The Old Patch and the New Wineskin – Br. Curtis Almquist

curtis4The disciples of John came to [Jesus], saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”15And Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made. 17Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”  Matthew 9:14-17

Jesus is using “mixed metaphors” about patching used cloth with old cloth, and about protecting fresh wine in a new wineskin.  Very different metaphors.

We can presume that cloth needs to be patched because it is old and well worn or worn out.  Jesus presumes we don’t simply toss out what is old.  We keep it and patch it and continue to use it.  Jesus is speaking symbolically about claiming or reclaiming our past, about our being on good speaking terms with our own past.  Jesus promises to be with us always, even to the end, in the same way that Jesus has been with us from the beginning, even as we were being formed in our mother’s womb, to use the language of the psalms.[i]

This is to remember our past – drawing on our past – how we’ve been provided for, sustained, protected, healed – when some new hole of need appears in our life.  Which will happen.  Remembering and reclaiming our past will help us claim hope and help for the present and the future, when we are – as it were – torn up by some new hole of need in our life.  The patch for the new hole is to be found in our past.  The patch comes from old cloth.

Then Jesus switches the metaphor when he speaks of new wine to be saved and savored from a new wineskin.  Jesus came to do a new thing, to make all things new, to give us a new heart.  What he speaks about continually is the new – his news – and it’s good news.[ii]  Jesus has this one liner, “You have heard it said… but I say.”  The transformation he promises for us is so startlingly new, it’s so radical, so fresh, it’s like being born again.  Spanking new.  And so Jesus uses this metaphor of new wine to be stored and savored from a new wineskin.

Jesus is speaking metaphorically both about the old and the new.  Several chapters following today’s gospel lesson Jesus speaks, again metaphorically, about “every scribe… is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”[iii]  We need both, both the old and the new to be fully alive.

Where are you in touch with need?  Where is there a hole in your life?  Maybe there’s a hole in your heart?  Something may be torn or worn, depleted or exhausted.  The present need can be sutured by hope drawn from your past.  How is it you have found strength and provision in the past, given the seemingly-impossible needs you have faced.  Draw from your past to claim hope for the present and future.  Remember your past; reclaim your past to patch the hole of need in the present.

Simultaneously, be open for what is new, for what God is wanting to birth in your life.  You may need to detach from something of your past.  Something new wants to happen, and that new requires space.  You may have a sense of it.  You may even be able to identify with the Blessed Virgin Mary who, on hearing of this new thing God had for her to bear and give birth to was first afraid, and then she was perplexed – “How can this be?” – and then she was ready… or then she was readied.  God made her ready for this new thing.

And so with you.  What is old and what is new.  To be fully alive you need both the old and the new.  And God is in both.  I don’t think this is something we can work out on our own.  It is God who is working this out in our lives and in the most amazing ways.  Surrender to what wants to happen.  What wants to happen?  What does God want to happen in your life?  The invitation here is to seek the grace we witness in the Blessed Virgin Mary who ultimately found the clarity and courage to pray, “Be it unto me according to your word.”[iv]


[i] Psalm 139:13-15.

[ii] See Matthew 4:23; 9:31; 9:35; 10:7; 11:5; 24:14; 26:13.

[iii] Matthew 13:52.

[iv] Luke 1:38.

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  1. Margaret Dungan on March 25, 2019 at 21:21

    I love this message even more this year It has given me a frame work and a path way to deal with a decision that I may have to make in the near future that effects others as well as myself. Thank you so much for bringing you wisdom into the situation and at just the right time. It is a real gift.


  2. Karen A Hartsell on August 21, 2018 at 23:14

    I believe in God and Jesus. I think our world is Good because of our Lord and Jesus! Even though I know about the terrosist and the other things like Human Trafficking.

    • Jeanne DeFazio on March 25, 2019 at 11:19

      Thanks Brother Curtis! Each day I excerpt from the devotional and send to 10 friends in need of encouragement. It has been so great to receive and pass along from your homilies!

  3. marta engdahl on August 19, 2018 at 06:05

    The pairing of these metaphors is very rich. It is a good time to blend old with new as we approach a new season of the year that beckons to us as summer begins to slip away, to make ready for the new season and a new look at opportunities to incorporate this wisdom into new beginnings.

  4. Ruth West on August 16, 2018 at 00:09

    Br. Curtis, thanks for this good message. That which is new in my life has come from the root of what was old. I am still “stitching” the old and new together to gain meaning of who I am. I especially like Marie’s comment and find the same melding of the new with the old in my life. Praise God for sending His Holy Spirit to lead and guide.

  5. william shauver on August 15, 2018 at 12:54

    This is the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Isn’t anyone in your group a member of the Anglican Society of Mary? Guess not……..

  6. Bruce Purdum on June 20, 2018 at 09:31

    Thank You!

  7. marta engdahl on June 20, 2018 at 05:13

    Praise God for this illumination of life processes . . . . . It feels like a good way to ponder the past and present in the heat of summer, too hot to do anything, and feeling “funky” and under-the-weather. This is a grand way to use “hope” to hop forward and back and then forward again to a new life/new perspective, energized by the words and parables of Jesus.

  8. Jaan Sass on August 14, 2017 at 10:20

    Something I need to remember I have difficulty with being in peace about my past. I often live in the past. I need to be open to my future but often relive the pain of the past.

    • Elizabeth Clifford on August 15, 2018 at 10:00

      The 12-Step programs’ motto, ‘Let Go and Let God”, is a challenge to enact but so greatly worth the attempt. I love the translation of 2 Peter 5 that encourages us to “cast your cares upon the Lord because he cares for you”. If we can learn, with God’s help, to do that ‘casting’ each time a troubling thought arises, we can become gradually, gently open to the grace, light and peace he came to bring us. You are in my prayer.

  9. marie on August 13, 2017 at 18:10

    Thank you for this wonderful word by the Spirit. It seems in my life that the past informs my present; and also the present seems to illumine my past ~ and all the while a melding of the two exude a unique sort of wisdom that enables vision and knowledge of God’s goodness. As I focus on my Redeemer’s compassion and love, the name of this dance between past and present is: From One Degree of Glory to Another!

  10. Margaret Dungan on August 12, 2017 at 17:19

    I love the clarity that these words bring .They are so fresh and so inspiring and yet so practical.

    Thank you.


  11. SusanMarie on August 12, 2017 at 07:37

    I never realized these two metaphors about the wineskin and the cloth had different meanings. Br. Curtis, you have explained and explored this passage beautifully. Many thanks for much to ponder!

  12. Helen Northrop on August 12, 2017 at 04:55

    Thank you so much, Br. Curtis Almquist, I have never been able to understand this. You have opened my heart this morning. I have a friend who’s husband has died after an illness. I pray she will have new hope in her life, in the weeks, years ahead and will indeed draw from the past to claim hope for the present and future.

    God Bless you.

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