All Are Welcome

Scripture: Luke 5:27
After this [Jesus] went out and saw a tax-collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ (NRSV)

In my first full-time appointment as a United Methodist Pastor, I came across a text like this one that mentioned tax-collectors.  As I recall, the text was not very flattering to tax-collectors and I preached a sermon with phrases in it that often lumped tax-collectors together with other sinners without much thought.  This might not be exactly how it went, it was some 25 plus years ago, but I remember it being at the end of the service as I was greeting my new flock, one of my parishioners thanked me for the sermon, smiled, and then said, “By the way, I am a tax-collector for the state.”  I think about that every time I read about tax-collectors in the New Testament.

Tax-collectors in Jesus’ day and community were seen as traitors to the occupied nation of Israel.  Not only did they collect money for the occupying country of Rome but, they were often accused of collecting more than what the government had required in order to line their own pockets.  This is why we always see them as outsiders of the communities and lumped in with sinners of all types.  I’ll rush to say that this is not the case in our country, and I hold no ill will for anyone who works for the federal, state, or local tax administrations.

But, knowing what we do about Jesus’ culture and community structure, one of the last people you would expect Jesus to call to be one of his 12 closest students (disciples), would be Levi the tax-collector.  I love this verse because it shows me that God continually reaches out to those who others might have given up on.  There is no one with whom God does not offer to be in relationship.  Even this perceived traitor and cheat.

I know people who constantly say that they are too bad to be in relationship with God.  But it just isn’t true.  The truth is that God seek out all people to come and be made whole in his presence.  If you don’t believe you are worthy of God’s love, then you don’t yet know the God who is love.  He is calling you to come and follow Jesus.

Pray with me:

God of unconditional love remind me that as one who follows you, I am called to love others as you would love others.  May my love that flows from you touch the lives of those who feel that they are not worthy of your love.  AMEN.

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