Matthew appears in the list of the twelve apostles of Jesus and, according to the gospel written under his name, was a tax-collector. Mark and Luke called the tax-collector Levi, and it has been assumed that they are one and the same. This occupation was despised by his fellow Jews as a betrayal to the occupying Roman force but Christ showed that judging by outward appearance was not what he was about. He ate with Matthew and with his friends, scandalizing those around him. Matthew followed at his call and this was enough for Jesus, for he had drawn someone back to God. He was forgiven, therefore he was acceptable, therefore he was received.
O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
O Almighty God,
whose blessed Son called Matthew the tax collector
to be an apostle and evangelist:
give us grace to forsake the selfish pursuit of gain
and the possessive love of riches
that we may follow in the way of your Son Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
You have dealt graciously with your servant,
according to your word, O Lord.
O teach me true understanding and knowledge,
for I have trusted in your commandments.
Before I was afflicted I went astray,
but now I keep your word.
You are gracious and do good;
O Lord, teach me your statutes.
The proud have smeared me with lies,
but I will keep your commandments with my whole heart.
Their heart has become gross with fat,
but my delight is in your law.
It is good for me that I have been afflicted,
that I may learn your statutes.
The law of your mouth is dearer to me
than a hoard of gold and silver.
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.
Reading: Matthew 9.9-13
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.
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.’
This is the word of the Lord.
The readings this week largely focus on the way in which we should respond when Jesus calls us into his service. Today we are reminded of Matthew’s call into discipleship. There are two accounts of this event in the gospel narrative: they are in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Both of these accounts give us the same details. Matthew was a tax collector, someone identified as being beyond redemption by the religious authorities of the day; beyond redemption because tax collectors were overt agents of the pagan Roman occupiers. However, despite his background, Jesus identified Matthew as being worthy of a place in the company of his closest companions.
There is a message for all of us in the gospel account of Matthew’s call. Matthew was a sinner. Matthew could not have been more distanced from respectable religious society. Matthew had a comfortable life-style and did not need or expect that life-style to be disrupted. However, despite all those negative attributes, Jesus still called Matthew into his service. In two simple words Jesus invited Matthew to repent, that is to turn around, to abandon all of those ways that distanced him from God, and to follow the new road on which Jesus was leading him. And Matthew’s response? His response was not to question or argue, but to get up and follow.
We are all being called by Jesus, That call comes in many different ways. Sometimes it comes as a blinding flash of realization; more commonly it comes as a small voice that slowly chips away at the barriers we erect for ourselves. But … we are all being called by Jesus. No matter who or what we are, or who or what we have been, we are all being called to join Matthew in repenting and following Jesus.
As ever there is a challenge in this short passage of scripture. Are we brave enough to be a Matthew? Are we brave enough to abandon our old ways and follow Jesus? Are we brave enough to let the light and love of Christ shine through our cloudy past into God’s bright future?
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray to God who brings sinners to repentance and new life.
Keep the Church firm against temptation to compromise the faith for the sake of outward success. Deeply mindful of our own sins, may we always be open to receive into our fellowship the outcast and the despised.
We pray for all who control the wealth of the nations, all who deal in money transactions across the world. Bless with integrity and honest service those responsible for taxation.
In all that we do, shield us from the evil that springs from love of money. Make us honest in our debts and generous in our giving. Bless those in our community who are seeking the way back from the errors of their lives.
Have mercy on those who have fallen into debt and can find no escape. Help them to return to wise and secure living. Soften the hearts of any who oppress the poor and put gain before mercy.
We give thanks for all who have passed through the temptations of this world and come to their rest. Grant that when we are called from this life we may be pardoned for our sins and rejoice in the company of blessed Matthew and all the saints.
May our prayers be accepted through Jesus Christ, friend of sinners.
Prayer for the week
you have taught us to pray to you as ‘Our Father’:
help us to see the world through your eyes,
and to love our neighbours with your love.
Show us how we can share with them
the knowledge and joy of our faith,
that they may be brought closer to you,
and enjoy the perfect freedom of your kingdom.
We make our prayer in the name of Jesus Christ,
our Lord and our God.
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.
Then hear, O gracious Saviour,
accept the love we bring,
that we who know your favour
may serve you as our king;
and whether our tomorrows
be filled with good or ill,
we’ll triumph through our sorrows
and rise to bless you still:
to marvel at your beauty
and glory in your ways,
and make a joyful duty
our sacrifice of praise.
Michael Perry (1942–1996)