Monday, May 21, 2007

Changes: The Calling of Matthew

What do you love about Jesus?

I love that Jesus invites us to change the way we look at the world. The beauty of God helps me see others and myself differently.

In this series my hope is that we can turn up the God volume in our life.

Matthew 9:9-13
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"

On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

Perhaps the most famous picture of the calling of Mathew is a 16th century portrayal by Italian artist Caravaggio. Many consider him to be the greatest religious painter of his time, and perhaps that ever lived.

Caravaggio was an interesting fellow. He was violent, a rogue, a man who never quite was able to get his life together. According to Wiki, “Caravaggio was considered enigmatic, fascinating, rebellious, and dangerous.”

What Caravaggio had was the light of Christ providing him hope in the midst of his own personal struggles.

He painted Matthew in contemporary fashion, ala the 16th century. Today he would have had him in perhaps an Armani suit as a wealthy person but also very corrupt, a gangster. In the days of Jesus a tax collector was considered a collaborator. And not only that but they skimmed off the top, making them a cheat, too!

In this picture you see many interesting elements, one of them being the fact that the hand of Jesus is also the hand of God from Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel! In the calling of Matthew Caravaggio wanted to show that Matthew was becoming a new person, a new creation.

You have Mathew himself pointing to his chest with the old, “Who me? You talkin’ to me?”

It can often surprise us that Jesus calls even me! He is as the Bible says, “The friend of sinners.” The Message says, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: 'I'm after mercy, not religion.' I'm here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders."

Jesus is for the broken, the outcasts. Can you see yourself in that picture?

Maya Angelou class at Wake Forest University: “Because your name is a sign of dignity, and when you recognize someone’s name, you recognize them not just as a human but as a person. One of the greatest ways you bestow human dignity on someone is by calling them by name.”

Do we see the physical hand of Jesus the same way as Matthew did? Not in the same way. Even saying that though, we realize that Jesus is no less active today than He was in the day of Matthew. Back in the day Jesus said this, Jesus did that, well today He’s still doing and saying things to us!

He uses all of life. Ever been channel surfing at night and run across a TV preacher who quite surprisingly speaks right to your heart. God sightings such as this surprise us from their unpredictable and varied nature.

How about a young man who joined the CoHo face book group because he met someone in a different city who used to be here, and he’s drawn to the idea of hope because he so desperately needs it. He ends up making some connections and finding some hope in life.

Notice in the picture that the body of Jesus is blocked somewhat by Peter. Peter stands for the church, that network of relationships of people journeying together with Jesus.

That group includes former beggars like Bartimaeus; it could have had the rich young ruler in it, and it keeps having others invited.

Matthew gets up and follows. The word that is translated, “He got up” is the same one used for Jesus being resurrected from the dead. This is the stuff of new life.

What I love most about Matthew becoming a Christ follower is that the first thing they do is throw a party.

Here is this tax collector, this gangster, and this gang member, Hell’s Angel now becoming a living magnet for others! Your life isn’t your own.

In order to be a living magnet we just let God show through our life. When we live well we attract people to Christ. When we live poorly we often repel others!

The fact that Jesus is at this crazy party really bothers the Pharisees. It’s bad enough that Matthew is there, never mind all of these other ruffians. “Doesn’t Jesus want to stay pure?”

The Bible says that Jesus likes sinners. Peterson frames it as, “Jesus likes the outcasts.”

Jesus really likes people like you and me. Phil Yancey in, Church, Why Bother? Says, “I like a small church because you can’t pick your friends. You have to like who’s there.” Like our situation here at CoHo.

Like in many ways is a stronger word than love. When you like someone you spend time with him or her. Jesus’ words to Matthew as they are to us today are bathed in kindness.

Pedro Schultz, street pastor

My friend Daniel in Calgary - “I hug prostitutes.”

Jesus was never really concerned with appearances. When John in the Jordan River was baptizing crowds of sinners, He was there.

