July 18, 2019
Yesterday afternoon I sat in a conference room with several colleagues, both elders and pastors, as we tried discern God's will regarding a particular question for our Presbytery. We had two good, but very different options on the table in front of us, making the decision even more difficult. As we gradually came around to consensus, I remembered the words of Jesus which I had read earlier that morning in the day's Gospel reading: "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). After I read it aloud to the rest of the group, we agreed that it was a providential word for our decision.
The fact that Jesus' words brought such clarity to our decision speaks volumes about both our need to listen for God's voice and the value of regular time spent in prayer and reading Scripture. In his book Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life, Henri Nouwen wrote that "By selecting a particular scripture verse from the gospel reading for the day, or a favorite psalm, you can create a safe wall around your heart that will allow you to pay attention" (pp. 10-11). This is exactly what that verse from the day's Gospel reading did. Focusing on Jesus' words cleared away the other voices that were competing for my attention. Without a regular practice of Scripture reading, those words of Jesus would have been further from my mind and less accessible.
As you turn to prayer today, ask God what habits would help you pay attention to his voice more in daily life. Maybe he has new wine to give you, but he wants you to develop some new practices as wineskins to hold those words. As we seek the Lord's voice and will, may we be blessed with "ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches" (Revelation 2:7).
Grace and Peace,