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Lesson 1: Compassionate Hospitality

You may call God love, you may call God goodness. But the best name for God is compassion. 

– Meister Eckhart

Jesus’ teaches us to submit to the reign of God on earth, and he heals as a sign of his authority to proclaim such a radical idea. This week we examine another sign of God’s kingdom: the way Jesus welcomes all people. In a world where those in power tend to exclude others, Jesus welcomes and engages all.

Devotion: Read Matthew 9:9-13. Matthew collects taxes for the occupying Roman government in the form of tolls paid by travelers entering Capernaum (9:1). Such tax collectors, Jews working for the oppressors, are despised by the people. Jesus upsets many, including the religious leaders, by choosing Matthew. Pharisees assume only those who attain and display righteousness should be welcomed. So, those whose sin is visible are excluded and avoided. To exclude based on prior sinful action creates an almost insurmountable barrier for the excluded. Jesus demands faith, a response of trust and submission to the presence of God rather than prior moral conduct. Jesus comes as a doctor, viewing the faith community a place of healing for those suffering. The Pharisees see the covenant community as a fortress where only righteous people may enter. How do you envision the Church: field hospital, gated community, welcoming center for conversation, school, or fortress to protect those inside from evil outside?

Personal Worship Option: Read this invitation to Holy Communion: Christ our Lord invites to his table all who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another. Therefore, let us confess our sin before God and one another. Spend time in confession and contemplating how you need to live in peace this week.

Dig A Little Deeper:

What do we learn about Matthew from how he chooses to introduce himself in this story?  

9:9 Matthew follows Mark’s version of this story, but changes the name from “Levi” (Mk 2:14). Jewish agents of the occupying Roman authorities are seen as not only traitors but violators of Torah regulations for handling Gentile currency which held pagan images. Tax collectors also have a reputation for accepting bribes. What professions or groups have bad reputations in our culture? How do such reputations cloud our ability to welcome and include individuals?

Matthew follows Jesus immediately, like the fisherman (4:18-22). What is the writer communicating to us: Jesus has charisma, those who follow are ready and longing for change, or Matthew and others have heard Jesus teaching already and did not need to ask questions?

9:11 “Sinners” refers to non-observant Jews who violate the Law. To eat in the home of a tax collector makes Jesus ceremonially unclean. All cultures consider eating together to be an intimate action. The fact Jesus dines with socially outcast people is more radical than most modern Christians realize. What boundaries does our culture place on eating with people?

9:12 This statement is quite ironic since the Pharisees are “sick” but do not recognize their need for help. What does Jesus’ comment teach us about confession of sin and self reflection?

9:13 Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6 both here and in 12:1-8. What is communicated to the faithful by this passage? How is this passage an overview of his ministry?

The Greek verb translated “to call” is the same one used in 22:1-10 where it refers to inviting people to the wedding feast at the end of time. 

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