Wineskins and Snake Skins and Lent (Oh My!)

Let Go“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.” – Mark 2:22

Life can be defined as “The ability to grow and change which separate plants and animals from things like water and rock.” [1] On at least the biological level when we stop changing we stop living. But I would suggest that it’s true on many other levels: emotional, intellectual, relational and spiritual.

Growth and change, however, often require that we let go of something. It’s the price of transformation, of truly living. I think that’s one of the things that Jesus was getting at with his parable about wineskins. Jesus was constantly calling disciples to see things differently and therefore live differently in the world, but that required letting go of old ways of seeing and being. In his first sermon Jesus called people to “Repent!” which means “Rethink everything!”

Snakes are an ancient symbol for this kind of transformation. In order to grow a snake must shed its skin. This process is painful, dangerous and necessary for growth. The snake’s insides are literally outgrowing its outsides, and it must remove its restrictive, outermost layer. If a snake does not shed its skin, over time it will become malnourished and die from its inability to grow. [2]

Perhaps that metaphor can help us to make better sense of the Lenten discipline of letting go or “giving up” something. What might you need to shed, to let go of, in order to change and grow as a follower of Jesus? It may be something you know you need to let go of: resentment, anger, greed, an addictive pattern of behavior, control. Or it may be something good, something that has served you well but is now keeping you from growing into God’s best for you.

Letting go, shedding the skin of what is old so that we might grow into something new, can be challenging. In fact, it can feel a bit like dying. But that’s why Easter follows Lent. We are being called to live into the cycle of letting go and growing, the cycle of dying and rising that is mirrored in the transition of winter to spring. It is the pattern that is woven into all of life, as if God has embedded the sacred story of crucifixion and resurrection into all things so that we could not miss it.

So, what do you need to let go of in order to grow as a follower of Jesus? What do you need to shed this Lent? Need some suggestions? Watch this video from worship this past weekend. Click here.

Jeff Marian is lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN.

 

[1] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/life

[2] Thanks here to Elle Luna’s book, “The Crossroads of Should and Must”. A delightful book I’ve been reading!

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