Waimea United Church of Christ

 

Luke 5:27-39           “The Party @ Matthew’s”

 

            “Hey, we are having a party over at Matthew’s place. Everyone is invited! Come on let’s go!”

“Wait a minute. Matthew’s place? You MUST be kidding! I would not be caught dead anywhere near that place. Don’t you know that he is one of those corrupt unscrupulous tax collectors? Only other Mafioso tax collectors would be at that party!”

            “But, don’t you know Jesus of Nazareth is going to be there, too?! Whatever you think about Matthew, let it go. Jesus is the reason for the celebration! Our people have waited over three hundred years for a prophet of God to be sent again! Now he is here! You are not going to go hear him speak?”

            “Really? Jesus is going to go hang with a bunch of sinners like Matthew the tax collector? Are you sure He is the One sent by God then?”

            “Let whatever feelings you have towards Matthew the Tax Collector go! Just do not let him get you down today! This is a time now to celebrate!”

 

            This last Monday I was talking with Alex, one of the youth in YWAM about this very fact that on Kauai, we tend not to hold grudges or wish people away from parties. Our sense of aloha, or ho’okipa, means that maybe we stay mad at someone for a day or two, but then we let it go. This is really one of the most remarkable aspects of the culture here on Kauai. We are just always in constant “forgive and forget” mode here. 

            I think we have to be that way here. We will always run in to the same people at Walmart or Costco, not to mention the Big Save Market. How can we live our lives always thinking about what so-and-so has done to us? We need to forgive and forget for sure. That was very hard for the people in regards to Matthew since he most likely has been to their homes to take away their flour, wheat, bread, animals, or even the home itself. That is a lot to get over. I do not think that I would do well in that scenario! Yet, Jesus goes to Matthew’s house. That in itself is such an incredible miracle of grace. I have to point that out. We talk about forgiveness, but Jesus lives it.

            I think that if we cannot come to this embodiment of forgiveness of others as Christ was, then I am not sure how we can be the church—or the Body of Christ still on earth. Two weeks ago we had our Festival of Praise down at Kalaheo Holy Cross Catholic Church. And, actually this Sunday is Reformation Sunday. Yet, what ever happened 500 years ago between our churches, does not matter today when we gather together to praise Jesus on this island! 

 

            Why do I say that it does not matter? It did not matter to Jesus! Jesus says to those who complain that his disciples are eating with sinners, “I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.” We read that in verse 32 of today’s text.

            So, it sounds like Jesus is calling everybody a bunch of sinners. I do not like to be called a sinner. I do not like people pointing out all of my faults. I even wonder if there is enough time during the day to contemplate all of my sins. If I did, if I wasted that much time, would that not also be a sin in itself?

            I want to share with you Martin Luther’s understanding of this, since it is Reformation Sunday. Martin Luther said, “Das totale Verderben.” This has been translated into English from the German as “Total depravity.” When Martin Luther looked at the world, he did not point out tax collectors or any others for that matter, he said that we were all “depraved.”

            “Depravity” is not a word that we hear often in daily use. The word in German, “verderben,” real just means “spoiled.” It is like that yogurt that has been in the back of fridge way too long. That yogurt started out just fine. It is just not what it used to be. It has spoiled.

            We all started, out as we see in Genesis 1:26, having been created in the image of God. We were all cute loveable little humans and were once as sinless as Christ. Then, we chose to sin against God. Then, we were not so cute and loveable anymore. We were spoiled.

            Now, here comes the miracle that Jesus alone is able to perform for all of us spoiled yogurts. 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 “From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view. . . .So if anyone is in Christ Jesus, there is a new Creation; everything old has passed away; behold, everything has become new. . . .” Keep reading down to verse 21 on your own time please!

            This is the miracle that we call “grace,” that although we are totally depraved, God wants to make us new again and through Jesus’ sacrifice we can be made whole with God in heaven once more. That is why Jesus and his disciples go to Matthew’s house in the first place. They are offering that grace to those who need it most.

            That is our job still today. Look at Hebrews 12:14, “Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God. . . .”

 

            Let me share with you something that happened last Saturday that illustrates how difficult this calling from Jesus really is when it comes to practical application in our lives. Helen and I drove out to the All Saints Episcopal Church in Kapaa to hear our brother in Christ Lee Miller sing two wonderful solos for the Kauai Island Singer Showcase. He did a great job. His music was phenomenal.

            Yet, while we were there, as it turned out, the regular audience had been invited to come in Halloween Costume. So, okay, we were dressed regularly, and others were coming in masks dressed as birds and butterflies, native Americans, etc. It was a little bit strange, but okay. There was dancing. The shirtless man in the bird’s costume flapped his wings around the room—not something one would see in a church everyday—but okay.

            Then, the smell of pakalolo (marijuana) came wafting in from the parking area outside. Also, that smell that always turns my stomach was present on the bodies of many of the people in the room—but okay.

            Then, apparently the marijuana was not enough for the group, because the brown paper bags with alcohol started showing up as well. Some were carrying plastic cups that smelled of hard liquor too.

            Okay, how am I and my wife, sitting there trying to enjoy the music going to “pursue peace with everyone while showing the holiness needed to represent Christ, without which no one will see the Lord, and therefore will not receive the grace of God”?  A week later, I still have no answer to that question. I am totally depraved in a world that is totally depraved. It is not that I am that spoiled yogurt in the fridge alone. The whole fridge is spoiled! Lord, what are we supposed to do?

 

            Jesus confronts this in a unique word from our text for today. You see, everyone was looking at Jesus eating at Matthew’s house and wondered why Jesus and his followers were not being overtly pious. Why were they not fasting as the other religious leaders there were? Jesus says that it is now a celebration!

            This last week on Tuesday, we had a wedding party here at the church. The party served Chana Masala, Chicken Korma, Briyani, Nan—it was all so good Indian food. If I had been like the Pharisees there at Matthew’s party, I would have to show my overt religiosity by abstaining from eating. But, no, it was a wedding celebration! It was time to celebrate the love of two people coming before God to live in eternity together!

            Jesus is here! Why were not those people at Matthew’s party going to celebrate that the bridegroom had come to marry the bride? This is of course a metaphor for the church of Jesus. 

 

            Then, there is the other metaphor that we read here. You cannot put Jesus into the old religious models. He is not going to fit. He makes all things new. If you try to put Jesus into that old wineskin, then it is going to burst. One cannot put new wine into the old wineskin.

            The metaphor at the end is even more profound. Jesus is not just the new wine, but He is the old wine as well. He is all wine at the celebration. He is that which only gets better with age. Some things spoil, other things ferment! He is that new thing that will only get better and will never spoil again. That is really cool. That is something to celebrate.

           

            I believe that we have to a certain extent in our modern culture forgotten how to celebrate. It is hugely important to do so. I have said this so often, so I repeat myself, the whole concept of Sunday morning’s worship is to be celebration. All week long we struggle in our ministries, then on Sunday morning we come together to celebrate—we hug, we laugh, we cry, we sing, and we eat together. Is that not a celebration? Is not the bridegroom with his bride every Sunday?

            If by chance you came this morning to celebrate a new building on this campus—I invite you now to think again!  What person comes to a wedding to celebrate a building? I am sure Matthew’s house was great—but that is because Jesus was there!

 

Amen.