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O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
at the Jordan you revealed Jesus as your Son:
may we recognize him as our Lord
and know ourselves to be your beloved children;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour.
The king shall rejoice in your strength, O Lord;
how greatly shall he rejoice in your salvation!
You have given him his heart’s desire
and have not denied the request of his lips.
For you come to meet him with blessings of goodness
and set a crown of pure gold upon his head.
He asked of you life and you gave it him,
length of days, for ever and ever.
His honour is great because of your salvation;
glory and majesty have you laid upon him.
You have granted him everlasting felicity
and will make him glad with joy in your presence.
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 again beside the lake; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them. As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus 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 Levi’s house, many tax-collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples—for there were many who followed him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax-collectors, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax-collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard this, he said to them, ‘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.’
Today’s reading from scripture is one of my favourites. I love its quietly understated, and yet uncompromising nature. Jesus said to Levi the tax collector: Follow me. Then we read: he got up and followed him.
The call of Levi (or Matthew) has featured in many bible studies I have been involved in over the years. Sometimes it has been Mark’s account that has been studied, and sometimes that which is found in the gospel of Luke. Luke’s account is even more challenging as it says: he got up, left everything, and followed him. Every time Jesus’ call and Levi’s response has been considered there have been those who have tried to water down the power of the message by superimposing worldly conditions upon it.
As we reflect upon the words in scripture, many of us will be left wondering: what about Levi’s money, his family, his contractual commitments, his job? Surely, Levi, the tax collector, the one who was so shrewd and hard-headed, would have sorted out the mundane matters of daily life before following a wandering rabbi. But that is not what scripture tells us. The picture we are given is one that many might well describe as being reckless, but it leaves no room for doubt and uncertainty. Jesus said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him. There is no suggestion that the tax collector wasted the next year or so getting his affairs into good order. Instead, we are told that in his joy he threw a party.
When we are confronted with the unexpected and the inexplicable we often react in a critical way. In our reading we see that there is nothing new in this. Rather than expressing joy in the conversion of a sinner, the scribes and the Pharisees, those whited-sepulchres of the Jewish faith, condemned Jesus for joining in the celebrations. Jesus’ response is one for us all to take to heart.
Jesus said: I have come to call not the righteous but sinners. As we strive to impose our morality and our ‘common sense’ on any situation we often align ourselves with the scribes and Pharisees. We criticize and condemn, instead of loving and healing. As we gaze upon those who see the world from a different perspective to our own, we so often fall into the trap of pronouncing judgement, forgetting that it is not our place to judge. Instead of acting as judge and jury, we should be the vehicles by which others might come to experience the joy of faithful discipleship. Rather than putting on a sour and condemnatory demeanour we should be showing others what fun it is to be a Christian. Let us pray for the strength to do just that.
Prayers of intercession
Let us pray to God, who hears the prayers of sinners who trust in his mercy.
Confirm the Church as the true heir of the promise. Empower your people to declare in their time your everlasting love.
Look with pity on a world that is often sick and does not know its need of healing. Lift the crushing weight of fear from those who live by law without mercy.
Bless our families, friends and neighbours with health of mind and body. Fill us with love and forgiveness for those who have offended us. Help us to receive them in love, acknowledging our own need of healing and pardon.
Have pity on those who feel that society has despised and rejected them. Come with your healing power to the chronically sick who despair of health. Make them know that they are not forsaken in their suffering.
Raise up to eternal life the souls of the departed. Have mercy on all who mourn.
That we may be made whole through faith in Christ, we pray in his name.
Prayer for the week
Loving Father, we pray for all
who are any way troubled at this time.
Give relief to those in pain,
friendship to those who are alone,
reassurance to those in doubt or distress of mind;
and may our love be so strong that seeing need
we may never pass by on the other side.
We make our prayer in the name of Jesus Christ,
our loving Lord and Saviour.
The Lord’s Prayer
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.