O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
our lives are laid open before you:
rescue us from the chaos of sin
and through the death of your Son
bring us healing and make us whole
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me,
for I am poor and in misery.
Preserve my soul, for I am faithful;
save your servant, for I put my trust in you.
Be merciful to me, O Lord, for you are my God;
I call upon you all the day long.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
For you, Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.
Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer
and listen to the voice of my supplication.
In the day of my distress I will call upon you,
for you will answer me.
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
Jesus 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.’
Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.
On Thursday we reflected upon Jesus’ call to discipleship. Today we meet the most unlikely of characters responding to that call. Jesus saw the tax collector, Levi, and called him to leave his dishonest and disreputable life in order that he might become a disciple and apostle for Jesus’ new Way.
We can only imagine the joy, and possibly the apprehension, felt by Levi as he found himself getting up from his tax booth, leaving everything and setting out on a new path. For Levi, a whole new way of life had opened up. There can be no surprise that Levi wanted to celebrate this with a great banquet.
When we throw a party we like to surround ourselves with our family, our friends, our neighbours and our colleagues. Unfortunately, for the Pharisees and the other religious dignitaries, Levi’s closest circle of acquaintances were even more tax collectors and similar social outcasts. And there, in the midst of this ‘untouchable’ gathering of ne’er-do-wells, sat Jesus, the guest of honour. For the religious leaders in that community this was beyond the pale, not only was Jesus undermining their teaching with his new ways, but now he was sitting in the home of a sinner, in the midst of many sinners. Jesus had, thereby, rendered himself unclean in their eyes.
Then comes Jesus answer to the question: Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners? Jesus’ reply says much about the way we should be responding to the world around us. Jesus said that those who would be his disciples should deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow. Today we are seeing that in action. Levi responds to Jesus’ call by following him. Then comes the criticism and the vilification. Levi would have been accustomed to such treatment, but it shows us where following Jesus may lead us.
Jesus calls us to follow and then to go out in his name. We are not sent out into the comfortable places of this world. Rather, we are sent into the dark, cold and forbidding places where the light of Christ does not yet shine. Our association with such people in such places can easily leave us open to the same level of criticism as that expressed by the Pharisees and scribes. By travelling alongside the dispossessed and rejected ones of society we can soon find ourselves being classed with them. Our honouring of Jesus’ call in our lives turns into a cross that needs to be borne.
Today’s reading rounds off the group of four readings that have marked the beginning of our Lenten pilgrimage. The coming weeks are not going to be easy if we are going to be true to God’s call in our lives. So, let us pray for the strength we will need as we journey into a closer relationship with God, respond to Jesus’ call in our lives and bring healing and light into the lives of those who need it the most.
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray to the Lord, who casts down the proud and exalts the humble.
Preserve the Church from false pride. Teach us all to value our calling as by grace and not of our own goodness. May your word be made fully known through the preaching of your chosen ministers.
In a world where people put their trust in themselves and their own works, bring us the humility that is the only offering acceptable to you. Give the joy of human fellowship to those who in pride set themselves apart from others.
Strengthen us in service to you and to one another. Make us open to all in our community, welcoming those whose lives are different from our own.
Have mercy on the outcasts of the world, who are despised for their social position or way of life. Comfort all who have been forsaken by those whom they trusted.
We give thanks for those who have fought the good fight and are now at rest. Grant them the crown of righteousness prepared for those who have loved you to the end.
We pray through Christ for mercy on our sins and on all sinners.
Prayer for the week
shine upon all who are in the darkness of suffering or grief;
that in your light
they may receive hope and courage,
and in your presence
may find their rest and peace;
for your love’s sake.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
Forgive us when our deeds ignore
your righteous rule of all the earth,
when our decisions harm the poor,
denying their eternal worth.
Forgive us when we turn aside
from what is honest, true and fair,
when dreams of pleasure, wealth and pride
supplant your clear commands to care.
Martin Leckebusch (b. 1962)