An old adage that floats around our culture is "be careful with whom you associate." And there is some truth to that adage for if we are not sure of ourselves, and strong in our convictions and beliefs, we can lose focus and direction. But if we are centered strongly in not only who we are, but what we believe (and who we follow) than that adage is an impediment to our assisting in the creation of the kingdom.
The reverse is likewise true: if we are so certain in our beliefs and set in our ways, we will miss God's voice coming to us from unimagined places.
Jesus calls the tax collector Matthew today, and then sits with other "tax collectors and sinners" and shares a meal. The Pharisees object, thinking those people are unfit to associate with people of Jesus' pedigree. But Jesus says "hold on now....I am strong enough in myself to not get lost being with these people." I can imagine Jesus saying, After all, they are just that, people, needing to see that there is another way to be, to exist in the world. They are created in God's image, and perhaps they don't fit our understanding of how the world is to work, but what is God saying to us, if anything, if w associate with them?
We are challenged by today's Gospel to ask ourselves: How centered and strong are we? Are we capable of being with those who might challenge us and our beliefs? Are we open to hear God's voice in those challenges?
Copyright 2010, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.