Week of 1 Epiphany: Saturday, Year 1   16 comments

Above: The Calling of St. Matthew, by Hendrick ter Brugghen (1621)

Jesus and the Outcast

JANUARY 14, 2017

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Hebrews 4:12-16 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And before him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the yes of him with whom have to do.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Psalm 19:7-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7 The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

8 The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

9 The fear of the LORD is clean and endures forever;

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold, more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.

11 By them also is your servant enlightened,

and in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can tell how often he offends?

cleanse me from my secret faults.

13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;

let them not get dominion over me;

then shall I be whole and sound,

and innocent of a great offense.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,

O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

Mark 2:13-17 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

He went out again beside the sea; and all the crowd gathered about him, and he taught them.  And as he passed on, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and he said to him,

Follow me.

And he rose and followed him.

And as he sat at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were sitting 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.

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The Collect:

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

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Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you all secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 355

One way of defining oneself as pure is labeling the “other” as impure.  Thus purity codes are inherently exclusive.  And how many of us grew up hearing the Benjamin Franklin aphorism that those who lie down with dogs will rise with fleas?  Jesus, being Jesus, ignored this convention, which religious orthopraxy and orthodoxy had enshrined.  Pharisees were careful with whom they ate, restricting this activity to those on the approved list.

Matthew (Levi), his fellow tax collectors, and others who refused flagrantly obey the Law of Moses, at least as the Pharisees said people should, were not on the approved list.  Yet Jesus broke bread and drank wine with such people.  And he recruited Matthew, who was a literal tax thief working for the occupying Roman Empire, to join his inner circle.  Jesus saw the potential within people and worked to bring it out in them.

I invite you, O reader, to ask yourself who you are in this story.  Are you Jesus, disregarding purity codes?  Or are you one of the impure.  Perhaps you are one our Lord’s critics, a person concerned greatly with respectability and the maintenance of tradition above all else.

We are all broken, sinful, and incapable of pleasing God on our own power.  So, in truth, each of us is impure.  But do we recognize this fact and approach the throne of grace in proper humility?  The word of God (in the Hebrews reading, simply God speaking) exposes all. It cuts through all distinctions and lays bare what we are.  We cannot hide from God, even by being “properly” religious.

Nevertheless, Jesus would invite you to dinner.  He does; today we call it the Holy Eucharist, Holy Communion, Mass, or the Divine Liturgy, depending on one’s tradition.  There we meet the living Savior and take him into our bodies in the forms of mystically transformed bread and wine.  Nobody among us is worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs from under Jesus’ table, but we receive the invitation anyhow.  Our worthiness comes from Christ.

Therefore, being aware of our own unworthiness, may we refrain from labeling others “outcast,” “impure,” and “unworthy.”

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/12/31/jesus-and-the-outcast/

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-st-matthew-the-evangelist-apostle-and-martyr-september-21/

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16 responses to “Week of 1 Epiphany: Saturday, Year 1

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