‘No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment…’ (Matthew 9:16-17)
The Pharisees saw themselves as the guardians and teachers of the law. For them the law was the final word and nothing could be added to or taken away from it. It had to be followed rigorously as it was written in line with the rituals and ceremonies prescribed within it. When Jesus began His teaching in a manner that was not prescribed in the Torah – using parables, analogies and allegories with every day things the people were familiar with – naturally the authorities were upset by this, and Jesus was aware of that, hence this short story. However, this still applies to us today.
How often, I wonder, over the years, have we heard expressions like, we never did that before or the old ways were better (often spoken after a sharp intake of breath!) whenever a new idea has been mentioned or when some form of change is suggested in our church life. Yet change, in all of life, is inevitable – so why not in our church life?
It doesn’t mean we have to abandon our traditions or the essence of our faith, nor indeed the Gospel message that we bear witness to. But are there not times when we might need to think on how we can do so in a way that might reach more people and does that not mean that we might have to allow our minds and our imaginations to ‘stretch’ a little as the Holy Spirit prompts and guides us?
If we believe that God’s Holy Spirit is alive within us and transforming us daily, does that not mean change is inevitable and if we continue to resist that change, will our cloth not tear and our wineskins not burst?