As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus 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 Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples– for there were many who followed him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard this, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day. “No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.” One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”
I adore this scripture for the way it distills so much of the Gospel. Plus, it’s just common sense. When Jesus calls, we answer. When Jesus eats with the ill reputed, it’s because he loves all of God’s children, especially those who need saving! (That would be all of us.) When one is hungry, one eats—even on the Sabbath. When one fasts, it’s because the appropriate time has come for a fast. And when one mends an old coat or fills a wineskin, common-sense homemaking dictates the method. What’s happening here is that Jesus is ushering in new rituals, new life, supplanting the “Letter of the Law” with the “Spirit of the Law.” (And the Pharisees are not amused.)
As we journey through Lent, perhaps we should examine our own rigidity, the way we bristle when others are not as rule-bound or as obsessive-compulsive as we think they should be. Yes, details and tradition matter. But let’s try a new tack, doff our “Compliance Officer” badges and forgive those who make us nuts with their willy-nilly ways. Let the Holy Spirit lead us to common sense, new life and even some good, clean frivolity to boot.
O, Holy One, help me to trust in your Holy Spirit; that where she leads, I may follow. Help me to open my heart and mind to new ways of working and being because you do not call us to perfection but to fidelity to love you and one another, all of us sinners. Amen.