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Today is episode 138: New Wineskins
Hi friends. Just a reminder that we have moved into our Substack era here at the Raised Catholic podcast, that’s the place where we get to be in conversation over the topics we cover here, and this week would be a great one for you to weigh in on, so head over to kerrycampbellwrites.substack.com to leave a comment and help us to build the Raised Catholic Podcast community. Thanks in advance!
Okay, so today’s topic comes from a couple of stories I’ll share with you. It might seem at first like these are not ‘faith-related’ stories, maybe, but if you’ve been around here for a while, you already know my affinity for metaphor, in which every detail points to something else, so here goes. Today’s stories are about clean slates and wearable clothes.
I’m coming up to the one-year anniversary of being a true empty nester, the kind when they no longer come home for college breaks or summer vacations, the kind where you meet your kids out in the world for dinner and then everyone goes home to their own homes after. It’s weird, but good. Anyway, it wasn’t until this past summer that I realized the opportunity I had to finally dig into our basement and clear it out, like really clear it out. The bins I hadn’t looked through in years, the Bernie Sanders cardboard cut-out shoved into a corner, the literal dozens of old picture frames held aside for some reason I could not remember. This wasn’t the vacuum-around-existing-piles-of-stuff kind of clean out, this was radical. I unpacked so much stuff I did not even know I had. Gave away loads of things that might be useful to someone else and threw away even more. I’m a teacher mostly on summer break, but I would say that for about two weeks, my full-time job was that basement, which then led to a clear out of kitchen cabinets and bathroom drawers and all I can say is, we hold on to so much stuff that we do not need. Clearing out is time-consuming, labor intensive, and it can be emotional, too. Getting into the foundation of your home, and holding things up to the light one-by-one, asking: is it time to let this thing go, or isn’t it? Do I have need of this anymore? Is it useful to me or to someone else? Does it bring back a good memory or a painful one? Does it make sense to bring this thing up into the house where I can see and interact with it on a more regular basis? And is this a treasure I have somehow overlooked?
In the past week, I have also undergone a review of my closet. Now, not that it matters, but my size has not changed. With a couple of exceptions, I could still wear everything, but over time, for some of these items, the fit has changed and not really for the better. Some of the things that used to be easy to wear and flattering are just kind of not anymore, and I’ll be honest. For a minute there, I wondered if I was somehow to blame. Had I done something wrong? Had I offended these pants in some way? And the answer is, of course, no. Sometimes things that used to fit and feel good do not fit or feel good any longer. When it comes down to us and the things that we have or use in our lives, we have to remember that it is the pants’ job to fit us, it’s not our job to fit the pants. Do you get what I’m saying here, friends?
We don’t have to fit ourselves into any kind of a mold of the way things used to work, and we don’t have to live our one wild and precious life amid unexamined clutter that is kept in the quiet corners of our basements. So, what does all of this have to do with faith? Well, when it comes to our faith, we can go into the foundations, uncover our beliefs and practices, experiences, and memories, lay it all out and take a good hard look, and ask ourselves: does this serve me? Does this bring me closer to God or further away? Why do I do what I do when it comes to my faith practice? Does this fit who I am becoming? Is it time to give this a place of prominence in my life or is it time to let it go? And is there a treasure here that I have somehow overlooked?
Consciously looking at our lives and deciding what to keep and what to cultivate is something we don’t have to do. Plenty of people live on automatic, just moving their lives forward with the habits and patterns they were taught maybe as far back as childhood without even a second look. If you were born and raised Catholic, this might feel particularly relatable to you. It feels safe to maintain those patterns, and I get it, but a decision toward orienting your one human life toward a specific faith, and in our case, toward a specific person in Jesus, is not a ‘safe’ decision. It’s not the default, even though lots of people engage American Catholicism and the larger Christian church in just that way. You know, ‘nice people go to church,’ all of that, but the Christian path is a radical one, and the more we grow in it the more we know how we are called to die to ourselves, to pour out for others, and to love each other as Jesus does. With so much up in the air right now in our world, we have the opportunity to be intentional about something as integral as faith, because as much as it can feel otherwise at times, living our lives according to a faith tradition is not something we have to do, but it is something we get to do. We have agency and free will to decide to accept the abundant life that Jesus is offering, or not.
