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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Wednesday, October 9, 2019           

Today’s Scripture Reading | Matthew 9:9–17

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” (NRSV)

A recurring theme in this Gospel passage is the transformation of old ways of thinking, believing, worshiping, and acting into something radically new.

Jesus calls Matthew, a tax collector despised by Jesus’ own community, to be a disciple. He shares a meal with sinners and tax collectors who are outcasts and outside of the sanctioned religious leadership. He teaches that God desires mercy, not temple sacrifice as was the custom. In short, he turns traditional religious observance on its head.

A good teacher, Jesus uses two examples to illustrate: the futility of sewing a new patch on an old cloth, and pouring new wine into old wineskins

Jesus’ words and actions presage Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come!” 

How do we hear Jesus’ words in our place and time? What accepted (and perhaps unexamined) religious beliefs need to be transformed and made new? 

One is in the emerging understanding that the care of creation is a moral responsibility. As Christians we have long been aware that our faith in Jesus calls us to care for those in need. Now we recognize that this care extends to the planet, its air and waters, its fields and flowers, its animals and birds of the air. Our efforts on behalf of the created world are inextricable from our care for humans, not only because a healthy environment is necessary for life to flourish. We also recognize that creation manifests and reveals the divine, that is God.

Help us to turn our minds and hearts to loving your creation, O God. May we be good stewards of what you have made. Amen.

Written by Margaret Brennan, Replogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being

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