breed. He was super hardcore. He only wore a loincloth, only ever ate locust and honey, was fasting and praying all the time, very serious. The religious leaders didn’t like him either. They thought he was too weird and hardcore and actually accused him of being into demonic witchcraft (Luke 7:34).
But here they try to compare Jesus and John. Which by the way is never a good idea. 2 Corinthians 10:12 says “(Those) who compare themselves with one another are not wise.” I fear that’s a lot of what goes on with all the social media posting and viewing. Comparing comparing comparing. It’s not a good route to go. It’ll eat away at your soul and destroy you. Only God can give us the approval we long for. There’s no amount of clicks and likes that can compare to His.
Anyway, these guys compare Jesus and John and say John’s disciples fast and pray all the time but Jesus your disciples eat and drink all the time. Well, obviously everyone eats and drinks. What they’re getting at is that Jesus and His disciples always seem like they’re having a good time. Eat and drink here is likely an accusation of gluttony and drunkenness. They’ll bring this up again in Luke 7:34 they straight out accuse Jesus of being “a glutton and a drunkard.” Basically, they don’t like it that Jesus likes to party.
The way Jesus responds to this is by talking about weddings. What was the last wedding you went to? The ceremonies of most weddings today are short right, but what’s after the wedding? The party!!! Eating, drinking, dancing…a good, joyous time, to celebrate the couple being married.
Back then, weddings were such a big deal and such a joyous occasion that there was a whole week of festivities and it was required that people break any fasts and that no one would be present who was in mourning.
Pharisees, these religious leaders, typically fasted (which is not eating food) twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays. And the reason they fasted was because non-consumption of food was a sign of dissatisfaction with the present and was seen as a very holy practice that would perhaps maybe make God act to change things.
At the party of Matthew’s house Jesus called Himself a doctor. Now here in verse Jesus calls Himself a groom. He’s the bridegroom and all His followers His special guests. So time with Him is a time for great joy and celebration. Life following Him is akin to the wedding week.
Jesus does two things here by saying this. One, He’s calling Himself God in the flesh. Considering God as the groom and His people as the bride was a longstanding way that Jewish people viewed God. There’s at least one whole book of the Bible dedicated to this analogy, the book of Hosea. Two, if you consider Song of Songs to be the same. On top of it there are several passages in the Bible that plain out say this. I just show you one.
“Your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is His name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth He is called. For the Lord has called you like a wife.” - Isaiah 54:5-6
Pretty clear right. So Jesus in calling Himself the groom of the wedding party is saying He’s the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel who has come to redeem His people.
The second thing Jesus is doing here by saying this is that because He the groom has come and has come as God in the flesh, there’s is reason to party! If there was ever a cause or reason to party it’s because God has come.
God coming in Jesus is a sign that God has heard the prayers of the people and now it’s time to thank Him, celebrate that and enjoy His presence. To be a follower of Jesus is to enter into a happy life of joy.
It’s joy because though we’ve been dirtied and uglier by our sins and the sins done to us, Jesus sees us as a beautiful bride and welcomes us in. He redeems us leads us in a life of freedom and gladness.
Romans 14:17 says it this way, “The kingdom [living life following Jesus as king] is a matter of righteousness [we’re right with God ]and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit!”
Too often, we think of being a Christian or being a part of a church as this sober, sad, serious thing. Like what it means it to always be going around confessing our sin, feeling bad about ourselves and then going to church to try to make up for it.
That’s not Jesus’ idea of church or being a Christian. His idea is “it’s a party.” Jesus likes to party. The new life He gives is reason to party. And good parties never get old.
My kids always have my wife put together these themed parties. So my middle daughter just had her sixth birthday. She had a trolls party. And you know what my kids do, literally the next day after their party. They start planning their next one. It’s ridiculous. Now they got me going on it. We did an 80’s beach party theme for my birthday last year and now I’m thinking about what kind to do this year. I’m thinking maybe a boat themed party. You know with like captain hats and boat shoes???
The point is Jesus’ presence in our lives and our church brings us joy. Are you experiencing that freedom and joy in your life? Are you experiencing it in our church?
This is seriously my vision for our church, parties. We ought to be partying all the time. Celebrating birthdays. New babies. New marriages. New houses. Any reason to party. Because we have Jesus in our lives, everything is a gift of God and is meaningful and joyous.