The shift from ‘the way things used to be done’ to a new, better way is embodied in the stories in Luke, chapter 5. In it, Jesus schools experienced fishermen on a new way to work that results in unimaginable abundance. He touches a man with leprosy, something the community would never have allowed, and he heals him. The crowds take Jesus’ counter-cultural lead, and a bunch of them literally cut open a roof, lowering their friend down to receive healing. Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners, drawing criticism from the religious leaders of the day. And they got even more complaints when Jesus’ disciples did not fast but continued eating and drinking as normal. All of it was just simply not the way that things were done.
Jesus answered all of that criticism with a parable about wineskins.
“He told them this parable: ‘No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’ ”
Okay, I’m interceding here to wonder just how many times have you heard a member of the clergy say something like, “The old is better” lately in their resistance to new wine?
Anyway, if you move on to chapter 6, you’ll find Jesus and His disciples picking grains of wheat and eating them on the Sabbath, a practice that was disallowed. And then He heals a man’s hand, which is working on the Sabbath, also against the rules. And so Jesus explains the ‘why’ behind both of these decisions, recalling a previous time in scripture when David did the very same thing and saying, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” Then He asks, “which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?”
In these chapters, Jesus is modeling discernment. He is taking his community’s practices and customs out into the light and openly questioning them: Why do we do this? Is there a better way? And He directs us toward the New Wine of discipleship that He brings, something that directly threatens the religious leaders of the day whose power is invested in all of the old ways, the ways in which things were always done before. Jesus upends it all.
And this week, I guess this is what I’m calling us to, to dig into our foundations, to hold things up to the light, to see what fits and what we can and should elevate to prominence in our next chapter of faith. This process of conscious examination is hard, and it is not something we have to do, but it is something we get to do, thanks be to God.
When it comes to our faith lives, clearing out the clutter that we’ve amassed over years and decades is hard, time-consuming, and emotional work, but what’s the alternative? Do we really want to live something as important as our faith without being thoughtful and intentional? Do we really want to check the boxes that someone laid out for us decades ago without ever wondering why? What are the truths that are bedrock for us and that we will need to lean on when challenging times come? What are the ideas and pursuits and rituals and habits that will fit the person that we are, that we are becoming, and that we are called to be by God who loves us?
A life lived in faith can amass so much clutter along the way, but since there is no such thing as a ‘normal life,’ friend, what will we choose?
What matters to us?
What is it time to let go of?
What is it time to get more intentional about?
What practices and habits will be a fit for the person I am becoming?
Let’s talk about it together over on Substack. Oh friend, I would love to see you there.
Thanks so much for being with me today. If you need me, you can find me on Instagram @kerrycampbellwrites, at Substack at kerrycampbellwrites.substack.com, or on my website at kerrycampbell.org. Thanks so much for rating, reviewing, subscribing and most importantly, sharing this podcast with a friend. That really makes a difference in growing our community, so thanks. If you’d like to support this podcast financially, there’s a couple of ways for you to do that in the show notes, along with some resources related to today’s episode, so do check all of that out, but before we go, let’s pray together.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.
Lord, will you give us clarity to determine what we want to hold onto, what to let go of, and what fits well for the people we are becoming in your great love for us. We want new wineskins to hold the very best of what you have for us and for our dear ones too. We pray in the name of Jesus and wrapped in the mantle of our Mother Mary, amen.
Well, thanks so much for listening today, friend. Let’s get into it over on Substack, and I’ll see you next time.
This week I’ll tell a couple of stories about clearing out spaces and finding what fits, and relate these stories to Luke, chapter 5. I hope this episode all about intentionally creating new wineskins in the practice of our faith is a helpful one for you.
If you’d like to connect with me, find me on Instagram, at my website, or on Substack. If you’d like to help support this podcast financially, there’s a way to do just that on my page at buymeacoffee.com! Thanks as always for sharing, subscribing, rating, and reviewing, as this helps our community to grow!ng:
Thanks as always to my friend, Peter Vaughan-Vail, for providing the beautiful harp music you hear in this and every episode.
Here are some resources I hope will help you to engage with this week’s topic in a deeper way for yourself:
2. Song: Only Good Will Grow, by Matt Maher, featuring Brian Elmquist
3. Song: I Wanna Feel Again, by Matt Maher, featuring Taylor Leonhardt
4. Community: Evolving Faith
5. Book: Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church, by Rachel Held Evans