This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then every man will receive his commendation from God.
The Scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus, "John's disciples, like the disciples of the Pharisees, frequently fast and pray, but your disciples eat and drink." Jesus said to them, "You cannot make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? The days will come when the bridegroom will be 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 sews it on an old garment; otherwise the new will be torn, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and 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 wine, but says, 'The old wine is better.'"
How often we are caught by envy, misunderstanding and rash judgment towards one another. Where some rejoice in God's graces, others complain that they ought to be fasting and praying more fervently. Jesus himself was not good enough for his contemporaries, and even alive within our friends and our church today he is still criticized. We sense this situation in his words, We piped you a tune but you did not dance, we sang you a dirge but you did not wail (Luke 7:32).
Some people can never approve what others do, no matter what the motive. Neither could Paul ever please the Corinthians, and in desperation he lashes back, "It matters little to me whether you or any human court pass judgment on me. The Lord is the one to judge me." At the deepest level this is true, we are judged by the Lord alone. Real faith makes this demand and has its reward when Jesus reveals the hidden intentions of the heart.
Some wish to suppress the mysterious working of grace under strict control, excessively and rigidly applied. They want to patch a new garment with old material, pour new wine into old wineskins. But the old skins will burst under the pressure of the fermenting new wine. The old piece of cloth will never match the texture and color of the new.
We can easily get very used to a certain way, doing things. Somebody comes along and does things differently and we can find ourselves getting a little irritated and wondering why things can't simply be left alone. We find that kind of scenario at the beginning of this morning's gospel. The Pharisees say to Jesus, 'Why don't you and your disciples fast and say prayers like the rest of us?' In reply, Jesus spoke about his ministry as 'new wine' which is always in need of 'new wine skins.' The Lord is always prompting us to show forth the new wine of his presence in new ways. These new ways will be in continuity with the old ways, but will move beyond them. The Lord who is always in our midst brings God's energy to us and that energy cries out for new ways of being expressed. The Lord is always prompting us to take some new step in our relationship with him. We pray this morning for a greater openness to his promptings.