Awhile back I was looking at a first generation iPad that was still lying around our house. Oddly, my brain still classifies iPads as new tech even though they’ve been around for 10 years. The old tablet turned on just fine – but when I tried to open an app, I got a message that it needed to be updated. When I tried to update it, I got a message telling me that only new iPads could get the updated app. This iPad had become a coaster through antiquity. It wasn’t’ that the old iPad was corrupt or even broken…it was just outdated and therefore no longer significant.
That’s similar to a point Jesus will make in our text this Sunday as we continue our journey through Luke. We’ll be reading Luke 5:27-39.
The first part of this text tells us about the calling of Levi, the tax collector. This is very intriguing, given how tax collectors were viewed in that time. “Some of the common terms for the tax collectors were ‘licensed robbers and beasts in human shape.” You can read an article about them here.
What might Jesus’ approach to this socially untouchable person tell us about who God focuses on, and how God’s kingdom treats people? What sort of person in our present time and culture might exemplify a person who is off limits or cancelled? How might Jesus treat that person, based on this text? What sort of culture might we develop around Jesus’ approach to people?
Jesus then goes to a party with a whole herd of hated tax collectors – and of course, the religious elite get their undies in a bunch over it. In response to their complaints, Jesus gives his famous statement – “it’s the sick who need a doctor, not the well”. How might eating with people who are considered sinners by popular standards be spiritually medicinal? What message does it send to those who feel cut off from God? What do we learn from that?
The Pharisees then try to shame Jesus about feasting when John the Baptist and his disciples, as well as the Pharisees were fasting. Jesus’ answer indicates that the reason they fasted was to implore God to invade this world with his Kingdom…and that time had already come through Jesus. The party Jesus attended was a sign of God’s inbreaking reign. Ponder that for a bit.
Jesus finishes off with two illustrations that contrast the living, expanding work of God with that of rigid, immoveable religious structures. Just like with outdated tech – it’s not that the law of Moses or the Hebrew scriptures were wrong or bad – they simply ran their course – and God is moving in new ways through Christ. That’s exciting news…albeit…as the church we have had a hard time retaining that truth. Historically, we have tended to become very rigid in our religious practice and expectations, only to be awakened by reformers, who breathe revival into our midst….only to find that reformation becomes rigid, awaiting yet another reformer to come along. As the church, we’ve proven we’re not very good at this…but that’s okay. God is still on the move.
What are some ways we might be tempted to turn our faith into rigid, religious expectations? How might we counter that temptation?
I hope you can join us online or in person this Sunday at 10AM.