From last Sunday on, the Lectionary’s OT readings have offered a pre-Pentecost collage. How the Jeremiah reading might relate to Pentecost is unclear. (And a quick review of Jeremiah’s use of ruach [‘spirit’] suggests that the S/spirit does not play an obvious role in his visions of the renewal of Israel!) Nevertheless, Jeremiah’s words re the new covenant, understood by Christians from the New Testament on as fulfilled in Jesus (see, particularly, the Words of Institution and Hebrews), might get us wondering: just what does the New Covenant look like? How is it new? And while the other two readings are course readings in their respective books, and so not chosen to answer these questions, they certainly can complicate the questions.
“No 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. Neither 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.” There’s Jeremiah’s old/new contrast, but who would have guessed that the new covenant involved calling not the “righteous,” but the “sinners”? (For that matter, exploring Jesus’ words a bit, we old wineskins—in whatever proportion of “righteous” and “sinner”—how are we supposed to receive the new wine without bursting?)
So, Jesus at Matthew’s house, with many tax collectors and sinners, because “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” If Paul, a Pharisee, knew this story, what did he make of it? “Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be associated with them.” Are Jesus and Paul on the same page here?