It is good to see that the Churches in England are finally catching up with Jesus teaching on jam-jars.In a landmark move, the Churches Legislation AdvisoryService (CLAS) has issued guidance to churches of all denominations, pointing out that EU(European Union) regulations now forbid the re-use of jam jars for selling produce at church fetes. While it is legal to give home-made jams and preserves away in old jam-jars as personal gifts, old jam-jars must not be sold under any circumstances. Even the great repository of wisdom and knowledge known as the WI, has confirmed this to be true.
The EU ruling is, of course, reminiscent of Christ’s famousteaching on wineskins. “Who puts new wine onto old wineskins?” he asked. “If you do you will lose the lot!”
Which makes you wonder – why did it take the EU to identify the dangers of putting new jam into old jam-jars? Why did the church not recognise the problem decades ago?
The issues which worry the EU are, of course, slightly different than those that Christ drew our attention to. The EU is more concerned with the hygiene risk of ‘old jam-jars’ . Old bugs and bacteria might contaminate the new jam endangering those who consume it. But the analogy still holds true when we look at the church today.
Churches have been putting the new jam of the gospel into the culturally contaminated jam-jars of the Victorian era for over 150 years and the results are all too obvious. Young people stay away from the church in droves; deeper understanding in areas like gender and sexuality are contaminated by outdated Victorian values; and the result is often seen in virulent outbreaks of ecclesiastical nausea and vomiting.
The few young people who stay can also become infected by the same Victorian values which infuse those old jam-jars. At best many seem to accept that this is quite normal – at worst some rise with zombie like conviction to defend views of which are un-Christian, compromised and arcane.
Yet again we find that Jesus was right. Whether it is wineskins or jam-jars, we constantly need to put the new wine (or jam) of the gospel into the new skins (or jars) of the Kingdom of God today.
But sadly the church of today seems more attached to its old jam-jars than to the gospel. No wonder church attendance is falling…