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Even me!

September 19, 2015

I’m only little, well not that tall. I’m taller than my Mam but that’s not saying much – sorry Mam! Being short can be helpful when I just want to be part of the scenery, when I don’t want stand out. Being short is a real pain though in crowds. The number of times I’ve been in church and ended up behind someone tall. I always choose to sit somewhere that I see the front, but it is truly amazing how often someone slips in in front of me just before the service. God must have a sense of humour because they’re always over 6′ tall and 4′ wide! I’ve got used to going through a whole service or concert, hearing everything but seeing nothing; well nothing but the back of the person in front! And don’t get me started on about ministers who whisper! I must be getting grumpy in my old age. All of these thoughts about being short were prompted by reading the story of Jesus and Matthew from (see  Matthew 9.9-13. I don’t know why but I always picture Matthew as being short too.

I love the story of Jesus and Matthew. I find it encouraging and really challenging. It’s encouraging because it reminds me that Jesus calls everyone, even me. It’s challenging for exactly the same reason. Jesus calls everyone, even includes those that I really don’t think deserve him. I find it so easy to end up sitting with the Pharisees.

Matthew is a tax collector and collaborator with the hated Romans. No good Jew would have been seen dead with him, much less go to his house for dinner. Today perhaps imagine the local drug dealer. Being seen with Matthew would have been bad enough but there were his friends too. Matthew’s friends would have made up all the criminals and outcasts around. Very likely there were pimps and prostitutes, thieves and thugs, all sitting round with Jesus and his disciples.

No wonder the Pharisees complained – no self-respecting Rabbi would ever do what Jesus was doing. I suspect that they were a bit smug too. This new fancy Rabbi may have turned people’s heads for a while but now he had shown himself for the sinner he really was. I can see them now, heading home feeling pleased with themselves… and they missed the greatest opportunity of their lives.

Jesus’ message is clear – none of us deserve God’s forgiveness, let alone his love. No one is perfect and never has been – the Pharisees did their best to keep all of God’s law but it is impossible never to do or think anything wrong. As Jesus points out they need mercy not law. Sadly, all their respectability made it impossible for them to see the truth right in front of them.

Matthew and his friends though were very different. They knew all too well that they were far from perfect. They will have done many things that they would have been ashamed of and knew that they would probably do more the very next day. One step ahead of the law they knew that they wouldn’t stand a chance in court, especially not God’s court. They knew that their only real hope was in mercy but no Rabbi was willing to talk to them and show them the way to God’s mercy. Then along came this strange fellow from Galilee.

This Rabbi Jesus would stop and speak with them. He listened too. There was something about him that made them want to listen back. Jesus was treating them as real human beings, even as children of God. Jesus cared about them and wasn’t afraid of ruining his good reputation by spending time with them. Jesus would even break the Jewish food laws to sit down and eat with them.

Still I don’t picture a peaceful scene with all of them listening to Jesus, awestruck. No I imagine a rowdy meal with lots of drink. Lots of choice language too, enough to make most Rabbi’s blush. No ‘airs and graces’ just desperate men and women, some mocking Jesus, and some who knew their need of God, of hope. Then Jesus stuck two fingers up at the Pharisees again. He didn’t just eat with Matthew he invited him to join him, and not just as a disciple – Matthew was invited to be one of the inner twelve.

So the story of Matthew and Jesus encourages me that God’s love is big enough to include me, even though I’m so far from perfect. That little man, Matthew speaks across 2,000 years and challenges me to never totally write someone off. It is even possible that the person I’ve looked down on will go ahead of me into the kingdom of God.

– Anyone can receive the free gift of God’s love.

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