Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor
Bible Background Jesus calls Matthew. Matthew was sitting in a tax collector booth. We don’t know why, but Jesus walks up to the tax booth and says, “Follow me.” As if he was waiting for it the entire time, Matthew hops up and is ready to follow. In fact, Matthew is so comfy with this new call that he offers Jesus hospitality right away. They go to have dinner in Matthew’s house.
Ok, hold the phone. Matthew is a tax and toll collector. This is not the right person according to every resource. Matthew is despised. He is the one who can steal from people. The lowest of the low. He took a really lousy job that handles everyone’s stuff. He would have looked through to see what could be taxed, picking out the unclean objects or pointing out the uncleanliness not allowed through. He took a position that rules out any respectability from anyone. He is the messy one. And here comes Jesus, calling him and then eating with him.
No wonder this causes some questions to arise by those surrounding Jesus. What is Jesus doing? Jesus embraces the untouchable. Not only does he embrace Matthew, he invites him into relationship and vocation. Jesus takes what looked to be the outsider and invited him into a whole new way of life. In doing this, Jesus models that God’s call is not best kept in purity and typical sainthood but in embracing the other. Jesus is so clear about this that he tells those who question it that he didn’t come for the most respected or the insider. Just the opposite! He came to show that God resides in what is with people. He doesn’t even magically make all the gross go away. What Jesus does, is embrace and change through relationship.
Today is All Saints Day. Typically we honor the saints who have gone before us. We lift up those who have exuded the highest calling. In the Catholic Church there is a whole process of becoming a Saint. It is filled with miracles, calling, purity, and even sweet smelling death. We will light candles for those who have marked our lives in incredible ways. But today, let us also remember the Matthew’s in our midst as saints. These are the folks in our midst who aren’t the saintliest by any means but they are the ones embraced by God. They are the ones invited to the table. They are the ones who answer the call without hesitation and with lots of hospitality. They are the ones who will surprise us around the table even if we don’t think too highly of them or they have been the outsider in the past.
And when we do recognize just these tax collectors in our midst, we can’t help but feast. Jesus tells those who question that when we gather around the table, we really don’t’ have a choice but to party. Fasting doesn’t seem right in these circumstances. It doesn’t fit. It doesn’t fit like cloth that isn’t right or new wine in old wineskins. When all are gathered, all the saints, we can have a magnificent feast filled with joy and love.
Quotes of the week
“I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.” ― Nelson Mandela
What if the church should be less concerned with creating saints than creating a world where we do not need saints? A world where people like Mother Teresa and MLK would have nothing to do.” ― Peter Rollins, Insurrection: To Believe Is Human To Doubt, Divine
Matthew 9:10-17 (NRSV) And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”
Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. 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.”
Questions for the Week
Which saints are we missing at the table?
Who are the saints in your life that have joined the party?
When have you felt the hospitality of those saints?