Friday, March 2, 2012

Calling the Outcasts

He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.” Mark 2:13-22

It is amazing how small things we take for granted can become huge positive steps in the healing process. Things as simple as putting on one's clothes can be a trial too big to handle alone. And when finally, after days of help and struggle, finally dressing at least a like bit without help, seems like nothing short of a miracle. We take so much for granted when we are well. When the pain jolts me awake in the middle of the night I pray that I am grateful for the days when that is no longer the case, when I wake up, moving and breathing without a thought about it. I know my gratitude will know no bounds for many months to come when all this is said and done.

Jesus calls a complete societal reject when he calls Levi the tax collector. Everyone in religious leadership seems to be be ashamed of Jesus' choice and complains loudly. He has done a lot of dumb things but this is outrageous, and so inappropriate as to get the whole lot of them in an uproar. But imagine Levi, welcomed and included, loved just as he is, a cherished family member around the table. Probably the first ever opportunity of his life time to feel as if he was some one special, a somebody, a needed and wanted human being, with a place always set for him at the table. And Jesus loved his friends and associates too, widening the circle so that they too were included.Truly, that is what we all want, a place where love surrounds us, where we are wanted and welcomed just as we are. Jesus calls Levi as he calls us, just as we are, broken, battered and full of rejection.

Today, I ask God to help me see that all of us are aching to be including, all of us, wanting simply to be loved for who we are, however gifted or limited we might appear to be. May we remember how Jesus made room for the rejected and the lonely and how he trusted them as friends and colleagues, as family with a place always set for them at the table. May we be people who can widen the love in our hearts to include all who find their way into our lives, the ones who have never felt welcome and who need a share of the gratitude and hospitality that we have so graciously known.

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