And by the way, it’s one of the best ways we can welcome in people who might be turned off to God and or church but might be interested in Jesus…to have parties and invite people to them to experience the joy and the life we have together in Christ.
Jesus is the newness that we long for and He never gets old. His parties never get old. Jesus is so fresh and so new.
Alright. Let’s move on from parties and talk about clothes in our second point, “Good Style.”
II. Good Style
The next illustration Jesus brings up in response to their question slash accusation is in verse 36 where He says, “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old.”
With this clothing analogy, Jesus points out that cutting off a piece of old clothing and sewing it to a new piece of clothing is both unfunctional and ugly. It’s unfunctional because it’ll just tear and it’s ugly because it won’t match.
When was the last time you got new clothes? Do you guys like getting new clothes? So confession. I’m kind of into style and fashion. I subscribe to GQ. I like to look good. I probably tried on ten different combinations for my Easter outfit last week.
But I don’t feel bad about it because Jesus said here that matching is important. Right?
Jesus point here is really about syncretism. He is the new clothes and His clothes are so good that they always stay new and can’t be combined with any others.
You see what happens after you get anything new? Like, say a new car. When you first get it, you’re so stoked on it. It has the new car smell. The paint is nice and fresh. Everything inside is all clean. But after awhile, the smell wears off, the paint starts to fade, the windows get dirty, dust gets all over the dash and the interior gets dirt and trash on it. And then it doesn’t feel so new and exciting anymore.
Jesus isn’t like that. He gives new clothes that never get old and because of that they are unlike any other article of clothing and cannot be combined with anything else.
That’s what syncretism is. Syncretism is the blending of two or more religious beliefs.
My wife’s uncle is a Christian missionary in Paraguay. When we’ve had family reunions he’s told me that syncretism is one of their most difficult challenges because they will have some people seemingly convert, start coming to church and reading the Bible. But they’ll still go to the witchdoctor when they're sick.
So they’ve really only added Jesus on as another god or belief in their life and failed to see how the newness and wholeness of Jesus fulfills and replaces everything.
But syncretism isn’t something that just happens in a far away country. In many ways, it’s the challenge of our lives. We are so easily influenced by the world’s ideas and values that we are easily led astray to start thinking it’s values and ideas are right and good, so we start trying to incorporate them into our Christian beliefs. But the problem is what results ceases to be Christianity at all.
I wanted to use a quote on this and looked through ten different books of mine on this. The best one, in my opinion, was and still is one of the best things I’ve read on syncretism in our culture, from the book Radical Reformission: Reaching Out Without Selling Out by Mark Driscoll. I hesitated using it because I know some people have issues with Driscoll. But God spoke through an ass in the Bible one time, so even if you think Driscoll’s an ass, he still wrote some pretty good things. Here’s what he says,
“Syncretism simply baptizes unscriptural beliefs in the name of limp-wristed relevance, social progress, being nice, and making a good nonjudgmental impression. Syncretism inevitably dissolves into a universalism in which God loves everyone, and will forgive everyone’s sins and take everyone to heaven because he simply lacks the courage to judge anyone.
Syncretists believe that the hearts of people aren’t that bad, their actions aren’t that sinful, and since people are doing the best they can, we can’t expect any sort of radical transformation, and so we should simply bless them with a sentimental love. Syncretists love their neighbor but fail to love God.”
What Jesus offers and gives is a new life and joy that can only be found in and through Him and not in combination with anything else. You can’t take pieces of Jesus and patch Him onto other old parts of your life.
Jesus gives us new clothes. The people of Jesus’ day thought that by wearing the right clothes on the right days and doing the right thing could make people right with God. But that religion fails. It fails because no matter how hard we try we fail and we could never do enough right to make up for all the wrong.
Jesus came to free us from those burdensome clothes…from the pressure and the stress of trying to do everything right. Those clothes are unfunctional and ugly. It doesn’t work and it just makes us look bad over and over again.
Jesus comes and gives us new clothes. His clothes. His perfect robes of righteousness covers us, making us right with God and giving us great joy. Here’s how the Bible says it in Isaiah 61:10 “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation; He has covered me with the robe of righteousness.”
