It was Tuesday June 6. I was sitting at my computer with 24 pages of notes, research and readings to organize and decipher into a sermon for this upcoming Sunday (today). About 6:00PM there was a huge BANG. I thought Ferndale was experiencing a sonic boom. Everything went black, dark. All power was lost.
So many things to wonder about… When will the power be restored? How will I readjust my dialysis schedule? How will I heat my dialysis bags if I have to do my dialysis manually? Oh dear God, I was working on my sermon and what happened to it? I also had brought up the June 14th, Compline I was working on. What will happen to that? This was the least of my worries. I had templates to help with that. I waited and waited. Neighbors said it would be 11:00pm. 11:00PM came and went and no power. I sat in the dark wondering if power would be restored this night. At 2:30 AM on Wednesday, the TV rang out, the lights in the living room shone so bright. The Comcast box, started cycling. The Dialysis cycler started heating the bags again. I had to wait for them to heat up but was able to start my dialysis, and with the lag in time I finished just in time Wednesday to have a few hours before I had to start again Wednesday night. So now it is Thursday and I am starting to check out the computer. Where is my sermon???? Over half done but no where to be found. Eaten by the Cyber Satan. Everything he could do to get me NOT to have a well prepared sermon to present to you folks. So here I am. I picked myself up and said many, many prayers and this is what I finished with. May God guide me as I speak, and you as you listen.
In the calling of Matthew in today’s reading, Jesus is walking along and sees Matthew sitting at his tax booth. Did Jesus speak the words, “Follow me,” as an invitation or a command.
Does Matthew find his socially unsavory work to be personally satisfying or merely necessary for the maintenance of his family?
In our gospel today Matthew gets up and follows Jesus, seemingly leaving behind his everyday labor of tax collecting for his newfound vocation of discipleship. All that we know of Matthew are his name and his work, and as he moves from work to vocation, Matthew’s identity changes also.
Matthew’s old life is not far behind him when following Jesus lands him directly in the company that he had left, at dinner with tax collectors and sinners.
His new vocation is so new that he must have blended in as one of the social and moral outcasts at the table. They were probably colleagues and familiar names to Matthew.
Then there are the Pharisees who critically ask Jesus’ disciples why Jesus would eat and socialize with such obnoxious people. Jesus responds saying that God desires mercy, not sacrifice, for “I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”
This is an interesting exchange, because the Pharisees, who often are portrayed as self-righteous, clearly are not the folks with whom Jesus socializes with.
In qualifying his friends at dinner as sinners, Jesus sees them as people in need of redemption, people who may desire redemption but fear they could never attain it, due to their lifestyle and work.
This preferential option for the sinner over the righteous person is reminiscent of the philosopher, Gustavo Guttiérez’s claim of God’s preferential option for the poor.
Just as the poor are most in need of God’s generosity and grace, so too are the social and moral outcasts among Jesus’ dinner party.
To take this one step further, if we interpret Jesus’ response to the Pharisees as prioritizing his call to sinners over the righteous because the righteous do not understand themselves to be in need, we are left wondering if Jesus offers any call to those who deem themselves “righteous.”
Might it be that sinners recognize their own need, while those who see themselves as righteous are too full of pride to comprehend their need for God’s graceful mercy?
Declaring oneself righteous before Jesus is to make a claim that not one of us could ever sustain. We all are sinners, but the sinner who understands their own need is different from the sinner who claims to need no assistance; the former welcomes Jesus into their life, while the latter slams shut the doors of hospitality.
Christ holds close those who are most in need of God’s mercy and who recognize their need.
When reading this gospel we are reminded of the saying “A church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.” This saying reminds us that, like a hospital, a church is a place where many different people, with many different needs, come looking for grace, mercy, and forgiveness. With a compelling but problematic analogy between sinfulness and sickness, Jesus presents himself not only as a healer who goes looking for sinners in spiritual need (Matthew in the tax booth) but also as the one to whom those with physical problems can turn (a leader of the synagogue whose daughter has died, the hemorrhaging woman).
As a doctor would not hesitate to treat someone or refuse assistance to those in pain, Jesus’ ministry is marked by both urgency and accessibility.
Both those who are outcast and those who are part of the social establishment find in Jesus a compassionate heart. Those with acute needs and those with chronic pain find healing power. Those who reach out and those who need to be called on find attentive aid.
We are here today sitting in the pews, listening on zoom, with our own issues. Encountering this gospel gives assurance to everyone (all of us) that Jesus is available and eager to listen, and provide His grace, compassion, mercy and healing.
Perhaps the challenge for us lies NOT in convincing ourselves that our own needs are appropriate to bring before God, but rather in making sense of how our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs relate to the burden of sinfulness. Jesus came to heal wounds and to forgive sinners.
