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Yearning for a new way will not produce it.
Only ending the old way can do that. You cannot hold onto the old, all the while
declaring that you want something new.
The old will defy the new;
The Old will deny the new;
The old will decry the new.
There is only one way to bring in the new. You must make room for it.
-Neale Donald Walsch
I know that I used this poem in my blogging last week – but it’s so good and pertinent today as well.
Today’s scripture presents the counter-attack of the old guard against the new phenomenon of Jesus. We heard in last week’s reading (Mark 1:22, 27-28), and again in today’s passage (Mark 2:12) that people were blown away by the teaching, authority, and presence of Jesus. They’d never seen anyone like him before. When he speaks, it cuts to the heart. When he acts, things change. He’s not just a good-talker and gentle-healer, but also a chain-breaker and world-changer.
Today’s selection is again a series of short stories of controversies, chaos, conflict, and community. While we’re told that the average people are amazed and filled with anxious gratitude. The religious leaders are stuck on the question of “Why are you doing this?”
Jesus draws a connection between the forgiveness of sins and the healing of our relationships, between our individual brokenness and our communal home. How we are – whether that be in a broken body, or with a burned-all-the-bridges-reputation, or passive spectator, that’s not how God will leave us, or let us be. The gospel victory of God is one of love, but also of healing, freedom, recreation, and transformation. It brings people together in a common goal (such as the healing of a paralyzed friend), across boundaries and bias (such as how collaborating tax collectors – like Levi – were viewed by their fellow citizens), and from among diverse religious tribes (such as those that seek public piety over all other things and those who seek to enjoy the gifts of God here and now).
The gospel demands a new way of being, whatever it may be. That’s what Jesus is saying in talking about bridegrooms, fabric, and wineskins. It’s like a chemical reaction that cannot be contained by our old ways of being. As the poem says, “There is only one way to bring in the new. You must make room for it.”
Questions for the practice of Examen & Contemplation