The readings on which the sermon below is based can be found at:
s043g08 Sunday 10 8/5/08
'dinner in the house' Matt 9.10
It is generally agreed that 'the house' in which this dinner was held was Matthew's. The presence of the 'many tax collectors' would indicate that he took the opportunity to invite his colleagues. And I find it curious and instructive that when Jesus said to Matthew: 'follow me' he led him back to his own home.
We frequently think that in following Jesus we will be taken into strange places, when in fact we are taken to somewhere we least expect to go - our own homes. Even today I think that overseas missionary work is still seen as 'God's work' in a special way.
Jesus visits us in our own homes, the places where we feel most comfortable. It is quite certain that Jesus could have healed the daughter of the leader of the synagogue without going to his house, but he took the time and effort to do so.
And indeed the whole point of finding out who the woman was who touched him and was cured was surely about not doing things at a distance, but making that personal connection.
When we think about who is 'christian' and who isn't, we immediately think about who goes to Church. But here we see Jesus insistence in visiting us. Many people find churches unfamiliar and are uncomfortable there. Jesus comes where we feel comfortable. He comes into our own space, with his presence and blessing.
This is the completion of the incarnation. Jesus didn't just visit the world, he enters the places sacred to tax collectors, sinners, leaders of synagogues you and me and all.
And this is where we will continue to find him - in the places sacred to us, and in the places sacred to others.
And it seems to me that rather than a fleeting visit, now you see him, now you don't (which characterises most of my visiting in hospitals), Jesus stays for dinner. Jesus comes not for a brief visit, but is with us always 'to the ends of the earth'.
Jesus wants to get to know us as we are. He does not want to teach us anything, except how important we, and all people are. This is the importance of him visiting both the house of Matthew as well as the house of the leader of the synagogue. He is with all people, in their day to day lives without discrimination. All are important to God.
Jesus is not especially with us as we are doing good and charitable things - like attending worship, giving to charity, evangelising the neighbourhood. Jesus comes to us in the intimacy of our lives.
Recently I have been thinking about the virgin birth, something that doesn't frequently occupy my thoughts. While I can well understand a healthy scepticism, it does say something about God's blessing of sexual intimacy. The healing of the woman with the haemorrhages also speaks of the restoration of the pleasure of sexual intimacy for her.
In modern western society of course many people don't eat at home. Sometimes it's just to sleep. This impacts on the whole basis of parochial ministry.
Jesus comes to us in the intimacy of our homes. So Jesus is with us not when we are out and about doing God's will, praying on street corners and giving of our wealth ostentatiously. Jesus is not especially with us as we are busy defending the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Jesus comes and is with us as we are, not to teach us anything or to urge us on to bigger and better things.
And as he is with us, he is with everyone else. Because the risen Jesus is with us primarily in our homes rather than in our churches, he is with all people regardless of the name by which they invoke the Almighty or the liturgy we use.
And it seems to me to be something about healing, and about family and community life; that coming to us for dinner represents. We are not healed in isolation, but within our family and community, in the broadest sense. Put the other way around, if our community is not at peace, or our family is not at peace, any healing that comes to us is likely to be fleeting. It is like the addict returning to the company he or she kept before kicking the habit. It is simply so difficult to avoid using again.
So Jesus coming to dinner promises God's healing presence in our homes and in our community. If, of course, someone is in denial of an illness, then there is little point in praying for health. We are healed into community, not healed apart from community. We are healed to be part of a family, not to be apart from a family.
It is an important spiritual principle that if we are seeking healing in our own lives, we might usefully pray for other's health too. This again speaks of a communal aspect to healing it is not just personal.
When I grew up I was taught to eat all that was put in front of me brussels sprouts and all :-)! No doubt Jesus did. He accepted the offerings of all, regardless of who they were or who they weren't. There was to be no repeat of God seeming to discriminate between the offerings of Cain and Abel.
Jesus coming into our own lives, speaks of the healing God wants for us all, both personally and corporately.
And I find these words as comforting and confronting as others may find them too, even as I type them, for I have been struggling with some health issues of my own for some time. Hopefully they are beginning to be addressed appropriately. It is humbling and confronting that God wants nothing more of me than that I recognise the love poured out for me and for all.
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