O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
by the obedience of Jesus
you brought salvation to our wayward world:
draw us into harmony with your will,
that we may find all things restored in him,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is gracious,
for his faithfulness endures for ever.
Who can express the mighty acts of the Lord
or show forth all his praise?
Blessed are those who observe what is right
and always do what is just.
Remember me, O Lord, in the favour you bear for your people;
visit me in the day of your salvation;
That I may see the prosperity of your chosen
and rejoice in the gladness of your people,
and exult with your inheritance.
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.
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.’
Today’s reading is one of my absolute favourites from the gospel narrative. Jesus goes up to someone who was an outcast from his own community and called him to: Follow me. We know that Jesus does this all the time, but what makes these verses so special for me is Matthew’s response: And he got up and followed him.
This week’s readings have built up to this moment. We have reflected on the human response of avoiding God’s call; the response of two ordinary men who were destined to become the foundation of the Christian Church; those who have questioned the relevance of Christ in their lives; and those whose piety is skin deep. Today we see a real sinner being called into Christ’s service … and his immediate response to that call.
In my ministry I have encountered many people who consider themselves ‘unworthy’ of God’s love. Those people have been very aware of their flaws and their weaknesses. They have looked into their own hearts and found themselves wanting. They have placed themselves alongside the scribes in yesterday’s reading, making the decision on Jesus’ behalf that there is ‘evil’ in their hearts. This may sound reasonable to some. After all, we are all human and, therefore, we are not perfect. But this is not a judgement we can make for ourselves. To condemn ourselves in this way is to reject God’s willingness to forgive those who truly repent, those who are prepared to turn around and follow a different path through this life.
In today’s reading Matthew is being given that opportunity, and he grabs it with enthusiasm and joy. A tax collector, a collaborator with the Romans, was seen as being beyond all hope. The gathering of monies to help continue the occupation of a brutal regime could not possibly be condoned, and this was Matthew’s job. But Jesus saw good in him. Jesus called him to abandon his old life, and Matthew did just that.
Jesus said: I have come to call not the righteous but sinners. Matthew’s response to Jesus’ call should be the model we seek to emulate in our daily lives. And when we are struck down with feelings of inadequacy and lack of worth, then we should remember why Jesus came to earth and journeyed through the human experience. He came to call us into righteousness, he did not come to condemn us.
Let us pray that we might hear Jesus’ call in our lives, and let us pray for the strength to follow Matthew’s example as we get up and follow him.
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 secure living. Soften the hearts of any who oppress the poor and put gain before mercy.
We remember before you 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, the friend of sinners.
Prayer for the week
Lord of all,
in whom we live and move and have our being,
renew our hearts through your Holy Spirit,
that we may long to draw close to you in prayer,
that we may have the faith to hear your call on our lives,
and that we may have the courage
to tread the path you have set before us,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
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.