Wine on the Ceiling

As we return to working little by little through the Acts of the Apostles, I want to set the stage for Acts 6 in light of the whole book. In Acts 1:8, we see God’s plan for the world, and Luke’s plan for the book of Acts – we are watching the gospel take root in Jerusalem, preparing to burst out into Judea and Samaria, and then to go forth to the ends of the earth. We’ve seen how God first equips His disciples by filling them with the Holy Spirit, and then builds up and establishes a gospel community in Jerusalem before the message goes global.

We’ve sought to take that pattern to heart here in Annapolis, also. Our goal is to further the advance of the gospel in all the world, so that the story of the Risen and Ascended Christ fills the lips of people from every tribe and tongue. And so in order to do that, we are trying to build things God’s way. Having been changed by the gospel, and filled with the Holy Spirit, we are seeking to cultivate Christian community so that we can spread the gospel to the nations. In other words, we are seeking to worship God in such a way that we are bound together into a community, so that as a community, we can together pursue the work of mission that God has given to His church. Worship, community, mission – this is what the Church is all about.

And so when an evangelistic impulse sweeps through our hearts, and we’re tempted to grow tired of all this talk about community and just go out there and do the mission, that’s a wonderful impulse. That is exactly what should be happening in our hearts. Our worship and community life is like leaven, like wine in a wineskin – as it ferments, pressure builds. It’s gonna blow! We should be champing at the bit to get out there and pursue mission.

But all too often in church history, we find people and churches and movements who are so eager to rush to mission that they throw any concern for right worship out the window, and they leave their community behind, rushing out ahead of their supply line. Sometimes they have brief and glorious success, going out in a burst of flame, but after a little while, all the good that they accomplished disappears.

We can think of it in terms of wine. The Scriptures portray the blessings of the kingdom in just this way – when God pours out His blessings on His people, it’s like drinking a fine wine. But Jesus tells us not to pour new wine into old wineskins, or else the fermentation will burst it wide open. The lesson here is that there are forms of worship and ways of living as a community that cannot support real gospel mission for very long. There will be a few glorious moments where the whole room is full of an explosion of gospel wine, but then it will quickly drip off the ceiling and soak into the carpet, where no one can drink it. This is what happens when mission outruns worship and community. Instead, Jesus wants us control the fermentation, put it into the new wineskins of gospel worship and gospel community life, and then we will have plenty of gospel wine to share with the world.

Posted on Wednesday, October 09, 2013 by CJ Bowen