When Jesus said “Follow me”, Matthew was socially despised and hated because tax collectors were known to be corrupt and committed to the corrupt system. (Not much different from today’s views of Tax collectors and repo people). Jesus’ call disrupts his commitment to earthly empire and calls this Matthew to be part of another empire with different standards.
As Warren Carter (Professor of New Testament at Phillips Seminary in Tulsa OK.) notes, “Following him means encountering God’s empire.” This divine kingdom welcomes social outcasts like Matthew. This includes ALL people in today’s world also. No matter the political, emotional, physical or religious beliefs, views or needs.
Do we truly understand the love of Jesus Christ?
Do we appreciate the righteousness of Our God?
Do we realize the Power of this Gospel?
There was a day that the God of this universe walked among His people.
There was a day that people knew that by faith they could be healed by just touching the hem of His robe.
What power to heal a man or woman with one touch from the master’s hand. We have the same available to us today as it was in that day,
And He has the same power to heal us.
We need our faith to believe and eyes to see.
Let’s look at this faith, the faith of an unknown woman. No one special.
Just one in the crowd. Nevertheless, a lady of great faith who knew that if she would just touch His robe she would be healed of her infirmity.
God had a Plan for her because she had an appointment with Jesus the great physician.
And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment. She said to herself, "If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well."
But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her, what did he say? "Be of good cheer, daughter; your FAITH has made you well." And the woman was made well.
The Spirit of God fell on the People of God and the Power of God dwells in people today. In our St Patrick’s community we have the Order of St Luke, (St Patrick’s group called Compassionate Hearts) who will be our special healing service that will be held here at St Patrick’s on Monday June 19th at 1:00PM put together by the order of St Lukes goup. Periodically, our Eucharistic visitors anoint the sick and afflicted. People that are in our parish, and others that are not in our parish. our healing prayers every Sunday. We are ALL God’s children. All deserve the love, mercy and compassion of our God and our Christian faith.
May we all strive to follow Jesus and like the sub title of Max Lucado’s book reads: God loves you just the way you are but refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be “Just Like Jesus.”
The Gospel “Matthew, follow me” made such an impression on the world in that day that its impact is still going strong 2000 years later.
There are whispers in the ears of Christians, that the gifts and this gospel are not for today and they have no power in Christ.
And some believe it. But think of the gifts that St Patrick’s has among us. Healing prayers, (our healing service on June 19th at 1:00), greeters, apostles, musicians, acolytes, altar guild. Priests, preachers, visitors, Sextons, hospitality workers, IT masters and volunteers. (just to name a few) gifts shared with so many inside and outside our parish, community groups and committees.
If those gifts were for Matthew, Peter and the others of that day then they are here and going strong in today’s world also. It is the same Spirit that was on them that is with all of us today.
There is Hope in this gospel. No matter how broken we may think we are there is healing.
The light that will shine brightest is not a night light or the candles for the walk or the gazebo though they are nice to see.
It is the light of the world, the light of our lives and the testimony we represent to others.
What kind of witness will they see? We may be the only Jesus some people will ever see or experience.
Let our prayer be that it will be the great witness of Jesus Christ. A witness to give hope, a witness to show compassion, mercy and a witness to follow the path of Christ.
A parable is told of a community of ducks waddling off to duck church one Sunday to hear their duck preacher. After they waddled into the duck sanctuary, the service began and the duck preacher spoke eloquently of how God had given the ducks wings with which to fly.
He pounded the pulpit with his beak and said,
With these wings, there is nowhere we ducks cannot go!
There is no God-given task we ducks cannot accomplish!
With these wings we no longer need waddle through life.
We can soar high in the sky!
Shouts of Amen!¨ were quacked throughout the duck congregation.
The duck preacher concluded his message by exclaiming,
With our wings we can fly through life!
WE......CAN.....FLY!!!!¨ More ducks quacked out loud AMENS! in response.
Every duck loved the service.In fact all the ducks that were present commented on what a wonderfully convicting message they had heard from their duck preacher....
and then they left the church and waddled all the way home.
Do we NEED the Lord or are we self-sufficient? The people in our gospel today couldn’t live without Jesus. They were desperate. Are we desperate enough to take and receive everything he says to us? Only then will we be able to receive the great treasure of faith that will grow in our hearts!
Let’s not be a duck congregation that waddles home! Let’s listen to the Word, soak it up, receive it, let our hearts be filled with the truth of God’s promises. And then Like the ducks could fly high… walk it in faith.
STEPHEN BUTLER MURRAY
Max Lucado – “Just Like Jesus”
Feasting on the Word: Year A, Volume 3: Pentecost and Season after Pentecost 1 (Propers 3-16) (Feasting on the Word: Year A volume) (p. 277). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.
NSRVA version of scripture
Warren Carter (Professor of New Testament at Phillips Seminary in Tulsa OK.)