Isn’t that beautiful and wonderful? Do you get it? The new clothes Jesus gives us? Are you wearing the new clothes? Or do you keep putting on the old ugly stuff? Have you been trying to patch them together and it’s not working?
Are there some things in your life, either some ideas or some practices you know it’s time to let go of because they’re incompatible with Jesus and because what He gives is better?
Jesus is the newness that we long for and He never gets old. His clothes never get old. Jesus is so fresh and so new.
Well, let’s move onto our final point for today, “Good Wine.”
III. Good Wine
In Jesus’ final illustration in response to these guys questions and concerns about Him, He addresses their concern about drinking. These guys think you can earn favor with God by doing everything right want to know why Jesus seems so loose with drinking wine. Jesus answers but answers address a far deeper issue about who He is, the significance of His coming and His mission on earth.
Back then they didn’t use bottles for wine but used the skin of small animals. They’d shave off the hair and then sew it together, using the neck as the spout that they’d tie off after pouring.
Now back then, like today, the older a wine was the better it was. The reason is what happens with wine over time is it ferments and the flavor gets richer and fuller. The older the wine, the more you can taste the subtleties of the grape and the vine and the dirt it grew in.
Over time too as wine ferments, it’s alcohol percentage goes up. What happens then is the alcohol would cause the wineskin to expand. If you leave it in there, it’s okay as it reaches a stasis. But if you take new wine and already put it into an old, already expanded wineskin, the skin is already stretched to the max and it’ll make it burst.
So side note, if you ever heard the wine they drank in Bible times didn’t have alcohol in it, this is a clear indication that it did and that’s just a silly idea. The book to read on it if you wanna study all this stuff more is, God Gave Wine: What The Bible Says About Alcohol by Kenneth Gentry.
In the last analogy Jesus compared Himself to new clothes, now He says He’s new wine. The old wineskins are the old way of doing things and related to God. Now He has come, Jesus says everything has changed. Jesus’ coming signaled an epoch, era changing moment in the history of God’s relationship to His people.
What Jesus is saying here is that God sent Him to initiate something new and who He is and what He came to do didn’t fit within all the Judaic restrictions and guidelines these guys had set up. It’s the same God and same core belief, that salvation comes by grace through faith which results in loving God and loving others. But how that looks and how that’s applied is completely and entirely different.
The shift and the change with Jesus coming is so big it requires a whole new wineskin. The Judaic system cannot contain it, which is why Jesus started the church.
The principle inherent in what Jesus is saying is that the newness He brings requires constant adaptation and flexibility. In the last point with clothes He addressed syncretism. In this point, He’s addressing the opposite error of sectarianism calling His followers to contextualize.
You see sometimes in the concern to avoid syncretism what people then do is try to build up a lot of rules to protect against any corruption. But in so doing they fail to connect with people. The unchanging Gospel and truth of God must be applied and communicated in and through a culture that is constantly changing. It’s a call to engage and not withdraw.
Sectarianism is the religious separating off of a group from others in order to protect themselves from a perceived danger.
I already used Driscoll once so I might as well use him again. It’s from the same section of the book. Here’s what he says about sectarianism:
“Sectarianism is the huddling up of God’s people to enjoy each other and Jesus without caring about anyone who is lost and dying outside Christ. Sectarianism inevitably leader to irrelevance and is unfaithful to Jesus’ prayer that we not leave this sick and dying world that does not know him.
While sectarians may cling to the gospel for their personal piety, they hide their light under a bushel. Eventually, sectarians become so dated and removed from people in the world that their churches are little more than museums dedicated to the past, with dumb reader boards outside that sound like silly telegraphs from an alien planet. Sectarians love God but fail to love their neighbor.”
When we look at Jesus what He did was contextualize. He came into a particular context, to a people of a place and time and He modeled His message and His ministry to communicate to them in ways they could understand in their culture.
Think about it. He’s God but He came as a man in order to connect with and save man. As a normal man, He had a normal human parents, Joseph and Mary. He had a normal human job. He wore a the fashion of the day, robes and sandals. He spoke the language of the people. And he used illustrations, stories and examples from their everyday life. Stuff like farming, weddings, clothes and wine. Jesus constantly contextualized.
