Hos 2:16b, 17b, 21-22
2 Cor 3:1b-6
Mk 2:18-22

Desert Wineskins
Seven months ago, I moved from my known and beloved Midwest to the Southwest. Everything about my new land is different. The colors, the landscape, languages commonly spoken, and my work have taken me out of my known professional field, a big medical center, to a home hospice.

I think many people have experienced moving from a place of being known and knowing to a place of total newness. It was both hard and uncomfortable. In the reading from Hosea chapter two, the Lord speaks about calling his beloved into the desert, where he will espouse her in fidelity, mercy, and love. Where I lived in the Upper Midwest I could see lakes and rivers, a variety of colors, and large old trees. Here in the Southwest I am learning to appreciate the variety of textures that the desert has to offer. I am finding an ever expanding gratitude for the wide open skies, the mountains and mesas.

In the Upper Midwest where I had lived for most of my life, I was blessed to have good friends. In many of the meetings that I attended for work I usually knew at least a few people. I wasn’t even aware of how much I took for granted simple things like knowing what roads to use at what time of day due to traffic slow downs.

These past months I have remembered again what it is like to be so new that every person I meet is new. In my new work environment I had a serious learning curve when it came to doing the necessary paperwork, even though I was very familiar with charting at my old job. There was one day when the freeway was very backed up and I realized that I didn’t have enough road smarts here to get off and use a secondary road. It is these experiences and others that make me have a much deeper appreciation for the challenge it is to follow the call to the desert, to a new covenant with the Lord.

In my new work I constantly have to lean into trust that calls me to relationship with the Holy in such a way that I don’t miss God’s presence because I am familiar with particular ways of being a chaplain in the hospital and not in home hospice. You see I am very comfortable with my old wine skins mentioned in the gospel of Mark, chapter 2. I liked the familiar and it worked for me. In my new desert the Lord invites…calls…challenges me to let go of patterns that no longer work or fit.

Perhaps it is in these kinds of situations that Jesus is asking all of us to break out of a comfort level with who we were in our old wine skins. Here that we face our greatest challenge…that as we are graced not only with the courage to let go of what doesn’t fit, that we be equally ready to receive the new wine which will come for the new wine skins.