Here's a page from the Vitaljournal from the reading plan for Lent from Matthew's Gospel. Today the reading is from Matthew 9:1-13 and includes the calling of Matthew the Tax-Collector:
I'm struck by The Message version's translation of what the religious leaders say when they see Jesus hanging out with Matthew the tax-collector, this Jew who is in league with Empire Rome for his own benefit. They say, "What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riff-raff?" It kind of makes me wonder that if the religiously "in" AREN'T making comments like this about you and the way you live Christ, then you may not be living Christ well.
I'm struck by another thing: The fact that Jesus did NOT get Matthew "all cleaned up and turned from his tax-collecting ways" BEFORE he called him to follow. It really - at least for me - reinforces the notion that we have been focused on in worship; that Christianity isn't about a system of belief as much as it is about a way of life. And until Christians rediscover their faith as a way of life, people will continue to leave the church or never have any interest. What Jesus calls Matthew to - this "disreputable character" as he's described - is not to believe something so much as he calls Matthew to follow a way that Jesus embodies.
Lord, hear this as my prayer for me and FCC. Amen!
PS: If you want to join up on the reading plan and the Facebook Group Vitaljournal, check out the earlier post which gives all the details about how!