Saturday, June 07, 2008

IV Pentecost

Readings are here.

Jesus is having dinner with the disciples and the usual suspects - sinners and tax collectors. Sinners were those who could not live up to the strict religious laws of the time. Those who could not keep from being "unclean" according to the rules of their religion. This would include any who came into contact with outsiders, blood, death, or who did not live up to the purity laws of the day. If you had a stall in the market place, or worked in a job where you touched unclean things - you were considered a sinner. Only the very wealthy had the leisure and ability to stay "clean." Tax collectors worked for the hated Romans - making their money by collecting taxes and adding on their "salary." It is really quite astounding for a person like Jesus to be eating dinner with such a motley crew. It is as if the most popular group in a social setting chose to hang out with the least popular. It is like when those with power and privilege - give it away to those without, taking second place or lower.

This passage from the Gospel of Matthew goes on with even more surprises. A member of the religious establishment comes into this mix to ask for help for his daughter. What love he must have for his daughter - to risk his position and status in the community for a girl child. Jesus does not question his presence or his request but jumps up to respond. On the way to the man's house, a woman- perhaps emboldened by the actions of Jesus, risks all to touch the fringe on his cloak.

As Jesus arrives at the house the crowd laughs at him for thinking he can save the dead girl. He breaks through that wall of laughter - and reaches out his hand to the girl. Over and over Jesus breaks through the religious and societal rules to bring healing to those who reach out to him.

These readings speak to those of us who feel unworthy because of the circumstances of our lives -- there is nothing (as it says in Romans 8) that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. God has broken through all the walls of our lives in Christ. There is no longer a payment system - where we must do something to obtain this mercy and healing. The Psalm tells us this, Abraham and Sarah tell us this. Each proclaims and trusts in the promises of life even in the face of enemies or old age. No matter what we have done or not done - the door is always open to God.

In response we are called, as the Body of Christ, to also be open to others who come into our lives. Healing of the world will come through these actions.

Picture from the catacombs.