Jesus notices those that are unnoticeable (Bartimaeus) or people who are noticed with contempt, like Matthew. What kind of reception did Chris Pronger receive in Edmonton upon returning here as an Anaheim Duck?

Perceptions of Christians by non-Christians, Ages 16-29
1. Christians are anti-homosexual. 91%
2. Christians are judgmental. 87%
3. Christians are hypocritical. 85%

“Too involved in politics”
“Insensitive to others”
“Not accepting of other faiths”
“Out of touch with reality”

Only 9% describe Christians as people they “trust”!

Worldwide, over 80% of all non-Christians do not personally know a Christian!

“When you’re in a hole, stop digging.” Denis Winston

Jesus hangs around with you and I willingly. At the end of His life He was crucified between two criminals.

Jesus has this amazing ability to expose the brokenness of humanity and the depths of His father’s love that isn’t just attractive it’s downright captivating. A gangster/tax collector like Matthew couldn’t resist.

Hear His voice. See the hand. Get up and be summoned to a new life following Him. Conversion isn’t so much a one-time thing; it’s more of a process, a journey of faith.

And then lets throw a party!

God gives – we receive – we give it away and are changed!

“The Grace Cycle”

"If you were caught for drunken driving, and the headlines in your local newspaper that Sunday morning said, 'So-and-So Arrested for Drunken Driving,' would you go to church?"

"I'm the pastor. I'd have a serious problem if I were caught driving drunk."

"Would you go to church?"

"No. I'd take a sabbatical for about a month and then try to weasel back in if I could."

"That's stupid. It's sort of like a man who's hit by an automobile, and he's got blood all over the place, and his bones are broken, and they try to take him to the hospital, and he says: 'Wait. I'm a mess. Let me go home and get cleaned up. Let me get these bones set, let me heal, and then I'll go to the hospital.'"

‘I love you but I do not love you’, or ‘I don’t love you as you are, but if you become someone different I will love you’, is in fact a double-bind, a stumbling block, a pathway to paralysis.

Was Matthew all cleaned up when Jesus went to eat with him and all his friends?

Dialogue #1
False god: I want to love you, but I can’t love you as you are, because you are sinful and objectively disordered.

Self: Well, what then must I do to be loved?

False god: You must become someone different.

Self: I’m up for it, show me how.

False god: Love isn’t something that can be earned, it just is.

Self: Well then how do I become the sort of person who can be loved?

False god: If I were you I would start somewhere else.

Self: That’s a great help. How do I start somewhere else?

False god: You can’t, because even starting off for somewhere else starts from you, and you can’t be loved.

Self: Well if I can’t start off from somewhere else, and I can’t start off from where I am, what can I do?

False god: Give up on the love thing; just obey and be paralyzed.

That’s how powerful it is to receive our sense of self, our identity, our desire, in imitation of, through the regard of, eyes which give us a mixed message, a double bind.

Dialogue #2
: I love you.

Self: but I’m full of crap, how can you love me?

God: I love you.

Self: but you can’t love me, I’m part of all this muck.

God: it’s you that I love.

Self: how can it be me that you love when I’ve been involved in bad relationships, dark rooms, machinations against other people?

God: it’s you that I love.

Self: But ...

God: it’s you that I love.

Self: But ...

God: it’s you that I love.

Self: OK then, so are you just going to leave me in the crap?

God: Because I love you, you are relaxing into my love and you will find yourself becoming loveable, indeed becoming someone that you will scarcely recognize.

Self: Hadn’t I better do something to get all ready for this becoming loveable?

God: Only if you haven’t yet got it that it’s I who do the work and you who get to shine. Because I love you, you are relaxing into being loved and will find yourself doing loveable things because you are loved.

Self: I think I could go along with this.

Or to put it in a nutshell, when faced with the standard joke about,’How do I get to Calgary?’, and being told ‘If I were you I wouldn’t start from here’, the Gospel response, that is to say the regard of Christ, tells us: ‘I will come with you starting from where you are’.


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