Pastor's Ponderings: Meandering through Mark 2:13-14 bible study (September 11, 2023)
Updated: Oct 4
Good morning, and may the LORD bless and keep you wrapped in His safe arms throughout your entire day.
Of course, today we must remember that the people of Morocco are in deep trouble after the major earth quake hit their nation. Prayer for those who have yet to be rescued, for the rescue teams, and for the families of the victims. If you would like to make a special contribution, you can do so through the ELCA Disaster Relief Fund at ELCA.Org.
Here at American we are headed into a very busy month, and frankly, the entire autumn finds us getting busier and busier as we approach the end of the Church Year on Thanksgiving weekend, and once again look forward to that season of wonder and waiting, Advent, which begins on the first Sunday of December. You are cordially invited to come and see what all of this is about if you are not a member of our congregation. Our Rally Day will be on September 24th starting at 8:30AM in our worship space.
Another reminder for all of us is, of course, 9/11 our nation was attacked and the twin towers in NY city fell killing thousands of people, the Pentagon suffered the lost of life, and all of those who lost their lives on the airplanes which were used to accomplish the attacks. Today pray for first responders and the families who lost their loved ones and co-workers in this grave tragedy. Please also remember Kandice K whose cancer numbers have gone up a bit again. Pray that her treatments will get her cancer back to reducing each month when she is tested and treated.
As we all know there is never any lack of need for our prayers and support for the needs of God's children no matter where they live on God's planet. Soooo, pray constantly, and offer yourself to God as one who is open to His call to serve the Gospel in any variety of settings.
Today we move forward in chapter two of the Gospel of Mark bible study with verses 13 & 14.
Though Jesus may have looked to offer God's truth in the setting where so many gathered to worship, the centers of worship gradually became closed to the Word that He carried in His very life from God the Father. Somehow we should never be surprised that what should have been the places most open to Jesus' teaching and preaching, were indeed closed to hear the Truth that He brought. We have churches today where the very same thing happens. Instead of focusing on Grace and Love for all people, some houses of worship close their doors and hearts to those who somehow don't make the mark and standard of a particular congregation. It can, like the synagogues of Jesus' day, refuse to allow the "others" to join them in their so called loved for Christ and the true message of Loving God above all else with everything that we are, and loving our neighbors like we love ourselves. In those places in Jesus time the expansive rules for living under God's Law were exclusive and harsh. No wonder they had to reject Christ. They had never understood the powerful Love of God for His children. We have churches in our communities which do the same thing! I am most thankful that American Ev. Lutheran Church, the here church, is an inclusive and affirming church welcoming everyone who walks through the door. So out of the exclusion of the synagogues, Jesus took on the role of the itinerant preacher, walking the shores of Galilee. This was no small task. Ask any pastor developer. Hours every day spent carrying the Good News for all people into the hearts of the community. This was not a substandard choice for Jesus. Palestine was the crossroads of the world. To get to Africa, without access to ships, commerce traveled through the middle East. Though Matthew directs the reader's attention to the fact that Jesus was sent to the Jews for their upbuilding and renewal and healing and forgiveness, Jesus had encounters with many people from a variety of places, most notably the people of Samaria. One of the things which we discover that there were people who were the collectors of use fees for that commerce travel. Matthew was one of those, Levi, the son of Alphaeus, we call them tax collectors today. In the modern day we all know about the annual reports to the IRS, but there are other places too, like the tolls collected on roads and highways throughout our nation. It was along one of these roads, or at the gate of one of the numerous small communities that existed on Galilee that Jesus calls Matthew, a much maligned collector of these fees and tolls. If Matthew had only collected what the government allowed, there would probably not been much concern around him, but as was the custom, tax collecting became a business of bribery and greed where many charges were inflated based on where a person came from, or the material they were carrying on the road, or if they just looked like they could really afford to be charged more. It was all up to Matthew's discretion! So, who was this Matthew that Jesus was about to call to join him in His ministry?
We must know, that like tax collectors of our day, even though they are following a set of laws, Matthew was much hated by the people around him in the community and those who had to carry their commerce through Matthew's site. Greek writers put tax collectors with the like of adulterers, panderers, flatterers, and sycophants. This was certainly far from flattering those who served their own benefit at the expense of those who had to pass through their "offices". As you and I look at Matthew, we have to wonder why Jesus chose him. What did he see in this man of greed that he wanted for His ministry?
Perhaps what Jesus saw in Matthew was a man who was desperately lonely and always rejected. Matthew was one who could understand those who would come to Jesus that were shunned for any variety of reasons from being divorced, or being considered untouchable because of their disease, or whose lives were flawed in some other way, according to the law of the day. Matthew knew their sense of hopelessness in the face of human rejection. He knew what it meant to be deemed "unclean" by the religion of his community. Just imagine what it would be to walk in to a congregation, and be told that you were not welcome. This is what Matthew knew and experienced in his life.
In this choice we also find out about Jesus. He was never closed to the opportunities which came before him. He was ready and working for the Gospel 24/7. As Jesus walked along Galilee He found this man Matthew. Imagine if we were prepared every time we were in the community to see the ones who God placed before us so that they might receive His Word through us? Note that Jesus was not calling everyone he saw. but Matthew needed the Truth of Christ, and Christ knew that He could use Matthew for His work. Who has God put before you in your life who could use the Truth of Christ to find their way in the darkness and sin of their lives? Remember? The harvest is plentiful, but those who will work in God's vineyard are few.
Of all of the disciples, Matthew gave up the most. He left it all behind to follow Christ, and found everything that he could never earn through greed and avarice. He found Love and the One who brought it to the world to fill his life and the lives of others he would meet. People would be hungry to know Matthew, for the gifts that he could bring to their lives, rather than fear him for what he might take from them. Other disciples could, when there was time, or after the death of Christ, return to their labors of fishing in Galilee, but for Matthew all the bridges were burned to never be crossed again in his life. Recently in a program gifted to me from my older children, I was asked what small decision made some great change in my life. I couldn't think of some small decision, but I sure could think of my life's biggest decision, to serve the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the amazing people I have been blessed to work with, and the power of Christ's Love that I have the sublime privilege of carrying in my life every day, the forgiveness and hope that I know are mine through the Savior, what more could I ever hope for. Of course there are life's concerns for retirement (if it ever comes, because my call is for all of my life)
So Matthew's decision sets him FREE! For the rest of his life he will have clean hands. The stress of making a path for himself and accumulating great wealth, trying to create a future and joy and happiness, was gone. Matthew found all of those things in Christ. Matthew lost one job, but replaced it with one of the greatest fulfillment. It wasn't an easier job either by anyone's standard. It was filled with challenges, danger, poverty by most people's standards, and never ending opportunities to do what was right, good, and God's justice of Love for all people. In his rash decision to follow this traveling teacher, Matthew has never been forgotten for his choice to follow Jesus, his name is known across the world, and He became the one who had the privilege of telling Christ's story for all people. When we place Christ and God above all else we will find that we are held in God's care no matter what comes our way.
Tomorrow we will get into chapter 2:15-17.
In Christ, with joy and confidence in every day.