After this he went out and saw a tax-collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up, left everything, and followed him. Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house; and there was a large crowd of tax-collectors and others sitting at the table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax-collectors and sinners?’ Jesus answered, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.’
In Luke’s Gospel we hear about barriers being broken down, about the humanity of Jesus and His love for everyone. Jew, gentile, men, women, rich, poor, elders and children, religious leaders and tax-collectors. Jesus came for all and He is the Saviour of us all. Luke shares about our obligation to demonstrate compassion, mercy and grace towards everybody. To the Pharisees and Scribes in this passage Jesus is teaching that every person is to be treated the same, no matter their job, their background or their religion. He is turning the tables of the religious law upside down and showing them the Kingdom way, where everyone eats and drinks together and homes are open to all.
Jesus deliberately chose His disciples because they were the most unlikely, unreligious band of followers, who represented all of society in their number. When He called Levi (the Greek for Matthew) Jesus didn’t say ‘Come and I will convert you and you will change your ways and become exactly like me and each other’. His words were always gentle, calm and wise. What He was actually saying to Matthew, through the words ‘follow me’, was ‘come, take my hand and together we will get to know God’. Jesus wasn’t and still isn’t wanting to change our personality. He loves us as we were created but He knows that through relationship with Him we will be changed, as we meet with God and grow in His ways, Kingdom ways, to become saved and restored but still recognisable as ourselves.
The same is true of our churches. Inviting people who are different from us, who don’t know how to do ‘church’, doesn’t change us as the Body. We are still the Church but our calendars may look different. We mustn’t back away but embrace those who are not yet christians, and gently ask them to hold our hand and together we will look for God, because He is all around and present in everything.
Lord, thank you that you look for each one of us and you take us by the hand, gently leading us through difficulties and joys, to teach us and guide us. Thank you for your never ending patience Thank you for your everlasting love Thank you for your unexplainable peace Thank you that you don’t change who I am but you continue the creation work you started until I am perfectly restored in you. Amen
Jo Patel, Local Church Leader, Wattisfield URC read by Karen Smith