Saturday, July 02, 2016

New Wine into Fresh Wineskins

“No one patches an old cloak with a piece of unshrunken cloth, for its fullness pulls away from the cloak and the tear gets worse. People do not put new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise the skins burst, the wine spills out, and the skins are ruined. Rather, they pour new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.”  Matthew 9:16-17

Love and truth will meet;
justice and peace will kiss.
Truth will spring from the earth;
justice will look down from heaven.
Yes, the LORD will grant his bounty;
our land will yield its produce.   Psalm 85:11-13

Leading into today’s passage from the book of Amos is a very dark and gloomy prediction.  All sinners among my people shall die by the sword, those who say, “Disaster will not reach or overtake us.”  (Amos 5:10).  What then do we make of the uplifting ending to this chapter?  The notes in the trusty NAB help put this passage into historical context: 

These verses are most likely an editorial supplement to Amos, added to bring the book into harmony with the positive thrust of the prophetic books in general, especially those written after the exile, when the final edition of Amos was probably completed. The editors would have seen the destruction of Samaria in 722/721 B.C. as the fulfillment of Amos’s prophecies, but in this epilogue, they express the view that destruction was not the Lord’s final word for Israel. In Acts 15:15–17, James interprets this passage in a messianic sense. The fallen hut of David: the Davidic kingdom, which included what later became the divided Northern and Southern Kingdoms. All nations claimed in my name: lit., “all nations over whom my name has been pronounced.” This idiom denotes ownership.[i]

The notes further explain the sequence of verbs (Rebuild, inhabit, plant and drink) point to an era of restoration. Through these prophecies, the Lord nullifies the curse of Amos 5:11, which uses these same four verbs, and turns it into a blessing for the future of Israel.
Amos is not predicting that Israel will be restored to its former (sin-filled) vestiges.  Rather, after the destruction, it would be rebuilt as a new city just as Christ predicted the temple would be rebuilt after the Resurrection. 

These stories follow the Great Biblical Narrative: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration.  All those prophets in the Hebrew Bible needed the failings and sins of the people to preach about because, without those sermons, there would be no place for the story arcs of redemption and restoration to play out.

Such themes of restoration play out in life as well as in the movies.  In the
original Star Wars movie (now known as Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope), the misfit band of Luke, Han, and others rescue the young Princess Leia who was held prisoner by the Empire and its devilish leader Darth Vader.  They ultimately lead an attack by the Rebellion against the Death Star before it can annihilate all hope of restoring freedom to the galaxy.  As the stories play out, they overcome their personal weaknesses and jealousies along with the loss of innocence and others that they love in order to finally restore the Galaxy to a state of personal and galactic happiness.  Setting relationships right also is the theme of The Shawshank Redemption.  Two imprisoned men – Andy Dufresne and Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding -- bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through small acts of common decency despite the setting that
thrust their friendship together.  Despite wearing the grey prison garb, random acts of kindness helped Andy and Red make life bearable for each other until Andy helped lead Red to buried treasure under the tree of "new life" and the "promised land" in Mexico.

Save the Galaxy this weekend but do it the Shawshank way with little acts of kindness.  What buried treasure can you leave for another to discover?

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