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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Today’s Reading | Luke 5:27–39

After this he went out and saw a tax-collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up, left everything, and followed him.

Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house; and there was a large crowd of tax-collectors and others sitting at the table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax-collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered, “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 to repentance.”

Then they said to him, “John’s disciples, like the disciples of the Pharisees, frequently fast and pray, but your disciples eat and drink.” Jesus said to them, “You cannot make wedding-guests fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? The days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and sews it on an old garment; otherwise the new will be torn, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, ‘The old is good.’” (NRSV)

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day followed what they thought was a righteous life: fasting, praying, and keeping company with the right people. But Jesus is not doing any of that. His disciples ate and drank. He intentionally hangs around those whom society despised—in this case, tax collectors. Tax collectors were barred from the synagogue as traitors because they took a job with the Roman government that occupied Palestine. They could assess higher fees than what was owed to the Romans to extract money for their own profit. The Pharisees would not have allowed the hem of their clothing to even touch the likes of Levi, whom Jesus invites to be among his inner ring of disciples.

Hearing complaints about the company he chose to keep, Jesus says that it is precisely for such people that he came to love and show a truer way of life. Complaints about how much the disciples were enjoying life leads him to affirm that there is a season for such. His behavior was so startlingly unexpected that Jesus urged them, and us, to have an open mind to new ideas. We need to set aside the old and embrace a completely different framework.

In our polarized nation, we tend to listen only to the news sources that reinforce what we already think and hang out only with likeminded people. It’s easier that way. But we may be missing the new that God is calling us to embrace. What do your complaints reveal about the mental frameworks onto which you are hanging? With whom may God be calling you to interact that you currently avoid?

Open my heart, gracious God, to receive those I disrespect. Open my mind so I recognize you at work in the new and different. Amen.

Written by Victoria G. Curtiss, Associate Pastor for Mission

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