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Friday, February 27, 2015

Today’s Reading | Mark 2:13–22

Jesus went out again beside the sea; 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.”

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?” Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? 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 on that day.

“No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.” (NRSV)

Eating together is a powerful symbol. For me, a lot of this passage speaks to who is welcomed at the Communion Table. Through bread and the cup, we come together. We are accepted and “come home” to a place where we are loved and welcomed, in spite of our doubts and the times when we falter. At the table, we come together as part of a whole.

Jesus’ fellowship was not done in private, but openly, inclusively, and transparently. The scribes of the Pharisees are those of regard and authority, threatened by the radical hospitality they witness in Jesus. “Why is he eating with those people?” “Why are we all fasting and you people aren’t?” I was reminded of the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son. He dutifully did exactly as expected and yet the fatted calf was killed for his wayward brother. He was indignant at what he perceived as injustice. Ah, the old wineskin reacting to new wine!

“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them,” said Albert Einstein.

Through Jesus, God hopes we will come together to transform the world, to address social injustice, to love others and ourselves. Jesus is the assurance of God’s love and belief in us. It’s not about breaking with all tradition but breaking bread together to discern what is needed and act for God. Too often it is easier and safer to hold to what we know and what is accepted than to “hold to the good and love all of God’s children.” Albert Einstein’s quote echoes Mark: it’s not old sackcloth I’m to wear; it’s weaving new cloth. Similarly, through new thinking and earnest collaboration, in coming together and doing my part, I can work to address the challenges of my life and our world.

Great God, the source of creative possibility, help me be the instrument of your change and of your healing. Make me an instrument of your peace. Help me to love my neighbors and do your good work. Amen.

Written by Laura Sterkel, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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