The message never changed, it doesn’t but how He communicated it constantly changed based on who He was talking to. Leslie Newbigin in his book, “The Gospel In A Pluralist Society” describes it like a funnel. The Gospel, Jesus, comes down, through the funnel of culture, the wineskin, that then connects to the people creating what the church looks like in any given age.
Sadly, what happens too often in churches is that people get stuck on certain ways of doing things and they refuse to adapt or change and the result is that the church either splits or dies.
I mean church have fought over whether or not it’s right or okay to have musical instruments or whether we should just sing all sing a cappella. Churches have fought and split over pews, carpet, cross on the platform and all kinds of stuff. Today, people argue about whether we should use screens or video or special lights. Lots of times people will pick a church or leave the church based on whether or not they liked the music or if the service was too boring or too long. All that stuff is just wineskins.
To do what Jesus does Himself and calls His followers to do is to constantly be connecting to people and welcoming them in. This is something very important to us as a church.
Stylistically, we’re kind of a mix. We retain some of the formal elements of a traditional church service, with a Sunday and Sending Blessing, standing for the reading of God’s Word, Confession and Assurance and communion every week. But we have modern music, art, lights, videos and we use all kinds of technology. In many ways we’re old school, just dressed up in cool modern clothes. That’s contextualization.
So stylistically we contextualize. Relationally, we contextualize as well. it’s our desire to do everything we can to connect to the people of our culture and to welcome them in.
The truth is we are in a season of church where we have more new people who have become a part of our church than ever before. The face of our church in who the bulk of the people are is almost entirely different than it was two years ago. There are more people and the core people are different now.
That means we need to work extra hard at getting to know one another better and welcoming each other in. We don’t have a vision of a church of arriving at some stage and then thinking okay, that’s it. We got here and then just keep putting wine in that wineskin. It’s our hope and prayer that we will continue to grow and because of that have to change and adapt…keep pouring the new wine of Jesus into a new wineskin.
Is this making sense? All of our pastoral team and as a staff, we’ve been talking about this. That’s why one of the things we’re starting is this last Sunday of the month food truck Sunday. We want you to stay and hang around and get to know people. We want to do everything we can to provide space and time for those of you who maybe have seen yourself as an outsider looking into seeing yourself as an insider who belongs and see this as “your” church.
We have an official Connect Team, which if you’ve got a good smile and are comfortable being friendly to new people welcoming in people to church at the gate, they’d love to have you.
But what I’m essentially calling for is everyone to be on the Connect Team regardless of whether or not we’re on it. If you see someone who looks new, say Hi and ask them some simple questions…like, “What brought you today? Where do you live? What do you do for work?” Just be friendly. Invite out to lunch or coffee or for dinner or to go do something fun. Welcome people in.
Don’t become an old dried out wineskin. I’m not interested in us being a clubby church where it’s us four and no more. That’s not what Jesus is about. His wine is too good to hoard all for ourselves. Let’s welcome people in and through that see Jesus continue to build His church. You guys with me?
Jesus likes wine. The new wine He gives is one that welcomes all kinds of people in and His wine truly gladdens the heart. His wine is always good. Jesus is so fresh and so new.
Well, the band is going to lead us in a few songs and then since Jesus likes wine so much we’re going to have some. It’s one of the things He said to do when we gather together.
He said we take some bread which is He said is His perfect life. Jesus was fully right, right with God, right with Himself, rightly handling Himself with others all the time. He was right, righteous in everyday. The bread is His righteous life that He gives to us who have not been right.
We take that bread and we dip it in the wine which He said is His blood shed on the cross for all the not right things and for His not right people. He paid the price for all our unrighteousness so it might be covered with His perfect robe of righteousness.
Jesus died and then He rose and now offers this robe of new life and joy to all who eat His bread and drink His wine. The core things men and women have been dealing with all throughout history have always been the same, our sin and brokenness and the need for a savior. Jesus is that savior. He’s the same yesterday, today and forever. He meets us where we are, makes us new and gives us His joy. So today we have great reason to celebrate as His people.
Why don’t you go ahead and stand with me and I’ll we’ll read our confession for today, have a short minute in reflection and then hear Jesus’ gracious words of pardon and assurance that welcome us to His table.