Summary: A Sermon about God seeking us out.
“God Calling: Matthew”
I know that I’ve got problems.
I’m a sinner like everyone else.
I often find that I am a slave to ways of being that I want to change.
I am sick and in need of healing.
So, Jesus has come for me.
And that is what Jesus does.
And that’s what Jesus did for Matthew, isn’t it?
In our Gospel Lesson for tonight, we are told that Jesus was walking along and He “saw” Matthew… “a man named Matthew.”
Jesus saw a person.
And Jesus saw all the vulnerabilities of this person.
Jesus saw this person who was being used by the Romans—(the Empire that had taken over his country)--he was being used as a tool by the Romans to rip off his own people.
And as a result, he was despised by his own people.
Jesus saw this person who had become a tax collector.
And tax collectors were working for the enemy.
They were cheating people—stealing from people, really.
They would force people, single mothers with children, older folks—anyone who couldn’t pay out of their houses and into the streets.
They had no scruples.
They had no empathy or care for other people.
Money was their god.
They had basically sold their souls.
Jesus saw the insecurities and fears that played and worked in Matthew’s life to bring him to the point of being this way.
He saw the assaults on his self-worth that damaged him and had made him ripe to accept this as his life’s work.
He saw the despair that Matthew must have felt—knowing that he would never be anything other than what he was now—a despised tax collector.
How many other people had ever really “seen” Matthew?
Or had he only felt the judgment of others his entire life?
Had he always lived on the margins?
I mean, what had possessed him to turn to such a wicked profession?
Had he always felt like he didn’t fit in?
Perhaps he had never sensed or experienced an unconditional love from his parents, siblings, and extended family.
Maybe he had a father who would come home drunk and take his frustrations out on little Matthew saying: “You’ll never amount to anything!!!”
Perhaps he had been bullied on the playground.
Maybe he had been socially awkward or shy, and thus felt shunned by his peers.
Maybe he had always been a loner, not that he wanted to be a loner—but a loner just the same.
Perhaps he felt that people were never gonna like him for who he was anyway so he might just as well, at the very least, get rich by becoming a turncoat Jew and ripping off folks for the Roman government.
And of course, as these decisions always do—they made Matthew’s life even worse.
They caused Matthew to be truly, truly hated.
And so, when people looked Matthew’s way they would give him “the evil eye,” or the “angry look,” or the “blank stare.”
Because everyone who looked at him saw only one thing: a man that they hated; a man that they despised.
Have you ever had someone who despised you, for whatever reason?
Or have you ever been hated, even if for but an instant, because of a remark you made or something insensitive you said to someone?
If so, you know the look someone gets in their eyes when they hate you.
For us adults, even driving too slow on the freeway or meandering at a light after it has turned green can cause someone to give us that look.
Minorities in this country probably can bring the image of that look into their minds much faster than a fair-skinned, light haired Anglo such as myself.
I would imagine that there are very few African Americans who have not seen the glare of hatred in a stranger’s eyes.
There are probably very few Hispanics who have not dealt with the same thing.
Homosexual people know that look.
Homeless persons would definitely be able to relate.
Police can probably relate as well, along with so many service people who returned from Vietnam in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
It’s a look which regards the other as “less than human” or the enemy.
It’s a murderous look.
It’s a horrible thing.
It’s a dehumanizing thing.
There ain’t no love in it.
I’d imagine Matthew knew that look very well.
He’d become accustomed to it.
It was probably the only look he ever got from any “so-called” respectable person.
But then one day, Jesus came along.
And Jesus is the perfect embodiment of God’s unconditional love.
And the perfect embodiment of God’s unconditional love must have been what Matthew the tax collector sensed—experienced—felt as Jesus walked along and really “saw” him.
And I’d imagine that this is something Matthew had never experienced before.